If you’re not assessing you’re guessing: the value of an evidence based approach to strategic resource allocation

There are signs at my gym, that say ‘If you’re not assessing you’re guessing’. It’s something that is easy to ignore in your personal life, but in a business context measurement is becoming mission critical. At the Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales (PSAEW) Annual Conference last week, there’s been considerable talk about stretched resources – starting with the opening speech from the President of the Association, Gareth Thomas.

“I suggest we have a perfect storm developing, comprised of fewer resources, reduced public services, new threats, and a worrying increase in some types of traditional crime. If the model for delivering policing services in the future is fewer people, working longer, each doing ever more, then I suggest that model is fundamentally flawed.”

Other presentations and conversations also highlighted the fatigue officers are feeling from heavy workloads and indeed 72.2% of respondents to the 2017 Police Federation Pay and Morale Survey said that their workload had increased in the last year.

With talk of fewer resources and overworked officers and teams, the importance of measurement takes another dimension, with forces needing to have access to the evidence which not only enables them to clearly understand the impact of changing demand and resource levels for budgeting purposes, but also helps them to balance the welfare of officers.

For the team at Cleveland Police, this ‘Evidence Based approach to strategic resource allocation’ is something that they’ve been working on for some time. In one of the breakout sessions at the PSAEW Conference Brian Thomas, Assistant Chief Officer at Cleveland Police shared his force’s story about the great strides they’ve taken in organisational planning and how this has had a huge impact in working with teams across the force to take some of the stress out of resource decision making.

Supported by a new tool, PrediKt developed in conjunction with Sopra Steria, Brian and his team are able to operate in a more informed way.

He shared three areas where the force is now regularly using PrediKt:

Reality testing – Validating actual performance against planned performance. It is giving an evidence base to quickly identify what teams are busy doing and, through a dashboard, they have information which highlights automatically when teams’ actual workload is outstripping their resource. An example is when Neighbourhood teams are recording a greater percentage of response work and less time on preventative activities. The force is now able investigate the reasons behind the inconsistency and put action plans in place to resolve the issue.

Evidence based resource planning – moving from examining performance at an individual team level, here Cleveland Police are now able to examine resourcing at an organisational level and look at different scenarios based around the changing shape of crime, for example the impact of an increase in domestic burglary and how resources can be reallocated across the Force to ensure the workload is balanced across all teams and crime types.

Futures planning – the final example was to examine a resource profile change and identify what future resource profiling could look like if we need to increase training days per annum for example to comply with new statutory course requirements. A further example was what would be the impact of reducing officer numbers.

It’s clear that workload isn’t decreasing, as NPCC Chief Sara Thornton told the conference, ‘everybody knows what police should do more of; few say what we could do less of’. The final presentations also brought home the reality of cyber crime and the changing nature of crime, which will have a huge impact on policing and resourcing in the future.

It’s a world where forces really should be ‘assessing and not guessing’.

Getting a formal evidence base will transform resourcing so forces can truly assess the impact of changes to demand and resource levels, as well as helping to balance the welfare of officers.

Find more about PrediKt, Sopra Steria’s Police Resource and Demand Modelling Tool or contact me by email.

Regulation and compliance: the new certainties in life

by Miles Elliott, Director of Credit Risk

Benjamin Franklin once wrote that ‘in this world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes’. But in these more modern times, especially for financial services organisations – we should perhaps add ‘regulation and compliance’ to the list. In 2018, a wave of new regulation is being introduced – and one of the most far reaching is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

GDPR: are you ready…?

From 25 May 2018, organisations across Europe will have to strengthen controls associated with collecting, managing and using personal data. Resulting activity will see significant changes to IT systems as well as the way organisations engage with their customers.

There’s less than a year to go until GDPR becomes a way of life, but a survey in May 2017 suggested that only 10% of organisations have mature GDPR plans in place – with a further 40% at an intermediate phase.

That leaves half of organisations at the beginning of their compliance journey – and the clock is ticking!

GDPR: the cost of non-compliance…

Becoming fully GDPR compliant will be challenging and will require a holistic approach to data management and governance. Organisations run the risk of failing to respond to the scope of activity involved and the amount of time needed to ensure compliance. Another common issue is the lack of skills and experience to deliver such a comprehensive change to governance controls across a business. To put this into context, in 2016 alone there were 1.4 billion data breaches across the industry.

Fines for failing to comply with GDPR are expected to be highly penal as well as leading to material reputational damage.

Don’t go it alone – work with an expert in assured compliance

So what should today’s hard-pressed organisations do, especially if they don’t understand the full extent of GDPR?  The answer is to work with an organisation like Sopra Steria that’s got a track record in complex data management AND offers a ‘comprehensive’ approach to GDPR compliance. Our pragmatic ‘think, build and run’ approach empowers organisations to pick and choose the path to GDPR compliance that is right for them. As experts in Data, Analytics and Technology, we can help you quickly identify data gaps and risks, work with you to develop remediation solutions and support you moving forward with on-going compliance monitoring.

The clock is ticking…

So don’t get caught out! Make sure you aren’t one of the 50% of companies still asking “What is this GDPR”?  Take your first steps today to GDPR compliance and get fully prepared for the 2018 deadline. Remember, 2018 is the year of new regulation – make sure it’s a happy one!

See more information about how we can help you get compliant.

Get in touch to discuss how to meet your GDPR challenge and support your journey to assured compliance.

Information Chaos: the next big business challenge

“Every budget is an IT budget.  Every company is an IT company.  Every business leader is becoming a digital leader. Every person is becoming a technology company. We are entering the era of the Digital Industrial Economy.” – Peter Sondergaard, Gartner.

Most organisations now recognise that managing their information assets is just as important as managing their physical, human, and financial assets. So why are so many still drowning in a flood of unmanaged content and information chaos? The symptoms are plain to see: servers overflowing and multiplying, making it hard to find anything; sensitive information leaking, losing competitive advantage and exposing the organisation to litigation risk; information silos continue to develop, frustrating secure collaborative working; and because of cheap cloud storage, accessible from personal smartphones and tablets, knowledge assets are migrating to places beyond the reach of the company’s information governance processes – if indeed they have any!

Meanwhile new information continues to pour in, in an ever-changing array of formats, through multiple channels and on multiple devices. Organisations face rising costs for maintaining their legacy systems of record, and struggle to keep control of new systems.

No wonder many leaders in Knowledge Management believe that Information Chaos is the next big business challenge.

The core of all these difficulties is a lack of Information Governance.  With no rules, users can put their stuff wherever they like: the ‘C’ drive of their laptop, flash drives, Dropbox, etc. Shared network drives, intended to support collaboration, bring irritating access issues – and if no governance process is in place, users can create a folder anywhere, and give it any name. So no one knows where to look for things, and people mostly share files with colleagues using email attachments – leading to increased risk of data breaches, massive duplication, loss of version control, and excessive network traffic.

Information governance means:

  • identifying what information classes make up the knowledge assets of the organisation;
  • appointing someone to be the owner (and custodian) of each class of information – this will usually be the appropriate head of function; and
  • establishing rules for naming, storing, protecting and sharing knowledge assets.

The objectives of rationalising document management and introducing proper governance are:

  • To enable full exploitation of information assets, based on:
    • A business-led file plan and document management system (“A place for everything and everything in its place”)
    • Full Enterprise Search to improve productivity and consistency
    • No more repeating work (“re-inventing the wheel”)
  • To rationalise data storage and make savings, by:
    • Keeping one master copy of everything (wherever possible)
    • Maintaining clear version control (because sometimes it’s necessary to keep earlier drafts)
    • Eliminating duplication
    • Deleting ephemeral and superseded documents
  • To ensure the security and integrity of information, by
    • Applying appropriate access control to all information
    • Ensuring that sensitive information is classified and labelled correctly
    • Ensuring that approved and published information cannot be changed or deleted until the proper time

1.    Developing the Taxonomy

Information Governance requires a clear understanding of the kinds of information the organisation needs in order to function. At Sopra Steria I’ve worked with several clients on this problem using both top-down and bottom-up methods.  In a top-down approach, we help subject matter experts in the business to build a hierarchical taxonomy of their areas of expertise. The classes in the taxonomy will eventually correspond to folders in the idealised corporate file plan.

2.    Knowledge Audit

I supplement this top-down analysis with a bottom-up review of existing file structures, on the basis that frequently occurring document and folder names are likely to signify knowledge classes that need to be represented at the lower levels in the file plan hierarchy. I make use of a disk space analyser tool for this information discovery exercise, or knowledge audit. The more sophisticated tools not only keep track of the most commonly-used terms but also assess the scope and severity of the Information Chaos problem. They can identify where the duplicate, redundant and corrupt files are, together with their volumes. This information can also later support the cleansing and migration stage; i.e. partially automating the process of deleting “bad” files, and moving “useful” information to a new home in the revised corporate file plan.

In summary, an Information Governance project might consist of the following phases:

flow diagram through the sub head topics listed here

Experience has shown that developing a taxonomy is very difficult to do across an entire business (of any size). In fact, both the first two (parallel) steps in this process are best carried out piecemeal; i.e. team by team, business unit by business unit, project by project; joining the models together later, eliminating any class duplication en route.  This has the added advantage of delivering early benefits and demonstrating steady progress to management.

3.    Information Architecture

In stage three, the results of the top-down taxonomy work and the bottom-up knowledge audit are combined to develop a new Information Architecture for the business. The core of this will be a hierarchical folder structure similar to the familiar Windows Explorer layout, but with important differences. In the Information Architecture hierarchy the nodes are classes of information. For example, it may consist of generic terms such as Project or Supplier, while a File Plan would have a specific folder for each real-world instance of the class.  So the class, Project, spawns Project Alpha, Project Bravo, Project Charlie, etc; the Supplier class creates GoliathCo, Bloggs & Sons, and so on.

The other important difference is the association of metadata with each class, and with the corresponding folders in the File Plan.  This is likely to include the standard maintenance metadata (author, owner, creation date, last modified date, etc); plus the document type; any access constraints; and retention schedules and disposal triggers.

Carefully selected business metadata is an invaluable support to Enterprise Search, but can be seen as a nuisance when saving documents. For this reason, metadata should be set as high up in the hierarchy as possible so that content placed in lower level folders can “inherit” the correct values without the need for additional data entry by the user.

4.    Set up the new File Plan

The next step in the project will be to implement the Information Architecture in a File Plan. How this is done will depend on the selected platform; for example, an Electronic Document and Records Management (EDRM) system, SharePoint, or network shared drives (although the latter will not be able to support a rich metadata schema such as is described above).

5.    Cleansing and Migration

With the target File Plan in place the last stage of the project can begin. Owners sort through their holdings, deleting the documents they no longer need and moving the valuable content to the proper places in the File Plan. This is a “housekeeping” exercise, an inevitable chore for many, and management must be careful to allow their staff sufficient time to complete it.

With an agreed Information Architecture, and a File Plan based on it that all staff can use, proper Information Governance can be introduced.

ConclusionsHINTS AND TIPS 1. Solving your Information Chaos problem will mean an unavoidable “House-keeping” exercise to identify your useful content and delete the rubbish. 2. You can reduce the pain, and avoid a future recurrence, by developing a new File Plan to move your cleansed content into. 3. Develop the File Plan by a combination of “top-down” and “bottom-up” – but do it in small bites, joining all the pieces up later.

Addressing the Information Chaos problem requires: first, the development of a target Information Architecture; and second, an extensive “housekeeping” exercise to eliminate the dross and migrate the organisation’s vital knowledge assets. The benefits of such a project will be:

  • Reduction of business risk by ensuring:
    • full traceability of decision making
    • an increased ability to respond to enquiries (legal, regulatory, FoI, audit, etc)
    • a reduced risk of litigation
  • Boosted user productivity by
    • minimising the admin burden on end users
    • providing secure collaborative working through a shared Information Architecture
    • better re-use of existing knowledge assets
  • Cost reduction
  • Enhanced information quality
  • Streamlined document and records management processes

Satisfaction as information chaos eliminated…

Share with me any experiences you have of successful information cleansing and migration, and any tips on how you’ve made the process work in your organisation. Leave a reply below or contact me by email.

Why regulatory compliance offers a win-win situation

by Tej Sembi, Business Development Sopra Steria

A number of scandals in recent years, like the flawed reporting of hip replacement devices leading to huge compensation payouts and fines, suggest that the medical device industry has a problem. Do the big players really care? Well, with the work we have been doing shows that all concerned in this industry do care – patient safety is their number one concern.

The world of regulation is changing and catching up with technology. New standards and medical device directives are being introduced worldwide – from the US, to the UK, Europe and beyond. These make it clear that the industry must behave more responsibly. For example, ISO 13485 2016 extends the previous edition of the quality management system requirements for medical devices and risk.

A driver for differentiation

While this is clearly great news for the end user, there is also another positive outcome from these changes. I believe new regulatory regimes present a fantastic opportunity for medical device and implant companies to radically change the way they use and interpret product data to provide business benefit. In fact, with the right mindset, they represent a driver for differentiation and increased competitiveness.

Let me explain. Companies have to comply with the legislation, which means that they are committed to spending in this area, so does it not make sense to maximise this investment?  The data will need to be collated and managed, so why not look at how it is also used by other business areas and tap into this much underused resource?

On average, companies are said to base decisions on around 20% of available data so what could be achieved if they could harness more? These untapped sources of data contain a whole myriad of information.  Complying with the new regulations will give companies the opportunity to have better visibility and control over clinical outcomes and supporting data which could be used across the organisation to enhance patient safety, improve portfolio management, and improve sales and marketing alongside its vital role of compliance.

Reducing exposure to risk

Ultimately the right solution to the compliance challenge should deliver a better understanding of  customer/patient needs and outcomes, gaining clarity of validation, verification and design activities and support the prediction of product lifecycles in terms of maintenance, performance, end-of-life and potential usage-based issues or damage.

The more an organisation knows about each of these areas of its business, the better able it will be to reduce the company’s exposure to litigation, improve operational efficiencies and sales opportunities and, crucially, enhance product development and patient outcomes.

Thus, regulatory compliance becomes a win-win situation all round: healthcare providers have confidence in the efficacy of the medical devices they procure, patients trust that the devices they depend on are safe and robust and manufacturers gain the customer and product insight they need to differentiate and protect their brand reputation.

What do you think, am I mad to suggest compliance is really an opportunity? Leave a reply below, or contact me by email, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Artificial Intelligence: The new entertainment experience?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can radically transform how we interact with a range of services, with Amazon’s Alexa being a notable example growing rapidly in popularity. But in what ways could AI disrupt how we use and consume entertainment? Here are some ideas…

Dynamic film narrative

An AI can use Machine Learning to find hidden insights in a data set to identify remedial action. This capability could be used to enable a film viewer to directly interact with a film’s narrative – pausing the action any time to tell the AI (or even the film’s characters themselves?) how they think and feel about the story. Sentiment that an AI can then analyse in the cloud to learn what an audience wants next that’s fed back to the content producer – greater plot exposition, more of their favourite characters or action. AI-driven blockbuster entertainment that never flops!

Game voice user interface

Natural Language Processing (NLP) enables an AI to understand and respond to spoken and written commands. In terms of a console gaming experience, NLP could transform such experiences. Rather than using a controller to direct and interact with non-player characters within a game, the player could talk to them directly, naturally – a new level of gameplay design that creates truly immersive experiences.

Personalised content maker

AI’s ability to analyse massive amounts of data from potentially any source is enabling deeper, richer forms of Personalisation. Could an AI use this capability to create brand new content (stories, images, even films or music) to an individual’s specific tastes and mood? On demand entertainment that always delights, never gets boring or ends – the perfect TV channel you won’t want to switch off!

If you would like more information about how artificial intelligence can benefit your retail business, leave a reply below or contact me by email.

Intelligent personal assistants: an opportunity for retailers?

Alexa is arguably the tipping point for intelligent personal assistants; with Amazon’s open source approach to sharing its app (“skill”) development capabilities the sky’s the limit for this new, disruptive form of natural language driven customer experience. But what could retailers make of this opportunity? Here are some ideas…

It’s not the hardware but the cloud analytics that matters

Critical to any retailer using an intelligent personal assistant to innovate their brand is that these use cases should primarily focus on the business outcomes from using its cloud analytics capabilities, not the front-end device itself.

A retailer, for example, could use Alexa to provide instore guidance to shoppers to help them find items or make simple queries, physical customer browsing behaviour captured in the cloud that when combined with online experiences enables deeper, more contextual forms of personalisation across all this retailer’s channels.

An opportunity to simplify (and risk of complicating) customer journeys

A unique strength of an intelligent personal assistant is that it has the potential to smartly rationalise customer queries and transactions – an opportunity to turn chatbots into compelling conversational experiences a customer would have a preference for using over engaging a person or using a digital channel.

But there remains a significant user experience design challenge for its natural language driven interface – at what point does the buying journey become too complex for this channel and risks increasing friction for a customer? Any form of customer experience that requires a customer to look at detailed product information or make comparisons between products could be difficult and hard to follow through spoken voice generated content alone.

Alexa’s use of APIs could enable a retailer to combine this channel with its mobile e-commerce site (or in-store tablets) for example to create a seamless, holistic experience where complex information is shared visually driven by a customer’s voice commands and smartly informed by Alexa’s AI.

Bricks and mortar as a truly experiential destination

Perhaps the most exciting thing about Alexa (and intelligent personal assistants in general) is the potential for them to create unique, personalised experiences instore – a direct, deep relationship between a customer and a retailer’s brand. And because its cloud driven this enables interconnectivity (IoT) with other instore technologies such as targeted digital signage, interactive mirrors, social media engagement and mobile point of sale.

If you would like more information about how digital transformation can benefit your retail business, leave a reply below or contact me by email.

Inspiring digital skills in the next generation

I recently had the opportunity to go with colleagues on behalf of Sopra Steria to Victoria College in Belfast alongside Digital Shared Service (DSS) to present to fifty teenage girls on Working in IT.  It was a great opportunity for us to give something back to the local community and support Digital NI in promoting STEM subjects and digital technology careers to students.

Sopra Steria has an active role in each of our local communities where we partake in outreach programmes.

We aim to open the student’s eyes to the wonders of IT, the world of digital and its impact on individuals working and personal life.

It was a strange, but nice feeling being back in the classroom, especially being the one talking at the front! I had the challenge of beginning the session, introducing my company and myself to the students and explaining my own journey from a history degree to working in IT as a Graduate Business Analyst. I explained how not all jobs in IT are code based, the unique job roles included within IT and the different skills needed.

We next wanted to highlight the importance of IT within everyday life and introduced “Game Changer” a programme which has the ambition of raising physical fitness and promoting healthy lifestyles in children and that Sopra Steria is working on with Halton CCG and Widnes Vikings Rugby. Through the programme we have developed TRAKKA – a fitness band and associated measurement and monitoring application – and Sopra Steria’s programme lead Louise O’Leary captivated the students, challenging them to think about how simple changes in lifestyle can create big changes in wellbeing. Although the TRAKKA wristband was designed for younger kids they were interested to see how the ecosystem developed from TRAKKA:

Inspire, Inform, Improve

diagram 'trakka' ecosystem - circle of text: Nutrition, Data/Web/Apps, Information, Behaviour & Wellbeing, Academic Improvement, Activity, Content, Ideas - back to Nutrition

Data is at the heart of TRAKKA, highlighting performance and areas for improvement and following on from Louise’s presentation, another of my colleagues Dermot Boyle moved the conversation on to another important topic, data analytics, bringing it to life with real life and familiar examples. This is another emerging IT area where we will see increasing focus over the coming years and where apprentices and graduates will be able to make their mark as they start their careers. Designed to get them involved, we concluded with a quick hands-on session, asking them to answer questions from information in our TRAKKA, Power BI dashboard.

In our work with other schools and colleges across the UK, we’ve been involved in a number of projects providing Raspberry Pi kits helping to building IT and entrepreneurial skills. At the end of our visit we donated a Raspberry Pi to Victoria College to support them in working with the students to develop coding knowledge in a fun and interactive way.

Louise, Dermot and I all really loved being involved in this visit; it was fun and energetic and we really hope the students felt the same. It appears our time was well spent as the school has asked whether some of the children could take up work placements – so we may even see a few of the faces again in and around the Belfast office! It’s a big choice choosing your future career and it would be nice to think that we provided someone with that spark of inspiration to enter the world of IT.

If this is something that you feel interested in or want to know more about, please feel free to get in touch – we would be more than happy to help! You can leave a reply below, or contact me via email.

image of students at Victoria College
Our student audience at Victoria College

Look at how our sustainability programme encourages students to build skills and careers in IT.

Understand more about our vibrant team and work in Northern Ireland.

We offer great training, development and career progression prospects – find out more about our Early Careers opportunities.