How Master Data supports better business intelligence

We are all visual beings now. Every day we absorb graphs, maps and informatics through many channels. We are comfortably stepping into them but often overwhelmed by the sheer amount on offer. So what we all need is well-designed, colourful, intuitive information, which allows users to toggle between summaries and details: Hackney dashboards.

The evolution of the Qlik BI project has been rapid, starting from “what is needed” accelerating quickly into “what is possible”, with new opportunities constantly emerging.

First, we created dashboards by engaging with colleagues who needed to replace their legacy reporting tools, in areas like Parking and Planning. We worked with the Housing Repairs team to show data they could have not easily see nor interact with using traditional reports. Our customers either knew or suspected that the answers to their challenging questions lurked in the data they collect every day but they were swamped with little time to analyse and draw meaningful conclusions.

Initial success came quick. Our customers received information which were not only facts or dry statistics but colourful, interactive and up to date information available to the most granular level. They further asked us to focus on the relationships between the figures, within which they are connected visually both in  depth and breadth.

As with all data projects we continued experimenting with exploration: both what is possible and how to make it approachable and accessible. We have style guides, we follow the local gov digital service standards, borrowed from other organisations. But in Hackney we have something unique. We have a pervading common denominator: master data indices which link disparate service data by a single reference key: unique address and customer reference numbers. We have been managing them for years –  insisting they are included in all new systems- and they allow data to flow between systems. Not only are they are very useful backgrounds link when serving our customers, they are very useful in all BI work to leverage much more meaningful insights.

So what could be gleaned from using our master data? Our data mining looked into the money element first: what is the overall debt? What properties cost us the most to serve? How can we promote people to pay by direct debit?  Which tenants could be illegally subletting their properties?

But by using these links we can do much more than just protect the ever dwindling public purse, we can improve the lives of our residents: We can get the full picture of who lives in a block of flats, rather than rely on one incomplete database;  understand which vulnerable tenants are being chased for rent debt when the long-term cost of our actions is far greater than money recouped; or understand the attributes and demographics of people affected by a new policy change such as the Council Tax Reduction Scheme. Most of all however, we aim to deliver dashboards which would inform us how to build a better relationship with our customers.

Qlik has provided us a canvas on which to illustrate these explorations with rich palette of further insights we are continuously working on.