LG Inform Plus - Richmond and Wandsworth Councils

This case study shows how Richmond and Wandsworth councils (who operate a shared staffing arrangement) were able to significantly reduce the time and effort required to maintain their performance tool.

Research

The councils did this by using LG Inform to source data, and the LG Inform Plus API (Application Programming Interface) or ‘data tool’ to build a custom view of indicators, which can be automatically refreshed with the latest data.

The challenge

Richmond and Wandsworth councils maintain a performance tool to provide an impartial view of each council’s performance to residents and internal and external stakeholders. The tool gives a clear visual image showing how each council is performing against corporate objectives and ambitions across a range of metrics. A key aspect of this is to compare each council’s performance with that of other London boroughs.

Until recently, the councils had used a range of disparate datasets to populate the performance tool. This was a painstaking process which required the manual searching, downloading, editing and compiling of over 50 indicators before then uploading and formatting these within Power BI to present the data.

The solution

The councils have now significantly reduced the time and effort required to keep their performance tool up to date, through the use of LG Inform and LG Inform Plus. LG Inform ideally met their data needs as it contains more than 90 per cent of all the indicators for which the councils know that there is benchmarkable data available. This meant one single source of data, in one place, and in one format.

Further, the councils have been able to automate the process of refreshing the tool each year by using the LG Inform Plus data tool. They did this by building a custom view of their set of indicators and exporting these to a JSON format, which could then be used to directly populate their tool in Power BI. This process also allows for amendments to the indicators that the councils are using to be made with little disruption, to reflect any changing ambitions and commitments of either council.

The LG Inform Plus data tool has enabled the councils to create two views of the data for each indicator, one using the latest data and another using the ten most recent periods. Each view contains data for all London boroughs as well as averages for London and England. Additional values that give more meaning to the data, such as rankings and quartiles, are also simply directly taken from LG Inform. Power BI is then used to undertake data transformations and present the data. LG Inform also contains underlying metadata (such as background information such as definition and unit of measurement) for each indicator, and the councils plan to import this information in future as well.

The councils benefitted from the ability to test LG Inform Plus using a free licensed account prior to committing to purchasing the annual subscription service and appreciated the comprehensive support from the LG Inform team.

Excellent support was provided from LG Inform colleagues who helped with the accessibility issues we were having as well as granting a temporary extension of data limits prior to purchase of the licensed account along with helping with the editing of queries and explaining in more detail the data protocols used”.

                                                Joe Fisher, Richmond and Wandsworth Councils

The impact

Time saving has been the biggest efficiency gain and positive impact for the councils, as the LG Inform Plus license gives them access to a huge number of indicators which would previously have been drawn from disparate sources.

“One of the key factors in moving to the licensed version of LG Inform Plus was that it provides a vast range of datasets and pulls these results into Power BI easily and quickly. Additionally, the ability to have a “live link” to the data and automate the updating task for future work was a big consideration in purchasing the license.” - Joe Fisher, Richmond and Wandsworth Councils

The performance tool drives internal performance improvements and helps services to determine where their priority focus should be. For example, a question might be “is performance consistently declining and therefore is this an area of concern”. LG Inform Plus helps answer questions like this quickly – historical data can be easily accessed in one view instead of having to rely on manually searching for old data and creating internal datasets. It is also easy to find associated data for a particular indicator to answer questions and address feedback.

The performance tool has received positive interest and feedback from senior stakeholders including the chief executive and heads of services. Members have also taken an interest in their respective areas and have reported back positive comments that have supported the development of the tool.

Sustainability

The councils plan to maintain their license for the foreseeable future as this will enable them to continue the management and use of the performance tool. They also see a significant amount of potential for future work. For example, the license they have provides for an unlimited number of users, which means other colleagues can pull data for, for example, borough profiling and targeting service delivery improvements.

Further work is also taking place to create nearest neighbour profiles, as well as forecasting future results.

As the amount of data continues to grow and the abilities of service users extracting and transforming this data increases, the councils see an increasing need to maintain their license and commitment to LG Inform Plus.

Lessons learnt

The councils secured support for acquiring the LG Inform Plus license from senior stakeholders by giving a presentation demonstrating the data tool and time savings generated through the ability to query large amounts of disparate sources through a single service. Following this presentation, funding for the license for LG Inform Plus was quickly approved in order to develop a refreshed version of the council’s existing performance tool.

The councils found that planning ahead and creating a reference sheet of the unique metric ids for the set of indicators they wanted to query was key. When sourcing the data, initially keeping this simple and querying one result (such as the latest raw value for a borough or group of boroughs) enabled them to get to grips with the process. With practice they were then able to create more complex queries.

The LG Inform team provided thorough and timely support, helping diagnose some initial errors and supporting the councils to understand and use the data tool. In addition, before proceeding with purchasing the license the team extended the data allowance to enable the councils to produce a version of their performance tool that was used as business case for the licensed version.

Contact

For more information about LG Inform and LG Inform Plus please contact: Ian Carbutt, Programme Manager, LG Inform: lginformplus@local.gov.uk

For more information about the use of LG Inform and LG Inform Plus at Richmond and Wandsworth Councils please contact: Joe Fisher, Performance Analyst Joseph.fisher@richmondandwandsworth.gov.uk