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The Path to Manageable Data
Going Beyond the Three V’s of Big Data
Whitepaper
info@connexica.comwww.connexica.com +44(0)1785 246777
Search Powered Data Discovery
Contents
Introduction
Big data, big problems
Fighting the Digital Skills Crisis
How businesses can minimise impact of skills gap
Tips for Higher Quality Data
Addressing common mistakes and problems
Digitising Banking
What does big data really mean for banks?
Leek United Building Society
Case in point
Government Intelligence
- but not as you know it
Analytics against Fraud
How organisations can use analytics to reduce fraud
Mid Kent Services
Case in point
3
7
9
11
13
18
20
22
2
Introduction
Big data is a big deal in business. While some industry experts
claim the journey is far from easy, the reality is that many are
unaware of the relatively simple steps to generate effective
insight. Here Simon Nicholls, Sales and Marketing Director of
business intelligence and analytics specialist, Connexica, looks at
how business analytics software can help businesses on the road
to actionable data.
In the early 2000’s Doug Laney, vice president at research firm
Gartner, defined the three Vs of big data: volume, velocity and
variety. Since then, following the development of the big data
trend, industry expert Mark van Rijmenam has added four extra
Vs: veracity, variability, visualisation and value. Together these
demonstrate how to deal with the demands of big data. So what
are all these new Vs and what do they mean? Has the concept
really changed?
Veracity
Veracity, the first new V, is essential for big data. For the analysis
to be correct, the data itself must be accurate. The large volume
and velocity of big data means that it is statistically likely to have a
large number of errors.
Big Data, Big Problem
3
90%of the world’s data
was generated over
the last 2 years
Source: www.sciencedaily.com
Good business analytics software should already have a data
validation process. This means that, from the beginning, errors
and discrepancies are spotted, so only high-quality data is
subsequently analysed, reported and actioned.
Variability
Variability is an extension to Laney’s original variety. Big data
collected from multiple sources can take a variety of different
formats. Data can now be collected from transactions, social
media comments or sensors. While this large amount of data can
be beneficial to companies, it can be overwhelming if they don’t
know how to properly action it.
For example, retail companies improve their brand perception
and customer loyalty by monitoring variables including
purchasing habits, social media contact or in-store complaints.
The problem with variability, especially in regards to social media,
is that most analytics software will be unable to register the
meaning of a tweet in context. Therefore, it cannot correctly
evaluate whether it is a positive or negative reaction.
Using advanced analytics software, businesses can perform
sentiment analysis on this kind of data. It contains algorithms
that can interpret the context of the message and decipher the
correct meaning of the word in context. This makes the data
collected accurate and means that it can be visualised correctly,
as either a positive or a negative view.
Visualisation
Although analysing big data can yield lots of useful information,
many business leaders will struggle to make use of this if it is not
presented in an easy to understand format.
4
million tweets are
created everyday
Source: Internet Live Stats
500
Powerful business analytics software is able to analyse data from
multiple sources and convert it into one manageable stream of
data. Businesses can then use this to change their processes
quickly and easily, rather than having to manually correlate data
across hundreds of files, documents and databases.
One of the specific pressures of big data is speed. With the rise of
the Internet of Things (IoT), more and more devices are becoming
equipped with sensors that can feed back data. Although data
analysts would traditionally use manually generated reports, new
monitors such as smart meters demand near real time reporting.
This is clearly impossible to do without the use of analytics
software and means that quick and easy visualisation interfaces
are essential.
Although many analytics programmes can capture data in real
time, some software relies on SQL queries to perform searches.
Even for the most technologically savvy employees, generating
these queries still takes time. This means that the queries are not
truly representative of real-timing reporting. Software such as
Connexica’s CXAIR features a user-friendly search-engine style
interface, which allows anyone to generate accurate, up to date,
reports and means that employees can view data and make
decisions instantly.
Smart visualisation is truly the first step to the democratisation
of business intelligence — the ability for anyone in the business,
regardless of their technical ability, to gain actionable insights
from big data. This means that, instead of spending hours poring
over complicated reports business leaders can roll out
self-service analytics, making data accessible to all, from
administration clerks to C-level leaders.
5
20.8million Internet of
Things (IoT) connected
devices by 2020
Source: Gartner
Value
The value of big data is in the analysis, not in the data itself.
Research firm Mckinsey predicts that big data has a potential
annual value of $250 billion to Europe’s public sector. However,
this data is pointless and worth nothing if it cannot be effectively
actioned.
For example, the UK Mid Kent Services (MKS), a local authority
partnership consisting of Maidstone, Swale and Tunbridge Wells
Borough Councils, used Connexica's CXAIR business analytics
software to deal with a staggering volume of data.
The data consisted of over 20 million car parking records, 500,000
service-call records and 65,000 council tax records. In the past,
administrative staff had to spend time combining data from
multiple data sources in order to prepare reports for managers.
This was obviously a time consuming and inefficient manual
process.
By using Connexica’s CXAIR software, managers could see all of
this data in one format, meaning that it could be transformed into
actionable information. By eliminating the manual processing,
CXAIR was able to deliver reports much more quickly, more
accurately and with information that could be actioned in a more
timely manner.
In the same way that Van Rijmenam's additional Vs help us to
better understand the complexities of modern big data, the same
is true for the way we analyse data.
Given the increase in the amount of data that businesses must
now manage, it makes sense that they use effective ways to
gather, sort and analyse it. This is where good business analytics
software is indispensable - with the right software and the right
plan, maintaining manageable and actionable data is no longer a
daunting task.
6
1.2trillion Google
searches per year
Source: Internet Live Stats
7
Digital Skills Crisis
A recent report published by the UK House of Commons Science
and Technology Committee stated that approximately 12.6
million adults in the UK lack basic digital skills. This IT skills gap is
affecting businesses across industries, from financial to
manufacturing. Here, Simon Nicholls, Sales and Marketing
Director of business intelligence specialist Connexica, explores
how businesses can address this crisis and minimise the impact.
The technological revolution of the late twentieth and early
twenty-first century has brought with it significant changes. Not
only has it fundamentally changed the way businesses operate, it
has significantly increased the volume of data available to us. We
can now monitor and track every process in detail, gaining
valuable information and insights in the process.
Unfortunately, as the House of Commons found, digital skills
have struggled to keep up with demand. As such, business
management teams repeatedly encounter difficulties with
aspects of operation and even recruitment.
How Businesses can Minimise Impact of Skills Gap
12.6million adults in the
UK lack basic digital
skills
Source: UK House of Commons
Science and Technology Commitee
8
In fact, 72 per cent of employers have expressed unwillingness to consider potential candidates
lacking these skills. This is understandable, but problematic in the midst of a skills crisis.
Interestingly, this latest report was commissioned as a result of a previous report — the big data
dilemma report in February 2016 — that identified, “the risk of a growing data analytics skills gap
as big data reaches further into the economy”.
This is a pressing concern, because the ability to analyse data effectively directly influences the
strategy of decision makers and business leaders.
For example, most businesses can use data analytics to identify opportunities to improve
operational processes and achieve time and cost savings. However, this can only be done if staff
have the skills to interact with this data and pick out the actionable information.
While this can be done by specialist staff, recruitment increases costs and relying on IT
departments can limit the amount of real-time practical insight.
So how can businesses tackle the digital skills gap? The most obvious approach is by investing in
upskilling programmes to ensure staff are fully competent using business IT systems. However,
this is a long-term objective that will do little to make an impact in the more immediate future.
Fortunately, businesses can make some small changes to improve the upskilling process for
existing employees.
While some software companies are already pushing towards self-service data analytics, which
sees analysis tools move out of the IT department and into the wider workforce, only 16 per cent
of business executives can adequately use those tools.
This is where search-based analytics software, such as Connexica’s CXAIR, can be used to bridge
the skills gap. Using natural language search, the same format found in search engines, makes
business intelligence accessible and actionable on a wider scale. Changing the way that users
interact with the tools directly can remove the unnecessary technical barriers to business
intelligence.
9
Tips for Higher
Quality Data
A study by Experian QAS recently revealed that 65 per cent of
businesses consider human error to be the cause of most of their
data quality issues. So, how can chief information officers (CIOs)
effectively address the most common mistakes and improve
business intelligence?
Rules-based Data Audits
The objective is to find those data sources plagued by low-quality
data and rectify the information at the source.
Typically, these will be those data sources with little rules
governing data input and format. Fortunately, this is easy
enough to address.
Using a rules-based approach to the data quality audit uncovers
the likelihood of inaccurate data values.
Addressing Common Mistakes and Problems
65%of data issues are due
to human error
Source: Experian QAS
10
Data Matching
This is used to build unique identifiers within the data using
uncommon data values within the database. The idea is that a
“match” can be found by selecting several uncommon values to
create a unique identifier, thus reducing duplicates and
improving data accuracy.
A typical example for local authorities is matching a citizen’s
record. This can be done by using the last three characters from
data values to build a unique identifier, such as surname, council
account number and postcode. It is unlikely you will get many
instances of “TON7194ET”.
Setting a Master Record
More powerful analytics software also allows you to define a
master record. This is a database that maintains up to date,
accurate values, that can be used to drive amendments to other
data sources where there are duplicates and other invalid data
values. Connexica developed its CXAIR business intelligence
software to overcome this long-winded, manual, process.
While the staff that enter data are only human and prone to
errors, these mistakes do not need to impact reporting. With the
right software and rules in place, businesses can ensure that the
systems catch what slips through by humans.
200+implementations of
CXAIR across a variety
of industries
Source: Connexica
11
Big data has been a buzzword on the lips of business managers and CIOs for at least the last two
decades. Every industry, from financial to medical and even local authorities, appears to be
investing in ways to be a part of the modern information gold rush. But what does big data really
mean for the banking and financial sector? Here, Simon Nicholls, Sales and Marketing Director of
business intelligence specialist Connexica, explores further.
Traditionally, the financial sector hasn’t been the most receptive to new technologies. As an
industry that thrives on minimising risk and making carefully calculated business decisions,
choosing to handle high-value sensitive information with what may simply be the technological
flavour of the month is not a decision many rush to make.
Despite these reservations, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) included investment in
technology as the top priority of its 2015/16 business plan, a clear sign that the sector needs to be
making a more conscious push towards adopting digitisation.
What does Big Data really mean for Banks?
Digitising
Banking
12
Investing in Big Data
The next step is big data, a technological phenomenon that has stirred significant interest from
the banking industry. The idea that data generated during the everyday processes and operations
of a business can be used to inform strategies and achieve objectives is an exciting one,
particularly in a post-crash economy where banks are faced with constant scrutiny over the detail
of risk reporting.
However, there remains a question of what big data truly means for the financial sector. Although
the information can yield a competitive advantage for banks, for it to be effective it has to be
analysed effectively.
The majority of the conversation surrounding big data banking to date, has looked at what
models and systems are best at making the data accessible for analysts. Yet the question banks
should be asking is, “how can this information be actionable for us?”
This approach limits the functionality of big data. One of the most valuable characteristics of big
data is that it gives banks real-time insight into multiple data sets. The places that customers
regularly use their cards, for example, can be analysed to highlight opportunities for additional
revenue streams by partnering with retailers. This could take the form of targeted customer cash
back offers or even to provide anonymised commercial insights to the retailer.
Changing the Data Analysis Game
When choosing a data analytics package, banks should look beyond SQL-based software into the
different types of big data analytics for financial services — notably search-based analytics.
Search-based analytic software makes use of natural-language search for a simple and
uncomplicated approach to navigating and inspecting data sets. As a result, cross-referencing
becomes an easy process and correlations can be spotted without the need for a technical skill
set. This means people at all levels in the bank can benefit from actionable business insights.
Software such as Connexica’s CXAIR, for example, can even draw this data from a wide range of
disparate sources, meaning that banks that prefer the traditional bespoke systems can make use
of the functionality without the need for migration to a new system.
Big data might be a much more buzzword-friendly phrase than “search-based self-service
analytics” but it is limited on its own. Banks can only truly reap the rewards by setting up an
effective means of using it.
13
Towards the end of 2015, The Business Performance Innovation
Network (BPI) conducted a survey of 250 executives. The survey
found that 52 per cent thought that their IT departments were
poor or only “just making progress”. However, Leek United
Building Society’s IT team has remained ahead of the curve, which
is why the organisation made the decision to integrate analytics
software from Connexica into its system.
Leek United Building Society was formed in 1863 in Staffordshire,
UK. Today, the organisation has a total of 12 branches across
various regions of the UK.
Leek United uses CXAIR business intelligence software to:
Case in point
Leek United
Building Society
52%IT departments rated
at poor or ‘just making
progress’
Source: The Business Performance
Innovation Network (BPI) Survery
Allow each department to produce its own reports
independently
Analyse raw data from a number of disparate sources
Comply with financial regulations
14
Banks and building societies are subject to an array of stringent regulations to protect both
consumers and the economy and the associated requirements for compliance are constantly
changing. Quite often these are small changes, such as an adaption in the way certain legal
documents have to be phrased. However, there can be amendments of a more serious nature.
In 2013, for example, the Financial Services Authority (FSA) was replaced by the Financial Conduct
Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) as a result of the Financial Services
Act 2012. The move, which also saw The Bank of England take responsibility for financial stability,
implemented significant changes to the UK financial regulation framework by amending relevant
provisions in the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA).
Under the new act, laws relating to manipulation and misleading statements and impressions
were restructured and broadened and a new category was created for the regulation of activity
in relation to benchmarks and credit ratings.
This means that banks and building societies are now subject to prudential and conduct
regulation from the PRA and FCA. However, from the point of view of businesses operating in the
financial sector, what this really means from a day-to-day perspective is continuous information
gathering and ongoing reporting.
Reporting for Duty
Leek United Building Society was established in 1863, which means the business has weathered
all manner of regulatory and economic change. Today, the mutual organisation has twelve busy
branches across Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Cheshire and Shropshire, offering a range of
mortgages, savings and insurance products.
Each of these branches, as well as the central marketing, sales and risk departments, have to
generate a wealth of business and regulatory reports on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual
basis. Anyone who has ever put together any kind of report has an appreciation for how laborious
the process can be. When there are such stringent requirements to be met, fact checking and
cross referencing can be a headache.
15
“In 2015 alone our IT department produced over 700 reports,”
said Stephen Boulton, Head of IT and Admin Services at the
building society. “Historically, it made sense for reports to be
handled centrally, as this reduced the chances of
interdepartmental discrepancies between reports, something
that can result in fines and damage our brand reputation.
However, the ideal scenario is one where each department can
take full ownership of its reporting in the knowledge that the
data is accurate and the report is straightforward to produce.
This is why we were looking for an alternative that would enable
each department of the business, whether sales, marketing,
mortgages or savings, to take control of their own reports.”
With this goal in mind, Leek United Building Society found
Connexica’s business analytics software, CXAIR, through work
with a mutual partner.
Big Data, Big Results
Using search technology, CXAIR takes raw data from any number
of sources and converts it into visually appealing and easy to
understand reports that offer actionable insight.
A mutual partner of both businesses originally introduced the
building society to CXAIR with the intention of using the tool for
reporting on things related to online transactions with
customers. After further review, Boulton realised that CXAIR was
what he had been looking for to help the company’s reporting
process.
“Being able to integrate an analytics tool that can draw on
various data sources and automatically produce reports in
minutes is exactly what we needed,” said Boulton. “Rather than
someone spending hours searching through spread sheets and
databases and then compiling a report, we now have a solution
“Being able to
integrate an analytics
tool that can draw on
various data sources
and automatically
produce reports in
minutes is exactly
what we needed.”
Source: Stephen Boulton,
Leek United Building Society
16
that completely negates this laborious process. It also means that we know every department is
drawing from the same central resource, so there can be no discrepancies in figures or results.”
Establishing CXAIR as part of the building society’s system was a straightforward process. This
was due, in part, to Connexica’s in-depth understanding of nominal ledger systems, such as Sage.
However, the main reason CXAIR is easy to integrate into any system is a result of its open
architecture design, meaning it can work with any existing software.
Where the real work comes in is defining the sources of data needed to generate each report.
“We work with all of our clients to help them understand where the data they need resides and
what the format is, or needs to be,” said Daniel Rostron at Connexica. “This is really important,
particularly as all organisations are reliant on timely accurate information to make key decisions.
If the data you are basing these decisions on is of poor quality, inaccurate or is simply not
relevant, then the quality and efficacy of any generated report and decisions made is going to be
equally poor.
“Our CXAIR software is easy to use and very quick, but it’s only going to help if companies put
effort into inputting and accessing the right data in the first instance. This is why we spent time
with Leek United Building Society defining its data strategy to help them do just this.”
This has helped the building society not only achieve its goal of enabling non-IT professionals to
generate reports and access key information, but it will also reduce any potential for fines for
errors in consistency. For example, if there was a discrepancy in a figure between two different
reports that would raise questions from regulatory bodies about clarity, ethics and accuracy and
could incur hefty fines.
Democratising Business Intelligence
When you talk to non-IT professionals about big data and analytics, there is often a look of panic
or confusion on their face. It seems like a complex thing to comprehend, even if the software is
actually very straightforward to use. This needs to be overcome with training and familiarisation.
“Our approach to analytics is all about the democratisation of business intelligence,” said
Connexica’s Rostron.
17
“This means that anyone can look at data and make informed,
strategic decisions without being dependent on the IT
department. That’s why all data CXAIR presents through reports
is visual and easy to understand. However, for people to really
get the most from it there has to be a process of knowledge
transfer through both formal training and hands-on migration of
skill sets.”
This training process, delivered by Connexica’s team of experts,
has meant that Leek United Building Society has achieved its goal
and enabled individual teams to confidently create all required
business and regulatory reports.
“Thanks to both the ease of use CXAIR affords and the
comprehensive training from Connexica, we’re now in a position
to achieve our objective,” said Boulton. “In addition, the reports
generated by CXAIR are both more accurate, as a result of the
improved data dictionary and are more visually appealing. This
means we’ll be able to get much more out of them, using them to
support more strategic business decisions and enabling us to
keep up with the competitive financial marketplace.”
Technology and the way businesses use it is changing at a rapid
pace. With key trends like security, business automation,
productivity improvements and operational resilience gathering
pace, a company’s IT department needs to be free to investigate
these advancements and upgrade in a strategic manner. If IT
professionals are continually relied on for tasks that could easily
be completed by other areas of the business, such as reports,
then they are not going to be able to achieve this.
If business leaders, like those surveyed by BPI, want their IT
departments to advance beyond “just making progress”, they
need to take a leaf out of Leek United Building Society’s book.
£193billion spent on fraud
every year in the UK
Source: 2016 Annual Fraud Indicator
18
In June 2016, independent auditing company Audit Scotland uncovered almost £17m lost to fraud
and error. The startling find was only discovered thanks to the organisation’s biennial National
Fraud Initiative (NFI), which involves local authorities and other public bodies sharing data between
them. Here, Simon Nicholls, Sales and Marketing Director, explores how councils and organisations
can bring together service data to reduce both costs and the prevalence of fraud.
Fraud has been a recurring problem for UK local authorities in recent years. In 2013, the
now-disbanded National Fraud Authority (NFA) reported that fraud cost the country a total of
£52bn that year. That same year, it was reported that a fifth of London council tenancies showed
indications of fraud.
It is easy to identify the high incidence rate of fraud, but it is significantly more challenging to
identify fraud itself. Although the UK Government produces financial year estimations of what
percentage of benefits and services are fraudulent, these are simply estimates. In reality, the
figure could be much higher.
However, the reason so many incidents slip under local authority radars is due to a lack of resources
to provide extensive analysis. For example, housing benefit fraud is often discovered by
cross-referencing service bills with housing records. Inconsistencies in this data flag up potential
fraud cases.
- but not as you know it.
Government
Intelligence
19
It is the cross-referencing of this data that is difficult. Traditionally, local authorities have stored
accumulated information in rudimentary databases and, sometimes, even Excel spreadsheets.
This makes the process of extracting insights tedious and time-consuming, which is further
exacerbated by the high volumes of data that is generated in our big data driven society.
Likewise, more advanced analytics requires the need for specially trained personnel to make
sense of the data. This means councils will either need to invest a large sum of money in
extensively training certain members of staff, or alternatively spend even more in hiring a data
analyst.
As local authorities are regularly subject to budget cuts and expected to do more with fewer
resources, neither option is particularly desirable.
In order to combat this, there needs to be a technological shift towards what we call the
democratisation of business intelligence. This calls for an understandable means of reviewing
accumulated data, allowing most staff within an organisation to gain actionable insight from their
business intelligence — all without the need for specialist analysis.
Software such as Connexica’s CXAIR achieves this by replacing traditional dashboards of raw data
with a search-powered business analytics approach. Essentially, the software creates a
Google-type approach to navigating and bringing together data streams on one dashboard, while
still allowing for visualisations such as graphs to be generated. The software draws from a large
variety of data sources to allow cross-referencing.
This approach makes the information easy to understand for staff from junior management to
C-suite, letting organisations spend less time making sense of data and more time using it to
make decisions. In fact, local authorities in Kent are already using CXAIR to achieve a range of
business objectives, including for counter-fraud purposes.
If we are to learn anything from Audit Scotland’s discovery, it is that the best means of
combatting fraud and its associated costs is by making effective use of business intelligence.
Fortunately, a local authority’s greatest asset in doing so is the inescapable quantities of
information generated daily — councils simply need to connect the dots.
20
The 2016 Annual Fraud Indicator estimated that fraud costs the UK £193 billion every year, with
£144 billion attributed to business fraud. Having more financial services and more personal
information online can entice fraudsters but companies can also leverage this information to
monitor and reduce risk.
From paying council tax to paying a leisure centre membership, many tasks that previously
required a trip to the local council office can now be completed online. While this is far more
convenient for customers, it also gives the organisations a chance to cross-reference this large
amount of data to prevent fraud.
According to the National Fraud Authority, fraud and corruption costs local government £2 billion
a year. At a time when budgets are tight for local authorities, any financial savings have a large
impact. Fraud and corruption reduce the amount of resources that are available for legitimate
claimants and also reduce the money available for public services.
In response to these figures, Kent County Council’s counter fraud team set up the Kent Intelligence
Network (KIN). Local authorities involved in the partnership unified a wide range of data before
using analytics software to scrutinise the data to find matches and patterns which could potentially
indicate fraudulent activity.
How Organisations can use Analytics to Reduce Fraud
Analytics
Against Fraud
21
By using business analytics software, organisations can identify discrepancies between
previously separated data sets such as council tax, benefits and leisure centre records. Council tax
records may show that someone claims to live alone but leisure centre records may show multiple
people registered at an address. Analytics software will flag up such discrepancies and authorities
can investigate further based on quantitative findings.
Streams of data that need to be analysed may come from different types of software, especially
when they come from different organisations. To successfully identify potentially fraudulent
activity, business analytics software should be able to monitor data from different sources. For
example, Connexica’s CXAIR software is able to monitor data from a number of common business
applications such as Sage. CXAIR also uses plug-in adapters to import information from other
services such as Twitter or LinkedIn.
Every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. Due to this huge amount of data that large
organisations record every day, it is impossible for employees to manually monitor all data to look
for any suspicious activity, or to look for patterns. In banking, analytics software is often used to
search for suspicious activity, such as a series of withdrawals or transfers to offshore accounts,
and these can then be flagged for further monitoring.
It is vital that large companies have safeguards in place to protect against fraudulent activity. For
example, bank employees have authorisation limits on the payments that they can make, but
even these measures have previously been circumvented by making two smaller transactions
rather than one large one. By using business analytics software, companies can trace all of the
transactions that have been made by a teller if suspicions are raised.
Software that uses natural language search makes this much easier for non-technical staff, who
can search for all records by name. They will then see a record of all of the payments authorised
by that teller and can identify any fraudulent activity.
With experts predicting an increase in fraud over the coming years, the annual fraud report
recommends that companies should make investments into the development of anti-fraud
detection systems. By using business analytics software, companies have increased control and
management over the wide range of data they hold and can better mitigate the risk of fraud.
22
The concept of big data has gone from strength to strength in recent years. With more businesses,
devices and services making use of internet connectivity and wireless functionality, there is an
abundance of data being generated at every possible moment that can make resources go further.
This is particularly important for local authorities in light of constant pressure to do more with less,
as Mid Kent Services (MKS) has been demonstrating.
MKS is a consortium of three borough councils — Maidstone, Swale and Tunbridge Wells — in Kent,
UK. This accounts for approximately 410,000 individuals.
MKS uses CXAIR business intelligence software to:
Case in point
Mid-Kent
Services
Reduce the costs of manually processing payments
Identify housing fraud and ease homelessness in the county
Analyse, in depth, parking services in the area
23
Local authorities have been subject to a number of budget cuts in
recent years. As the UK government has worked to ease the country
back to stability after the 2009 recession, councils have typically felt
the squeeze of funding cuts. As a result, there is a constant pressure on
them to make their resources stretch further and to achieve more while
avoiding additional costs.
Big data makes this possible. By analysing the information accumulated
by a variety of input sources, such as council tax payment methods and
parking permit services, local authorities are able to identify areas
where costs can be minimised, as well as where extra funding is
necessary or whether there is any potential fraudulent activity.
However, this is only achievable with an effective approach to analysing
and reporting this data, something that has traditionally proven
difficult for councils with larger constituencies.
An Intelligent Approach to Big Data
Mid Kent Services (MKS) is one of a handful of local authority
partnerships working to tackle this problem. The Partnership is
responsible for roughly 410,000 individuals, which subsequently
produces a high volume of data and makes analysis a laborious and
time-consuming process. This problem is exacerbated when you
consider that individuals with specialist analytical skills are often
needed to interpret and present the raw data into something more
useful.
It is becoming widely acknowledged that companies and organisations
require business intelligence software to make big data work for them.
This was highlighted in Gartner’s 2016 CIO Agenda Report, which
featured business intelligence and analytics as the top trending priority
from a poll of nearly 3,000 Chief Information Officers (CIOs) globally. In
fact, this is the fifth consecutive year that business intelligence has
been top the priority.
410KIndividuals within the
MKS Consortium
Source: MKS Case Study
24
As a result, it is of little surprise that MKS turned to business intelligence software to help bring
together its many data sets into one central location. The partnership put in a successful bid for
funding from the Transformation Challenge Award (TCA), a scheme introduced by the
Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), in 2014.
A portion of this funding was dedicated to investment in software, the aim of which was to
simplify the cross-referencing of data sets to aid each individual council in meeting
government-imposed spending targets.
To achieve this, the software had to be capable of drawing information from the large quantity of
sources and cross-reference it all effectively, while also allowing for partnership-wide data
reports. MKS turned to business analytics specialist, Connexica, for software that could deliver
this, prompted by work the company had recently done in providing counter-fraud analytics
through its CXAIR solution to Kent County Council.
“The brief we gave to Connexica was for software that could work across a number of projects
within the partnership to analyse a variety of data types,” explained Andy Sturtivant, TCA Project
Manager at MKS. “The software was required to not only analyse and cross-reference all of this
data, but to also draw it from several data streams to boost efficiency.
“Our previous approaches to managing and analysing data were very one-dimensional and unable
to provide useful cross-referencing functionality. With much of the data that we are making use
of, it can only truly benefit us when we are able to see a more comprehensive overview of
information across the partnership.”
The ability to cross-reference data sets was especially important in reducing administrative costs
for the borough councils. In one of the MKS projects, Swale Borough Council wanted to use
business intelligence software to reduce the cost of processing payments for council services.
Although Swale Borough Council was already processing some of its electronic payments
automatically, without the need for staff to complete transactions, a large amount of service
users in the mid-Kent region were still using traditional methods such as cheques or phone
payments. This resulted in elevated operational costs for the local authorities.
25
One of the objectives for Swale Borough Council in particular was to identify who already make
some form of direct debit or electronic payment for some services, but continue to use traditional
payment methods for other services where automation isn't available.
Uniting the Data
“CXAIR is designed to easily integrate a multitude of data streams, whether it’s within an SME or
even encompassing an entire county,” explained Simon Nicholls, Sales and Marketing Director at
Connexica. “However, being able to gather data from multiple sources raises the challenge of
dealing with low-quality data. Traditional analytics software struggles when presented with data
that contains inconsistencies — usually errors that were introduced when the data was entered
into the system. Even a missing space in a postcode, for example, can throw off many analytics
solutions.
“Fortunately, CXAIR addresses this issue by running data validation processes as it receives
information. This allows us to identify these potential problems from the very beginning and
resolve them before errors occur, helping to ensure all future data is high quality.”
However, even having high-quality data is not enough. Hiring the right people, with the right
technical expertise to analyse, interpret and present the data in a way that makes it easy to digest
for non-technical staff is equally as important. This costly and laborious process has traditionally
been a barrier to gaining deeper insights from big data.
“One of the biggest grievances companies face when deciding on analytics software is just how
effective it really is at providing genuine insight,” continued Jones. “Business intelligence has
been increasingly high on CIO priority lists in recent years, so there are a lot of start-ups creating
analytical software. However, it often requires specially-trained analysts to draw any real insight
from the data.
“There’s currently a movement to the democratisation of business intelligence, which is the
process of enabling any member of staff, regardless of their technical know-how, to navigate the
information and understand it. This has many benefits for businesses, but is of particular
importance to councils looking to minimise costs. After all, using analytics to reduce
administrative fees is counterproductive if the authority has to pay a specialist to do so!”
26
Data Security
“One of our biggest priorities when choosing the right business
intelligence software was that of data protection and security,”
explained Sturtivant from MKS. “Much of the information that councils
work with is of a sensitive nature and so it must be handled in
accordance with a number of regulatory guidelines.”
One such regulation is the Data Protection Act (DPA) 1998. The DPA
1998 outlines that all personal data held by businesses or organisations
must abide by eight data protection principles, the seventh of which
relates to the security of held information. This covers protection from
both third-party compromisation and from accidental data loss.
However, this causes concerns for many local authorities. There is
currently a heated technological debate about the security of cloud
computing, which is the platform that many web-based services use for
handling programs and data. In fact, the 2016 state of the cloud survey
revealed that many IT staff believe that security is one of the biggest
challenges to cloud implementation – second only to functional
competency.
To calm those fears, Connexica uses a mix of cloud and local storage.
The software itself is based in a private cloud, accessible only to an
organisation’s workforce and keeps a local index of information. For
MKS, the data streams came via a mixture of locally hosted back office
and other secure cloud hosted systems.
Challenges of Business Intelligence
Implementing business intelligence software into a system can come
with a unique set of challenges in each application. Whenever an
organisation rolls out a new piece of software or a new computer
system, it often places a steep learning curve on staff to get up to
speed quickly. In order to overcome this, Connexica provided a series of
training sessions to MKS, including admin setup and dashboard
navigation, to ensure staff were fluent in the software.
“One of our biggest
priorities when
choosing the right
business intelligence
software was that of
data protection and
security.”
Source: Andy Sturtivant, MKS
27
“The support we received from the team at Connexica was excellent.
They guided us through the installation process and helped with minor
teething problems,” continued Sturtivant. “After setting up CXAIR
promptly, the team remained on hand to help, ensuring that it was the
ideal solution for the partnership.”
Making Big Data Work
The use of business intelligence software has streamlined the tasks of
MKS. Within Maidstone Borough Council, for example, one such task
was monitoring and analysing the housing options in the borough. This
had previously been a time-consuming process involving three
separate systems, but is now all done within the search-based analytic
software.
The benefits of this were that staff could see at a glance whether
household spending was in line with audited household income, which
in turn informed decision-making. Likewise, the centralised location of
data made for better management of funding for temporary
accommodation — which was something particularly important to MKS
in light of the area’s rising reports of homelessness.
These efficiency and business-planning benefits are possible with the
combined use of big data and easily-accessible business intelligence
software. As the quantity of generated and accumulated data
continues to increase, it will only become more important for higher
numbers of staff to be able to make use of it.
While not every company or organisation will face the same budgetary
limitations as local authorities, many are under the same pressure of
streamlining processes and increasing return on investment.
Effective business intelligence software is the key to achieving this and
making resources go further and gain a competitive advantage in the
process.
“The support we
received from the
team at Connexica
was excellent.”
Source: Andy Sturtivant, MKS

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The Path to Manageable Data - Going Beyond the Three V’s of Big Data

  • 1. The Path to Manageable Data Going Beyond the Three V’s of Big Data Whitepaper info@connexica.comwww.connexica.com +44(0)1785 246777 Search Powered Data Discovery
  • 2. Contents Introduction Big data, big problems Fighting the Digital Skills Crisis How businesses can minimise impact of skills gap Tips for Higher Quality Data Addressing common mistakes and problems Digitising Banking What does big data really mean for banks? Leek United Building Society Case in point Government Intelligence - but not as you know it Analytics against Fraud How organisations can use analytics to reduce fraud Mid Kent Services Case in point 3 7 9 11 13 18 20 22 2
  • 3. Introduction Big data is a big deal in business. While some industry experts claim the journey is far from easy, the reality is that many are unaware of the relatively simple steps to generate effective insight. Here Simon Nicholls, Sales and Marketing Director of business intelligence and analytics specialist, Connexica, looks at how business analytics software can help businesses on the road to actionable data. In the early 2000’s Doug Laney, vice president at research firm Gartner, defined the three Vs of big data: volume, velocity and variety. Since then, following the development of the big data trend, industry expert Mark van Rijmenam has added four extra Vs: veracity, variability, visualisation and value. Together these demonstrate how to deal with the demands of big data. So what are all these new Vs and what do they mean? Has the concept really changed? Veracity Veracity, the first new V, is essential for big data. For the analysis to be correct, the data itself must be accurate. The large volume and velocity of big data means that it is statistically likely to have a large number of errors. Big Data, Big Problem 3 90%of the world’s data was generated over the last 2 years Source: www.sciencedaily.com
  • 4. Good business analytics software should already have a data validation process. This means that, from the beginning, errors and discrepancies are spotted, so only high-quality data is subsequently analysed, reported and actioned. Variability Variability is an extension to Laney’s original variety. Big data collected from multiple sources can take a variety of different formats. Data can now be collected from transactions, social media comments or sensors. While this large amount of data can be beneficial to companies, it can be overwhelming if they don’t know how to properly action it. For example, retail companies improve their brand perception and customer loyalty by monitoring variables including purchasing habits, social media contact or in-store complaints. The problem with variability, especially in regards to social media, is that most analytics software will be unable to register the meaning of a tweet in context. Therefore, it cannot correctly evaluate whether it is a positive or negative reaction. Using advanced analytics software, businesses can perform sentiment analysis on this kind of data. It contains algorithms that can interpret the context of the message and decipher the correct meaning of the word in context. This makes the data collected accurate and means that it can be visualised correctly, as either a positive or a negative view. Visualisation Although analysing big data can yield lots of useful information, many business leaders will struggle to make use of this if it is not presented in an easy to understand format. 4 million tweets are created everyday Source: Internet Live Stats 500
  • 5. Powerful business analytics software is able to analyse data from multiple sources and convert it into one manageable stream of data. Businesses can then use this to change their processes quickly and easily, rather than having to manually correlate data across hundreds of files, documents and databases. One of the specific pressures of big data is speed. With the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), more and more devices are becoming equipped with sensors that can feed back data. Although data analysts would traditionally use manually generated reports, new monitors such as smart meters demand near real time reporting. This is clearly impossible to do without the use of analytics software and means that quick and easy visualisation interfaces are essential. Although many analytics programmes can capture data in real time, some software relies on SQL queries to perform searches. Even for the most technologically savvy employees, generating these queries still takes time. This means that the queries are not truly representative of real-timing reporting. Software such as Connexica’s CXAIR features a user-friendly search-engine style interface, which allows anyone to generate accurate, up to date, reports and means that employees can view data and make decisions instantly. Smart visualisation is truly the first step to the democratisation of business intelligence — the ability for anyone in the business, regardless of their technical ability, to gain actionable insights from big data. This means that, instead of spending hours poring over complicated reports business leaders can roll out self-service analytics, making data accessible to all, from administration clerks to C-level leaders. 5 20.8million Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices by 2020 Source: Gartner
  • 6. Value The value of big data is in the analysis, not in the data itself. Research firm Mckinsey predicts that big data has a potential annual value of $250 billion to Europe’s public sector. However, this data is pointless and worth nothing if it cannot be effectively actioned. For example, the UK Mid Kent Services (MKS), a local authority partnership consisting of Maidstone, Swale and Tunbridge Wells Borough Councils, used Connexica's CXAIR business analytics software to deal with a staggering volume of data. The data consisted of over 20 million car parking records, 500,000 service-call records and 65,000 council tax records. In the past, administrative staff had to spend time combining data from multiple data sources in order to prepare reports for managers. This was obviously a time consuming and inefficient manual process. By using Connexica’s CXAIR software, managers could see all of this data in one format, meaning that it could be transformed into actionable information. By eliminating the manual processing, CXAIR was able to deliver reports much more quickly, more accurately and with information that could be actioned in a more timely manner. In the same way that Van Rijmenam's additional Vs help us to better understand the complexities of modern big data, the same is true for the way we analyse data. Given the increase in the amount of data that businesses must now manage, it makes sense that they use effective ways to gather, sort and analyse it. This is where good business analytics software is indispensable - with the right software and the right plan, maintaining manageable and actionable data is no longer a daunting task. 6 1.2trillion Google searches per year Source: Internet Live Stats
  • 7. 7 Digital Skills Crisis A recent report published by the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee stated that approximately 12.6 million adults in the UK lack basic digital skills. This IT skills gap is affecting businesses across industries, from financial to manufacturing. Here, Simon Nicholls, Sales and Marketing Director of business intelligence specialist Connexica, explores how businesses can address this crisis and minimise the impact. The technological revolution of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century has brought with it significant changes. Not only has it fundamentally changed the way businesses operate, it has significantly increased the volume of data available to us. We can now monitor and track every process in detail, gaining valuable information and insights in the process. Unfortunately, as the House of Commons found, digital skills have struggled to keep up with demand. As such, business management teams repeatedly encounter difficulties with aspects of operation and even recruitment. How Businesses can Minimise Impact of Skills Gap 12.6million adults in the UK lack basic digital skills Source: UK House of Commons Science and Technology Commitee
  • 8. 8 In fact, 72 per cent of employers have expressed unwillingness to consider potential candidates lacking these skills. This is understandable, but problematic in the midst of a skills crisis. Interestingly, this latest report was commissioned as a result of a previous report — the big data dilemma report in February 2016 — that identified, “the risk of a growing data analytics skills gap as big data reaches further into the economy”. This is a pressing concern, because the ability to analyse data effectively directly influences the strategy of decision makers and business leaders. For example, most businesses can use data analytics to identify opportunities to improve operational processes and achieve time and cost savings. However, this can only be done if staff have the skills to interact with this data and pick out the actionable information. While this can be done by specialist staff, recruitment increases costs and relying on IT departments can limit the amount of real-time practical insight. So how can businesses tackle the digital skills gap? The most obvious approach is by investing in upskilling programmes to ensure staff are fully competent using business IT systems. However, this is a long-term objective that will do little to make an impact in the more immediate future. Fortunately, businesses can make some small changes to improve the upskilling process for existing employees. While some software companies are already pushing towards self-service data analytics, which sees analysis tools move out of the IT department and into the wider workforce, only 16 per cent of business executives can adequately use those tools. This is where search-based analytics software, such as Connexica’s CXAIR, can be used to bridge the skills gap. Using natural language search, the same format found in search engines, makes business intelligence accessible and actionable on a wider scale. Changing the way that users interact with the tools directly can remove the unnecessary technical barriers to business intelligence.
  • 9. 9 Tips for Higher Quality Data A study by Experian QAS recently revealed that 65 per cent of businesses consider human error to be the cause of most of their data quality issues. So, how can chief information officers (CIOs) effectively address the most common mistakes and improve business intelligence? Rules-based Data Audits The objective is to find those data sources plagued by low-quality data and rectify the information at the source. Typically, these will be those data sources with little rules governing data input and format. Fortunately, this is easy enough to address. Using a rules-based approach to the data quality audit uncovers the likelihood of inaccurate data values. Addressing Common Mistakes and Problems 65%of data issues are due to human error Source: Experian QAS
  • 10. 10 Data Matching This is used to build unique identifiers within the data using uncommon data values within the database. The idea is that a “match” can be found by selecting several uncommon values to create a unique identifier, thus reducing duplicates and improving data accuracy. A typical example for local authorities is matching a citizen’s record. This can be done by using the last three characters from data values to build a unique identifier, such as surname, council account number and postcode. It is unlikely you will get many instances of “TON7194ET”. Setting a Master Record More powerful analytics software also allows you to define a master record. This is a database that maintains up to date, accurate values, that can be used to drive amendments to other data sources where there are duplicates and other invalid data values. Connexica developed its CXAIR business intelligence software to overcome this long-winded, manual, process. While the staff that enter data are only human and prone to errors, these mistakes do not need to impact reporting. With the right software and rules in place, businesses can ensure that the systems catch what slips through by humans. 200+implementations of CXAIR across a variety of industries Source: Connexica
  • 11. 11 Big data has been a buzzword on the lips of business managers and CIOs for at least the last two decades. Every industry, from financial to medical and even local authorities, appears to be investing in ways to be a part of the modern information gold rush. But what does big data really mean for the banking and financial sector? Here, Simon Nicholls, Sales and Marketing Director of business intelligence specialist Connexica, explores further. Traditionally, the financial sector hasn’t been the most receptive to new technologies. As an industry that thrives on minimising risk and making carefully calculated business decisions, choosing to handle high-value sensitive information with what may simply be the technological flavour of the month is not a decision many rush to make. Despite these reservations, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) included investment in technology as the top priority of its 2015/16 business plan, a clear sign that the sector needs to be making a more conscious push towards adopting digitisation. What does Big Data really mean for Banks? Digitising Banking
  • 12. 12 Investing in Big Data The next step is big data, a technological phenomenon that has stirred significant interest from the banking industry. The idea that data generated during the everyday processes and operations of a business can be used to inform strategies and achieve objectives is an exciting one, particularly in a post-crash economy where banks are faced with constant scrutiny over the detail of risk reporting. However, there remains a question of what big data truly means for the financial sector. Although the information can yield a competitive advantage for banks, for it to be effective it has to be analysed effectively. The majority of the conversation surrounding big data banking to date, has looked at what models and systems are best at making the data accessible for analysts. Yet the question banks should be asking is, “how can this information be actionable for us?” This approach limits the functionality of big data. One of the most valuable characteristics of big data is that it gives banks real-time insight into multiple data sets. The places that customers regularly use their cards, for example, can be analysed to highlight opportunities for additional revenue streams by partnering with retailers. This could take the form of targeted customer cash back offers or even to provide anonymised commercial insights to the retailer. Changing the Data Analysis Game When choosing a data analytics package, banks should look beyond SQL-based software into the different types of big data analytics for financial services — notably search-based analytics. Search-based analytic software makes use of natural-language search for a simple and uncomplicated approach to navigating and inspecting data sets. As a result, cross-referencing becomes an easy process and correlations can be spotted without the need for a technical skill set. This means people at all levels in the bank can benefit from actionable business insights. Software such as Connexica’s CXAIR, for example, can even draw this data from a wide range of disparate sources, meaning that banks that prefer the traditional bespoke systems can make use of the functionality without the need for migration to a new system. Big data might be a much more buzzword-friendly phrase than “search-based self-service analytics” but it is limited on its own. Banks can only truly reap the rewards by setting up an effective means of using it.
  • 13. 13 Towards the end of 2015, The Business Performance Innovation Network (BPI) conducted a survey of 250 executives. The survey found that 52 per cent thought that their IT departments were poor or only “just making progress”. However, Leek United Building Society’s IT team has remained ahead of the curve, which is why the organisation made the decision to integrate analytics software from Connexica into its system. Leek United Building Society was formed in 1863 in Staffordshire, UK. Today, the organisation has a total of 12 branches across various regions of the UK. Leek United uses CXAIR business intelligence software to: Case in point Leek United Building Society 52%IT departments rated at poor or ‘just making progress’ Source: The Business Performance Innovation Network (BPI) Survery Allow each department to produce its own reports independently Analyse raw data from a number of disparate sources Comply with financial regulations
  • 14. 14 Banks and building societies are subject to an array of stringent regulations to protect both consumers and the economy and the associated requirements for compliance are constantly changing. Quite often these are small changes, such as an adaption in the way certain legal documents have to be phrased. However, there can be amendments of a more serious nature. In 2013, for example, the Financial Services Authority (FSA) was replaced by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) as a result of the Financial Services Act 2012. The move, which also saw The Bank of England take responsibility for financial stability, implemented significant changes to the UK financial regulation framework by amending relevant provisions in the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA). Under the new act, laws relating to manipulation and misleading statements and impressions were restructured and broadened and a new category was created for the regulation of activity in relation to benchmarks and credit ratings. This means that banks and building societies are now subject to prudential and conduct regulation from the PRA and FCA. However, from the point of view of businesses operating in the financial sector, what this really means from a day-to-day perspective is continuous information gathering and ongoing reporting. Reporting for Duty Leek United Building Society was established in 1863, which means the business has weathered all manner of regulatory and economic change. Today, the mutual organisation has twelve busy branches across Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Cheshire and Shropshire, offering a range of mortgages, savings and insurance products. Each of these branches, as well as the central marketing, sales and risk departments, have to generate a wealth of business and regulatory reports on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis. Anyone who has ever put together any kind of report has an appreciation for how laborious the process can be. When there are such stringent requirements to be met, fact checking and cross referencing can be a headache.
  • 15. 15 “In 2015 alone our IT department produced over 700 reports,” said Stephen Boulton, Head of IT and Admin Services at the building society. “Historically, it made sense for reports to be handled centrally, as this reduced the chances of interdepartmental discrepancies between reports, something that can result in fines and damage our brand reputation. However, the ideal scenario is one where each department can take full ownership of its reporting in the knowledge that the data is accurate and the report is straightforward to produce. This is why we were looking for an alternative that would enable each department of the business, whether sales, marketing, mortgages or savings, to take control of their own reports.” With this goal in mind, Leek United Building Society found Connexica’s business analytics software, CXAIR, through work with a mutual partner. Big Data, Big Results Using search technology, CXAIR takes raw data from any number of sources and converts it into visually appealing and easy to understand reports that offer actionable insight. A mutual partner of both businesses originally introduced the building society to CXAIR with the intention of using the tool for reporting on things related to online transactions with customers. After further review, Boulton realised that CXAIR was what he had been looking for to help the company’s reporting process. “Being able to integrate an analytics tool that can draw on various data sources and automatically produce reports in minutes is exactly what we needed,” said Boulton. “Rather than someone spending hours searching through spread sheets and databases and then compiling a report, we now have a solution “Being able to integrate an analytics tool that can draw on various data sources and automatically produce reports in minutes is exactly what we needed.” Source: Stephen Boulton, Leek United Building Society
  • 16. 16 that completely negates this laborious process. It also means that we know every department is drawing from the same central resource, so there can be no discrepancies in figures or results.” Establishing CXAIR as part of the building society’s system was a straightforward process. This was due, in part, to Connexica’s in-depth understanding of nominal ledger systems, such as Sage. However, the main reason CXAIR is easy to integrate into any system is a result of its open architecture design, meaning it can work with any existing software. Where the real work comes in is defining the sources of data needed to generate each report. “We work with all of our clients to help them understand where the data they need resides and what the format is, or needs to be,” said Daniel Rostron at Connexica. “This is really important, particularly as all organisations are reliant on timely accurate information to make key decisions. If the data you are basing these decisions on is of poor quality, inaccurate or is simply not relevant, then the quality and efficacy of any generated report and decisions made is going to be equally poor. “Our CXAIR software is easy to use and very quick, but it’s only going to help if companies put effort into inputting and accessing the right data in the first instance. This is why we spent time with Leek United Building Society defining its data strategy to help them do just this.” This has helped the building society not only achieve its goal of enabling non-IT professionals to generate reports and access key information, but it will also reduce any potential for fines for errors in consistency. For example, if there was a discrepancy in a figure between two different reports that would raise questions from regulatory bodies about clarity, ethics and accuracy and could incur hefty fines. Democratising Business Intelligence When you talk to non-IT professionals about big data and analytics, there is often a look of panic or confusion on their face. It seems like a complex thing to comprehend, even if the software is actually very straightforward to use. This needs to be overcome with training and familiarisation. “Our approach to analytics is all about the democratisation of business intelligence,” said Connexica’s Rostron.
  • 17. 17 “This means that anyone can look at data and make informed, strategic decisions without being dependent on the IT department. That’s why all data CXAIR presents through reports is visual and easy to understand. However, for people to really get the most from it there has to be a process of knowledge transfer through both formal training and hands-on migration of skill sets.” This training process, delivered by Connexica’s team of experts, has meant that Leek United Building Society has achieved its goal and enabled individual teams to confidently create all required business and regulatory reports. “Thanks to both the ease of use CXAIR affords and the comprehensive training from Connexica, we’re now in a position to achieve our objective,” said Boulton. “In addition, the reports generated by CXAIR are both more accurate, as a result of the improved data dictionary and are more visually appealing. This means we’ll be able to get much more out of them, using them to support more strategic business decisions and enabling us to keep up with the competitive financial marketplace.” Technology and the way businesses use it is changing at a rapid pace. With key trends like security, business automation, productivity improvements and operational resilience gathering pace, a company’s IT department needs to be free to investigate these advancements and upgrade in a strategic manner. If IT professionals are continually relied on for tasks that could easily be completed by other areas of the business, such as reports, then they are not going to be able to achieve this. If business leaders, like those surveyed by BPI, want their IT departments to advance beyond “just making progress”, they need to take a leaf out of Leek United Building Society’s book. £193billion spent on fraud every year in the UK Source: 2016 Annual Fraud Indicator
  • 18. 18 In June 2016, independent auditing company Audit Scotland uncovered almost £17m lost to fraud and error. The startling find was only discovered thanks to the organisation’s biennial National Fraud Initiative (NFI), which involves local authorities and other public bodies sharing data between them. Here, Simon Nicholls, Sales and Marketing Director, explores how councils and organisations can bring together service data to reduce both costs and the prevalence of fraud. Fraud has been a recurring problem for UK local authorities in recent years. In 2013, the now-disbanded National Fraud Authority (NFA) reported that fraud cost the country a total of £52bn that year. That same year, it was reported that a fifth of London council tenancies showed indications of fraud. It is easy to identify the high incidence rate of fraud, but it is significantly more challenging to identify fraud itself. Although the UK Government produces financial year estimations of what percentage of benefits and services are fraudulent, these are simply estimates. In reality, the figure could be much higher. However, the reason so many incidents slip under local authority radars is due to a lack of resources to provide extensive analysis. For example, housing benefit fraud is often discovered by cross-referencing service bills with housing records. Inconsistencies in this data flag up potential fraud cases. - but not as you know it. Government Intelligence
  • 19. 19 It is the cross-referencing of this data that is difficult. Traditionally, local authorities have stored accumulated information in rudimentary databases and, sometimes, even Excel spreadsheets. This makes the process of extracting insights tedious and time-consuming, which is further exacerbated by the high volumes of data that is generated in our big data driven society. Likewise, more advanced analytics requires the need for specially trained personnel to make sense of the data. This means councils will either need to invest a large sum of money in extensively training certain members of staff, or alternatively spend even more in hiring a data analyst. As local authorities are regularly subject to budget cuts and expected to do more with fewer resources, neither option is particularly desirable. In order to combat this, there needs to be a technological shift towards what we call the democratisation of business intelligence. This calls for an understandable means of reviewing accumulated data, allowing most staff within an organisation to gain actionable insight from their business intelligence — all without the need for specialist analysis. Software such as Connexica’s CXAIR achieves this by replacing traditional dashboards of raw data with a search-powered business analytics approach. Essentially, the software creates a Google-type approach to navigating and bringing together data streams on one dashboard, while still allowing for visualisations such as graphs to be generated. The software draws from a large variety of data sources to allow cross-referencing. This approach makes the information easy to understand for staff from junior management to C-suite, letting organisations spend less time making sense of data and more time using it to make decisions. In fact, local authorities in Kent are already using CXAIR to achieve a range of business objectives, including for counter-fraud purposes. If we are to learn anything from Audit Scotland’s discovery, it is that the best means of combatting fraud and its associated costs is by making effective use of business intelligence. Fortunately, a local authority’s greatest asset in doing so is the inescapable quantities of information generated daily — councils simply need to connect the dots.
  • 20. 20 The 2016 Annual Fraud Indicator estimated that fraud costs the UK £193 billion every year, with £144 billion attributed to business fraud. Having more financial services and more personal information online can entice fraudsters but companies can also leverage this information to monitor and reduce risk. From paying council tax to paying a leisure centre membership, many tasks that previously required a trip to the local council office can now be completed online. While this is far more convenient for customers, it also gives the organisations a chance to cross-reference this large amount of data to prevent fraud. According to the National Fraud Authority, fraud and corruption costs local government £2 billion a year. At a time when budgets are tight for local authorities, any financial savings have a large impact. Fraud and corruption reduce the amount of resources that are available for legitimate claimants and also reduce the money available for public services. In response to these figures, Kent County Council’s counter fraud team set up the Kent Intelligence Network (KIN). Local authorities involved in the partnership unified a wide range of data before using analytics software to scrutinise the data to find matches and patterns which could potentially indicate fraudulent activity. How Organisations can use Analytics to Reduce Fraud Analytics Against Fraud
  • 21. 21 By using business analytics software, organisations can identify discrepancies between previously separated data sets such as council tax, benefits and leisure centre records. Council tax records may show that someone claims to live alone but leisure centre records may show multiple people registered at an address. Analytics software will flag up such discrepancies and authorities can investigate further based on quantitative findings. Streams of data that need to be analysed may come from different types of software, especially when they come from different organisations. To successfully identify potentially fraudulent activity, business analytics software should be able to monitor data from different sources. For example, Connexica’s CXAIR software is able to monitor data from a number of common business applications such as Sage. CXAIR also uses plug-in adapters to import information from other services such as Twitter or LinkedIn. Every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. Due to this huge amount of data that large organisations record every day, it is impossible for employees to manually monitor all data to look for any suspicious activity, or to look for patterns. In banking, analytics software is often used to search for suspicious activity, such as a series of withdrawals or transfers to offshore accounts, and these can then be flagged for further monitoring. It is vital that large companies have safeguards in place to protect against fraudulent activity. For example, bank employees have authorisation limits on the payments that they can make, but even these measures have previously been circumvented by making two smaller transactions rather than one large one. By using business analytics software, companies can trace all of the transactions that have been made by a teller if suspicions are raised. Software that uses natural language search makes this much easier for non-technical staff, who can search for all records by name. They will then see a record of all of the payments authorised by that teller and can identify any fraudulent activity. With experts predicting an increase in fraud over the coming years, the annual fraud report recommends that companies should make investments into the development of anti-fraud detection systems. By using business analytics software, companies have increased control and management over the wide range of data they hold and can better mitigate the risk of fraud.
  • 22. 22 The concept of big data has gone from strength to strength in recent years. With more businesses, devices and services making use of internet connectivity and wireless functionality, there is an abundance of data being generated at every possible moment that can make resources go further. This is particularly important for local authorities in light of constant pressure to do more with less, as Mid Kent Services (MKS) has been demonstrating. MKS is a consortium of three borough councils — Maidstone, Swale and Tunbridge Wells — in Kent, UK. This accounts for approximately 410,000 individuals. MKS uses CXAIR business intelligence software to: Case in point Mid-Kent Services Reduce the costs of manually processing payments Identify housing fraud and ease homelessness in the county Analyse, in depth, parking services in the area
  • 23. 23 Local authorities have been subject to a number of budget cuts in recent years. As the UK government has worked to ease the country back to stability after the 2009 recession, councils have typically felt the squeeze of funding cuts. As a result, there is a constant pressure on them to make their resources stretch further and to achieve more while avoiding additional costs. Big data makes this possible. By analysing the information accumulated by a variety of input sources, such as council tax payment methods and parking permit services, local authorities are able to identify areas where costs can be minimised, as well as where extra funding is necessary or whether there is any potential fraudulent activity. However, this is only achievable with an effective approach to analysing and reporting this data, something that has traditionally proven difficult for councils with larger constituencies. An Intelligent Approach to Big Data Mid Kent Services (MKS) is one of a handful of local authority partnerships working to tackle this problem. The Partnership is responsible for roughly 410,000 individuals, which subsequently produces a high volume of data and makes analysis a laborious and time-consuming process. This problem is exacerbated when you consider that individuals with specialist analytical skills are often needed to interpret and present the raw data into something more useful. It is becoming widely acknowledged that companies and organisations require business intelligence software to make big data work for them. This was highlighted in Gartner’s 2016 CIO Agenda Report, which featured business intelligence and analytics as the top trending priority from a poll of nearly 3,000 Chief Information Officers (CIOs) globally. In fact, this is the fifth consecutive year that business intelligence has been top the priority. 410KIndividuals within the MKS Consortium Source: MKS Case Study
  • 24. 24 As a result, it is of little surprise that MKS turned to business intelligence software to help bring together its many data sets into one central location. The partnership put in a successful bid for funding from the Transformation Challenge Award (TCA), a scheme introduced by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), in 2014. A portion of this funding was dedicated to investment in software, the aim of which was to simplify the cross-referencing of data sets to aid each individual council in meeting government-imposed spending targets. To achieve this, the software had to be capable of drawing information from the large quantity of sources and cross-reference it all effectively, while also allowing for partnership-wide data reports. MKS turned to business analytics specialist, Connexica, for software that could deliver this, prompted by work the company had recently done in providing counter-fraud analytics through its CXAIR solution to Kent County Council. “The brief we gave to Connexica was for software that could work across a number of projects within the partnership to analyse a variety of data types,” explained Andy Sturtivant, TCA Project Manager at MKS. “The software was required to not only analyse and cross-reference all of this data, but to also draw it from several data streams to boost efficiency. “Our previous approaches to managing and analysing data were very one-dimensional and unable to provide useful cross-referencing functionality. With much of the data that we are making use of, it can only truly benefit us when we are able to see a more comprehensive overview of information across the partnership.” The ability to cross-reference data sets was especially important in reducing administrative costs for the borough councils. In one of the MKS projects, Swale Borough Council wanted to use business intelligence software to reduce the cost of processing payments for council services. Although Swale Borough Council was already processing some of its electronic payments automatically, without the need for staff to complete transactions, a large amount of service users in the mid-Kent region were still using traditional methods such as cheques or phone payments. This resulted in elevated operational costs for the local authorities.
  • 25. 25 One of the objectives for Swale Borough Council in particular was to identify who already make some form of direct debit or electronic payment for some services, but continue to use traditional payment methods for other services where automation isn't available. Uniting the Data “CXAIR is designed to easily integrate a multitude of data streams, whether it’s within an SME or even encompassing an entire county,” explained Simon Nicholls, Sales and Marketing Director at Connexica. “However, being able to gather data from multiple sources raises the challenge of dealing with low-quality data. Traditional analytics software struggles when presented with data that contains inconsistencies — usually errors that were introduced when the data was entered into the system. Even a missing space in a postcode, for example, can throw off many analytics solutions. “Fortunately, CXAIR addresses this issue by running data validation processes as it receives information. This allows us to identify these potential problems from the very beginning and resolve them before errors occur, helping to ensure all future data is high quality.” However, even having high-quality data is not enough. Hiring the right people, with the right technical expertise to analyse, interpret and present the data in a way that makes it easy to digest for non-technical staff is equally as important. This costly and laborious process has traditionally been a barrier to gaining deeper insights from big data. “One of the biggest grievances companies face when deciding on analytics software is just how effective it really is at providing genuine insight,” continued Jones. “Business intelligence has been increasingly high on CIO priority lists in recent years, so there are a lot of start-ups creating analytical software. However, it often requires specially-trained analysts to draw any real insight from the data. “There’s currently a movement to the democratisation of business intelligence, which is the process of enabling any member of staff, regardless of their technical know-how, to navigate the information and understand it. This has many benefits for businesses, but is of particular importance to councils looking to minimise costs. After all, using analytics to reduce administrative fees is counterproductive if the authority has to pay a specialist to do so!”
  • 26. 26 Data Security “One of our biggest priorities when choosing the right business intelligence software was that of data protection and security,” explained Sturtivant from MKS. “Much of the information that councils work with is of a sensitive nature and so it must be handled in accordance with a number of regulatory guidelines.” One such regulation is the Data Protection Act (DPA) 1998. The DPA 1998 outlines that all personal data held by businesses or organisations must abide by eight data protection principles, the seventh of which relates to the security of held information. This covers protection from both third-party compromisation and from accidental data loss. However, this causes concerns for many local authorities. There is currently a heated technological debate about the security of cloud computing, which is the platform that many web-based services use for handling programs and data. In fact, the 2016 state of the cloud survey revealed that many IT staff believe that security is one of the biggest challenges to cloud implementation – second only to functional competency. To calm those fears, Connexica uses a mix of cloud and local storage. The software itself is based in a private cloud, accessible only to an organisation’s workforce and keeps a local index of information. For MKS, the data streams came via a mixture of locally hosted back office and other secure cloud hosted systems. Challenges of Business Intelligence Implementing business intelligence software into a system can come with a unique set of challenges in each application. Whenever an organisation rolls out a new piece of software or a new computer system, it often places a steep learning curve on staff to get up to speed quickly. In order to overcome this, Connexica provided a series of training sessions to MKS, including admin setup and dashboard navigation, to ensure staff were fluent in the software. “One of our biggest priorities when choosing the right business intelligence software was that of data protection and security.” Source: Andy Sturtivant, MKS
  • 27. 27 “The support we received from the team at Connexica was excellent. They guided us through the installation process and helped with minor teething problems,” continued Sturtivant. “After setting up CXAIR promptly, the team remained on hand to help, ensuring that it was the ideal solution for the partnership.” Making Big Data Work The use of business intelligence software has streamlined the tasks of MKS. Within Maidstone Borough Council, for example, one such task was monitoring and analysing the housing options in the borough. This had previously been a time-consuming process involving three separate systems, but is now all done within the search-based analytic software. The benefits of this were that staff could see at a glance whether household spending was in line with audited household income, which in turn informed decision-making. Likewise, the centralised location of data made for better management of funding for temporary accommodation — which was something particularly important to MKS in light of the area’s rising reports of homelessness. These efficiency and business-planning benefits are possible with the combined use of big data and easily-accessible business intelligence software. As the quantity of generated and accumulated data continues to increase, it will only become more important for higher numbers of staff to be able to make use of it. While not every company or organisation will face the same budgetary limitations as local authorities, many are under the same pressure of streamlining processes and increasing return on investment. Effective business intelligence software is the key to achieving this and making resources go further and gain a competitive advantage in the process. “The support we received from the team at Connexica was excellent.” Source: Andy Sturtivant, MKS