Medway Youth Trust wins Gartner BI excellence award for text analytics

Medway Youth Trust has won a Gartner Business Intelligence Excellence award for its use of text analytics to identify young people at risk of becoming NEET -- not in employment, education or training.

This year’s winner of Gartner BI Excellence Award in EMEA turned to Dickens to explain the circumstances that led the agency to invest in text analytics.

“Now is ‘the best of times and the worst of times,’ ” Graham Clewes, chief executive of the Medway Youth Trust, said while accepting the award at the research company’s BI Summit, coincidentally on the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth. There are currently are 1.05 million unemployed youth in Britain, representing wasted potential. “You have important skills that can change society,” he told the 1,100 BI professionals at the London conference. “You can make a difference.”

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The trust has won the award amidst a field of three finalists based on its use of IBM’s SPSS text analytics software to identify school pupils at risk of becoming “NEET”, not in employment, education and training. reported on the project, which analyses case workers’ interview notes with young people, last June.

“The temptation in our field is to throw resources at geographical areas,” Clewes said at the summit. “But a young person living at No. 8 in one street can be more at risk than their neighbour at No. 10. The unstructured data, the content, holds the answer.”

Beyond predicting likelihood of becoming unemployed, the use of SPSS and similar software to capture propensities among youth can be extended to teenage pregnancy, drug abuse and so on, he said.

The programme was also one of 351 proposals to save public money considered under the UK Cabinet Office's Innovation Portal initiative. It made the long list of around 70, but not the short list of around six, confirmed Clewes.

Clewes reported interest in emulating the programme from 34 local authorities in England and Wales. “Local authorities are interested because they lack confidence to invest in IT [in the current economic climate].” However, the trust has shown that a modest investment can yield good results.

The trust has learned to bring together “incompatible databases” in a way that other charities and local authorities can learn from.

“It is typical of local authorities to have lots of different databases about young people -- from education, youth offending, social services and youth services,” Clewes said. “What we’ve done is develop an approach that brings data sources together through the BI process, using what already exists [in free text form].”

The £123,000 project was spearheaded by a three-man team and used SPSS Modeller, with IBM consultants pitching in for 22 days. Clewes’ colleague, Gary Seaman, data quality manager at the trust, said that the new development in recent months has been the iterative “embedding of the analytics back in the databases” that case workers use on a day-to-day basis.

Medway Youth Trust was one of three finalists selected by a team of Gartner analysts from a pool of more than 50 responses from 17 countries across EMEA. The others were Spain-based insurance company MAPFRE and Transport for London. Delegates voted on the three finalists.

MAPFRE consolidated its BI systems, with a “synchronized data marts architecture,” and an IBM Cognos front end, cutting costs by €10m, said Marcos March, processes and centres of excellence director. TfL has used Oracle BIEEE to smooth traffic flow around London, producing daily reports for managers who look after the capital’s 23 road “corridors,” said Helen Cansick, traffic information manager.

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