Local authorities suffering from data overload can call on a new software solution called Visual|Insight to help them find and interpret the information they need to hit government targets for performance.

Visual Insight not only enables managers to pull together the key facts and figures by mining all their data sources, it also provides a web-based ‘dashboard’ so that they can see at a glance when performance is falling behind in specific areas. In addition, the software provides unique action-planning tools to help tackle problem areas and prevent them from happening again.

The solution has been developed by Datawatch Corporation, widely known in the public sector for software packages including Monarch and Visual│QSM.

Cathy Lloyd, Datawatch’s local government specialist, said: “We recognise that local authorities are usually not experts in data mining and integrating IT systems – their core businesses is delivering services to ratepayers. Our solution is very powerful, but also exceptionally easy to use.”

She added: “We work with the clients to put Visual Insight in place and tailor it to their needs and their key performance indicators. That often means layering it on top of up to hundreds of other applications in the local authority’s IT infrastructure, including data repositories and e-mail records.”

“It will then work automatically to sift through all the data in the organisation and pull out the relevant information, tracking trends and measuring outcomes and put them in scorecards, thresholds, metrics, whatever the clients need to make better decisions. Although implementation may sound like a nightmare, it is actually a relatively quick and painless process as our software can use existing output from any IT system without any changes.”

The software compares actual performance across all areas of operation with strategic goals and the business plans of individual departments. Automated alerts can then be sent in the form of an e-mail to department heads if any problems or negative trends appear. Because these “amber lights” are triggered as soon as a problem occurs, the manager then has time to react and investigate what is going wrong.

Visual Insight enables managers to drill down into the underlying data and to pull out more detailed information on, for example, why a construction project is running behind schedule or waste recycling figures have dropped.

A unique feature of the software is its action planning capability. This allows managers to quickly and easily create charts, graphs workflow processes and improvement plans which clearly demonstrate what remedial actions they are taking to address shortfalls in performance.

Lloyd concluded: “This is a new product which brings the information managers really need right to their desktops, in a form which is easy to understand and to work with.”

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