Features: June 11th, 2004

Getting the Information Balance Right

By Monique Juchaud

Knowledge is power. When you are not in possession of all the relevant facts you run the risk of making uninformed, unsound decisions that can jeopardise service levels and customer satisfaction. But today’s busy organizations are in danger of information overload – too much knowledge, the majority of which brings little value to the individual or to the organization.

Nuneaton Borough Council tackled this problem by installing Business Intelligence software from Ariel. It is now better able to get this information balance right, which in turn is leading to improvements in the quality of services. The essential difference is that it is now able keep tight control of key areas of its operation, better monitor operational efficiency and track its performance against internal and central Government Key Performance Targets.

Fast and efficient alerting

Business information systems have been around for a long time. Earlier generations were focused on ‘power users’ and in the public sector this represents some 1 – 5% of the organization. The result was often an information deluge for the power users and an information drought for the rest. A new breed of systems has been developed based on making information available through the organization’s intranet and providing an organization wide alerting service. Alerts go out by e-mail and SMS text messages. In addition to receiving alerts, specified users receive briefings and reports. The result in Nuneaton Borough Council is that a wide range of users receive information that is relevant to their business function – and only that information – at the very point they actually need it. They also receive it in the format they prefer. Because the system is user friendly it is easily navigated by novice and advanced users alike.

The effect of receiving information immediately it becomes available affects business performance. For example information that refuse or recycle collections have been missed in particular areas, provides the trigger for remedial action. This capacity to respond rapidly to events feeds through to Key Performance Indicator targets.

Enabling access to critical data

As with many local government bodies, Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough Council requires vital management information to be distributed to staff across the organization. Of particular concern is accurate monitoring of its performance against the key indicators both for internal measurement and to meet central Government targets. The system installed in the Council’s Warwickshire headquarters gives access to key management reports in a simple read-only format just by logging-in to the intranet.

With reports now available in standard read-only formats to an unlimited number of the Council’s employees, users can view information relating to their role and responsibilities whenever they need to. The Council considered alternative read-only reporting solutions, but decided that the Business Information system from Ariel would best suit its monitoring needs, whilst delivering valuable information to its workforce for an economical one-off deployment cost and a cost-effective licensing structure.

The system is providing valuable insights into all areas of the Council’s business. It plans to use the solution’s customisable alerting feature to monitor its performance against local and national performance indicators to notify users when reported information shows a performance target has been breached. Threshold alerts built into the software ensure that key Council personnel are made aware at the very moment it fails to meet, or exceed, its own and central Government performance targets.

The solution further gives the Council the flexibility to introduce new elements of reporting and monitoring to its current usage at any point. Such systems can also produce up-to-the-minute, accurate reviews of performance which can be measured by specific criteria. In addition, reporting functions may be used to turn data into vital information, track organisational finance and analyse ways to keep costs under control.

Moving from goals to action is the impetus behind business intelligence. The new age software now available enables organizations to reap the benefit of improved decision-making because they have an efficient way to access the business information they need. However, by defining and delivering only the critical elements it’s now possible for public sector organisations to substantially boost their overall efficiency and at last minimise information overload.

Monique Juchaud is Director of Business Intelligence at Ariel. She can be contacted at sales@ariel-corporation.com