City of Wolverhampton Council is using the Qlik visual analytics platform to help manage budgets and provide better services to citizens.
The platform provides detailed insight into spending and performance outcomes in customised applications that display budget forecasting and customer service analysis in different dashboards across the entire organisation.
The densely populated West Midlands city was hit hard by the 2008 recession, which left many of its 250,000 citizens heavily dependent on council services.
Government cuts imposed three years ago meant the council’s workforce of 5,000 needed to maximise all available resources in order to reduce the damage to citizen services.
Qlik's self service business intelligence tools offered the chance to use data to make services more efficient and get data into the hands of more staff across the organisation.
"What Qlik allows us to do is to surface information in an easily digestible format, summarising it nicely for budget managers and finance directors to be able to interrogate. Then if they need to go down to the detail, they can absolutely do that," Wolverhampton Council's Head of ICT, Andy Hoare, told Computerworld UK.
"We always wanted these tools to be end users tools, rather than specialist BI tools [for] people that have technical skills," he said.
"We know that we need technical skills in order to develop them, but we wanted as many end users as possible to be able to use the tools to surface the information and to get those insights. They'll be able to understand the insights that the tool will give them."
The council considered adopting Tableau and Power BI, but plumped for Qlik as it provided the most comprehensive, scalable and cost-effective solution.
Qlik built the architecture for the platform using technical design specifications that the council had developed internally. Their previous collection of intelligence tools, including Business Objects and SQL Reporting Services, were proving too complex for many of the council's end users.
It previously took the council's business intelligence team seven days to run reports. Qlik lets them analyse the data immediately.
"The previous intelligence tools were showing us the results, but what we could see with Qlik is that we were able to get to that information a lot quicker, a lot better," says Hoare.
The council used an agile delivery approach to roll out the first applications six weeks after the initial deployment. The dashboards were designed around standardised templates to make it easy for council staff to learn how to use them.
Wolverhampton Council's Qlik apps
The council has since used the platform to develop several different applications. They include a finance app that helps around 200 budget managers with their revenue forecasting.
The app was initially rolled out to a small core of the finance team, who shared it with their colleagues until demand spread across the department. Its popularity led staff responsible for capital to request and then receive a forecasting app of their own.
They then built a customer services dashboard that provides councillors with near real-time performance information from across the council's communications channels, including social media interactions, phone calls, emails, and public surveys.
The app combines all this information to identify what citizens request and how the council responds.
The customer service team previously recorded communication about the delivery of council services on spreadsheets before generating reports on their effectiveness. The information from the spreadsheets was integrated with the Qlik dashboard.
While the finance apps used numerical data, this one relied on more complex information from a variety of sources. It also needed to be delivered in a clear graphical format as it would be presented directly to councillors.
To input information automatically into the dashboards, the council uses Qlik Connectors to link data pooled from Google analytics, social media feeds and the council's telephony system to the app.
In addition to the dashboards, they use Qlik to provide access to archived information.
"You can give the tools to the end user so that they can do that interrogation themselves, which then frees up the people with the specialist skills in terms of SQL Reporting and Business Objects to go and do what I would call the more complex value added type of analysis," says Hoare. "So it's been very useful in that sense."
They have also used Qlik Sense to develop an application for transactional processing that helps staff raise an invoice or change personal details on the payroll system. The app allows them to review that information independently.
QilkSense gives council managers their own business intelligence to help them plan their strategy around predictive analytics.
The council is investigating how they can use to help reduce fly tipping, by analysing location data around missed bin collections and contaminated waste, which often leads residents to dump rubbish elsewhere.
If they can see where fly tippers live then they can better manage bin collections in these areas.
The council is also looking at how they can use data about volunteers to map their availability with citizens in need of care and thus use the local community to help support services.
"If we’re getting greater insight in terms of how our projects and programmes are being delivered, those projects and programmes will ultimately deliver better customer services," says Hoare.