Unlocking the value of data at Tauranga City Council

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Delivering great community outcomes and enabling staff to make better decisions are key areas of focus for Tauranga City Council. We worked with the council to realise the potential in their data. The resulting analytics platform is surfacing new insights and information which is being used to better serve the community, deliver operational efficiencies and support improved decision making.

Tauranga City Council had a fledgling enterprise data warehouse, so the foundation was there, but more could be made of the data it held. Says the Council’s core platforms manager Keith Glaholm:

Our newly-appointed chief digital officer challenged us to unlock the value of our information. How could the information we held let us know whether we were doing a good job, and working towards our aspirations for the region? What measures would make sense?

Working with Theta, the council quickly pulled together a proof of concept dashboard that did just that, by matching relevant pillars of the organisational strategy to quantifiable measures. Keith Glaholm explains:

In just two weeks, we had reports and dashboards to show our CDO, and he loved them. They made sense to him, because they told a story with our data. This was only possible with Theta’s help – they helped guide our thinking, and were a great sounding board.

The Theta-led approach - deliver an MVP visualisation first - has been an effective way to communicate the value of data across the council and get buy-in for the organisation’s journey with data. Glaholm comments:

Once users have a report or a dashboard to play with, they see the value. This is one benefit of Theta’s practical approach. We used to get bogged down with long conversations about future proofing data models. They sharpened our focus to the here and now, which really sped things up for us. Theta has proved to be really skilled at delivering - expediting code, working on the right things, keeping the focus on exactly what needed to be done.

He adds:

Theta introduced ideas about how we could make better use of our data. As a result, we now have a stronger sense of how we can empower our staff and deliver community-focussed insights.

By taking this strategic and tactical approach, the Digital Services BI Team has been able to deliver quick wins that are already having a big impact on users. 

A high-level dashboard gives the executive leadership team a snapshot of organisational health through the display of key KPIs. In a dashboard view, executives can see how the council is tracking across health and safety, HR, actual vs budgeted expenditure and NPS engagement measures. And because it’s in the cloud, and available on their phones, executives are always connected to this information.

Project financials were next to get a Power BI-powered makeover. It has typically been difficult to get a good picture of where things are at on big projects, and monthly spreadsheets were time consuming to compile. Now, project financials are immediately available and up-to-date, and with the ability to view by project, project manager or department it’s much easier to spot trends. Says Glaholm:

This project with Theta was delivered ahead of schedule and budget and blew our users away! It saves lots of time and spreadsheet-related headaches, and the data people now use to make decisions is more timely and accurate. So many wins with this one.

The council has also made asset management reporting easier, with Theta’s help. Explains Glaholm:

Our asset management reports were sourced from an in-house developed database that we’d built to help with migration of data. This became the unofficial reporting tool, and we depended on it, but it wasn’t fit for purpose, and it had to be maintained and supported separately. All of this means business risk. With Theta’s know-how we have now eliminated that risk, by migrating that data to a data warehouse. We have optimised the number of reports and deliver reporting that’s accurate to five minutes.

After delivering these internal and operational improvements and efficiencies with Power BI, Tauranga City Council now has its eye on the insights big data can bring. 

Now we’re interested in predictive analytics. How can we use big data – from census, google, weather data, social media and more – to predict trends, behaviour and impact? How can we ease traffic congestion, what’s the best way to plan and prioritise roadworks, what is their likely impact on different groups of users? There’s so much we can do with data, now we’ve started on this journey, and because we’ve taken a tactical approach and already delivered some great benefits we feel the organisation is behind it. Keith Glaholm

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