Camden Council uses IBM data analytics to beat austerity

Camden Council has used data integration to link council systems, enabling it to cut waste and improve efficiency – and saving £93m in the process

Camden saved £93m – £23m more than planned – thanks to data integration across 16 core IT systems using IBM data analytics.

Hillary Simpson, IT business partner at Camden, said the project's goal mapped onto Camden Plan, the council's austerity strategy to save £70m.

"It’s all about savings. We looked at matching data across organisational areas to add value and provide a single view of customers across Camden."

Created using IBM Data Analytics, the council originally implemented the data integration in May 2013, along with a governance framework to ensure data gathered about residents would be stored and managed appropriately. Simpson said that, after running a proof of concept project, the five-month data integration work was rolled out across 16 systems, "big bang" style.

The council identified a number of areas where sharing data could help it reduce waste and cut fraud. These included unauthorised council property sub-lettings and single-person allowance for council tax. Simpson said: "One sub-let saves £18,000 a year. Previously council officers spent time accessing multiple systems." She said staff can also check resident addresses directly, rather than calling electoral services.

By cross-referencing different datasets across Camden services the council improved data quality in its databases, she said. Council staff used these sources of information, rather than turning to external credit ratings agencies such as Experian – so saving Camden Council £100,000 alone.

Data integration

Simpson said linking the datasets in the 16 systems did not require clean data. All of the fragments of data across the 16 systems had been retained. "Each dataset is ranked for data quality," she explained. For instance, she said data from housing benefit would be considered accurate, as it is based on formal identification such as a resident's passport.

The best quality data became a golden record. This was then propagated across all the 16 systems, and used to correct data in the council's customer relationship management (CRM) system. Simpson said: "It is a constant work in progress where you look for patterns." 

As an example, she said the council's CRM system enables users to search for address in a standard format. "We didn't realise it could be overwritten - so we redesigned the address search."

Data privacy

Simpson previously worked on ContactPoint, a government initiative to join up children data nationally, which was dropped in 2010 due to privacy concerns. 

She said the council had been very sensitive to privacy, given her experience on ContactPoint. The data integration provides permission control, to enable users from each council service to see only the data relevant to them. 

"We did a lot of work on privacy. The permissions model is very fine-tuned and we can prevent people having access to certain fields," she said. 

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