Having helped countless organisations manage change, we know that combining authorities can be a daunting task. In this blog, our experts share ten tips that make blending data and systems as painless as possible.
Identify the data you have and where it’s located
The easiest way to create a complete directory of your data holdings is to use an automated data catalogue builder. Once you have a list of datasets for each organisation, you’ll know how many datasets you’re dealing with, where data is held, who updates it and when it was last updated.
Jo Cook, our Data Discoverability Lead, comments, “It’s impossible to share data if you’re not sure what datasets you have. An automated data crawler can search network and cloud holdings in a fraction of the time it would take one of your team.”
Keep your catalogue up-to-date
Data growth continues to rocket and local government organisations are no exception. Make sure that your automated data crawler, an application that searches your network for datasets, can be run regularly to ensure that you capture new datasets, no matter where they’re saved or stored.
Create metadata for each dataset
Creating user-friendly metadata for each dataset will enable future data consumers to find and evaluate the data they need. An automated metadata generator will enable you to produce SEO- and user-friendly metadata for hundreds or thousands of datasets.
David Renn, GIS Consultant, says “Metadata, or information about data, is often seen as a chore by data creators as the benefits aren’t immediately obvious. However, well-maintained metadata is necessary if you want your users to understand what data is available and what it can be used for. An automated tool enables you to create comprehensive metadata for ALL datasets without tying up the time of data maintainers.”
Implement an effective data sharing and analysis platform
For sound operational reasons, it is sometimes necessary to maintain data in a variety of different formats. If your data is stored in many different systems you can still use an end-to-end GIS, like our popular iShare in the Cloud (iSiC), to pull information from a variety of sources into a single platform allowing all users to be able to visualise, analyse and report upon core information.
Integrate now to save time later
There are many benefits to integrating your new GIS with back-office systems. A high-quality GIS, like iSiC, will enable you to:
- Save time by automating workflows
- Improve data quality by eliminating user errors
- Satisfy residents by giving them access to the latest information
Take the hard work out of maintaining third-party data
Translating, loading and maintaining OS and other third-party data can be time-consuming and costly.
Moira Livesey, our Local Government Ambassador, says, “Our Astun Data Services (ADS) subscription provides ready-to-use OS and syndicated datasets, such as NHS Choices. ADS makes it easy to maintain and share pre-styled datasets without the need for a proprietary licence for translation software.”
Managing duplicate data
Many stored datasets are not maintained properly. Failing to maintain data can result in users making poor decisions based on out-of-date data. Some datasets are not used at all, resulting in ‘dark data’.
Often, there are multiple versions of the same datasets stored across an organisation with some users using older versions. Eliminating duplicate datasets enables you to create a ‘single source of the truth’ that everyone can access.
Check that your data management tools will flag up duplicated datasets, so you can take remedial action.
Secure your data
Transparency is a government directive as well as good practice. A good data catalogue will allow you to publish the data holding, share public information and secure access to sensitive data thus reducing the overhead of FOI requests.
Plan for change
Many local government organisations are facing the challenge of reorganisation or restructuring. This means that the responsibility of maintaining datasets may change. Being able to allocate datasets to new owners via a data catalogue will save time. Automated alerts telling new owners when to update datasets will help to maintain data quality.
It’s also important that data owners follow the same standards. David Renn comments, “If neighbouring organisations have a Public Rights of Way (PROW) dataset, they need to follow the same standards in order to create a single network.”
To ensure a smooth transition, it’s important to find a GIS provider who has experience in blending separate data holdings and setting up a new, shared GIS. They’ll be able to warn you of potential pitfalls and help you maximise the opportunity to improve service delivery.
If you’d like a discovery call to explore how we can help you, please request a call.
Discover Astun’s data cataloguing, metadata generation and data management tools in our Data Discoverability info sheet (a 5-minute read).
View examples of pre-styled OS data on our Astun Data Services webpage.