We make decisions on a continual basis. What to wear, what to eat, where to go….

I don’t believe in regrets – once a decision is made you make the most of it – but I do believe in making informed decisions. For instance, prior to deciding what to wear, I will check the weather forecast for the day.

Living in Britain we know that weather forecasts are not always correct. In October 1987, UK weather forecaster Michael Fish famously dismissed fears that a hurricane was on the way, only to be proved disastrously wrong just hours later.

In 2015 though, we have a much greater chance of choosing the appropriate clothing for the weather conditions. The UK’s Met Office says its four-day forecast is now as accurate as its one-day forecast was 30 years ago. These improvements have only come about after investing billions in better data gathering (satellites and weather stations), and in automated analytics through supercomputers, capable of carrying out one thousand million million calculations a second (that’s 10 to the power of 15)1.

One of the ways that the Met Office has improved its forecasting is by enlarging its data gathering through the WOW website (Weather Observations Website), which sources data directly from the public. In the future, this will collect data from devices that measure weather conditions such as cars, in line with developments in Internet of Things (IoT) technology.

The decisions facing civil servants are significantly more important to the over 64 million citizens of the UK than what clothing to wear for the weather conditions. Everyday decisions affect service provision, how citizens are kept safe, what welfare provision to provide, how to maximise tax yield, how to stop the Government from being defrauded, how to deliver services with less resources…..

Recent technological advances in Business Insight and Analytics have revolutionised the information that leaders can utilise to make decisions – turning decision-making from an art into a science. Capgemini undertook research with the Economist Intelligence Unit on “The Deciding Factor: Big Data and Decision-Making”, surveying 600 execs from across the industry. It showed on average a 26% improvement in business performance over the past three years due to automated decision-making, and an expectation that this will improve by 41% over the next three years.

The research also points to challenges facing Government Departments and Agencies in taking advantage of big data and decision making:

  • The biggest impediment to effective decision-making using big data, cited by 56% of survey respondents, is “organisational silos”. Data is trapped in ERP, CRM (customer relationship management) and SCM (supply chain management) systems.

  • The second major impediment to making better decisions with big data is the dearth of talented people to analyse it, mentioned by 51% of respondents. The vast majority (85%) of executives believe that the issue is not the growing volumes of data, but rather being able to analyse and act on data in real-time.

Capgemini forecasts that there are three ways that Government Departments and Agencies will look to address these challenges:

1. Integrated Data Lake: Integrating data platforms and external sources in order to enable better informed, agile decisions through a single view of the citizen

2. Flexible Platforms: Embracing new open source and proprietary software to optimise performance and develop more flexible solutions. This can also reduce the existing cost base by consolidating and/or decommissioning the legacy estate

3. Adaptable Analytics and BI: Embedding analytics decision making into the business and establishing an Insight Centre to drive world class insight.

These improvements should not be done in isolation. Government Departments will only truly become intelligence-led when analytics is embedded throughout their business processes, rather than being used in support. This is as much of a business transformation challenge as it is for technology and data improvement, with significant changes in organisational capability required.

Insight-driven decision-making certainly has a sunny outlook as long as the Public Sector can unlock the power of the data that they hold, by transforming their Business Insight and Analytics capabilities.