How Wolverhampton’s Local Information System is driving consistency of data use and helping deliver evidence-based strategic planning
The Corporate Strategy and Improvement Unit at Wolverhampton City Council provides statistics, information, research and intelligence for decision making and is responsible for demographic data held by the council.
Debbie Turner, Policy Officer (Research & Information) in the Unit, says the decision to develop a Local information System (LIS) came from a recognition that data wasn’t being used effectively and that there was a great deal of duplication of effort when it came to local intelligence.
“We were getting a lot of requests for the same information, often from the people working together on the same projects or in the same service while at the same time we knew there was good work going on in pockets across the council and other organisations,” she says. “We also spent a lot of our time co-ordinating data collection from a range of services for people within the council or for partner organisations.”
Debbie says one of their key aims was to improve information management and to ensure that the most up-to-date data, from the right sources was being used. The Unit started to develop a business case for an LIS and created a project group consisting of key strategic partners from across the city. The business case was signed off in September 2010 and the Unit set about a tender process. After assessing three bids InstantAtlas was awarded the contract.
Wolverhampton City Council has an in-house project management methodology which was used for taking the project forward. This involved a governance structure with a sponsor, an executive board and a delivery team with work divided into various workstreams and stages of delivery. “The first thing we did was user test some existing LIS solutions,” says Debbie. “This was to help us define what our own look and feel should be.”
The Unit worked with InstantAtlas on the development of the LIS which is called ‘Wolverhampton in Profile’. This involved uploading around 350 datasets and 43 strategy documents. Debbie says: “It’s a place where you can find information, research, and statistics about the city, its residents, and local areas.” The Unit worked with InstantAtlas on the development of the LIS which is called ‘Wolverhampton in Profile’. This involved manipulating around 350 datasets. Debbie says: “It’s a place where you can find information, research, and statistics about the city, its residents, and local areas.”
Meeting the need
“We expect that the user audience will be very wide ranging and we hope it can be used by anyone working for the council, partner agencies, businesses and voluntary organisations, as well as students and the general public. So, it could be used to help inform service delivery through to helping students do coursework or new residents find out about areas of the city.”
Debbie points out that initially she expects the primary user audience will be officers within the council and partner organisations. This is one of the reasons why the website holds strategy documents, so that the data on the system can be linked back to strategy and action on the ground. “We carried out a strategy mapping and gapping exercise to identify all key strategy documents in the council as well as the data that sits within these so we could include these on the system.”
The project has been given the personal backing of the chief executive. “He came over to me after the launch and said he had completely underestimated what the LIS could do,” says Debbie. As a result everyone in the council is being encouraged to use it. Managers have also been told they should use the LIS for service planning, needs assessment and any evidence-based work they are doing.
The website was launched at the end of January 2012 and the council has now embarked on a wider communications plan. The current efforts are directed at council employees and Debbie is leaving no stone unturned. “I’ve even had phone notepads produced with the website address and one evening in the next week when everyone has gone home we will put one on every desk in the council’s Civic Centre.”
“To sustain the system we expect data owners to add their own data into the system. We will provide training to officers and analysts so that they can do this and will then build in work flow processes to remind them when to do this,” she says. “During this next phase we will continue demonstrating the LIS to schools, colleges and voluntary organisations and offer training on how to use the system so that it meets their particular needs.”
Other InstantAtlas local authority stories and reports that will interest you
Suffolk Data Observatory - Bringing partner organisations closer together through a shared intelligence platform
Bristol City Council - Giving Bristol and its neighbourhoods access to local data in a visually compelling and easy-to-understand way
Staffordshire Data Observatory - Giving local strategic partners the data they need to make commissioning decisions in a customisable format
Devon County Council - Using a shared online resource to ensure Devon’s strategic partners make evidence-based decisions using the same data
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