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THINK. Data for Government: From culture to continuity - Reflections on data in the public sector

“Data matures like fine wine and technology matures like fish.”

When our Head of Marketing & New Business, Meghan Walsh, attended the THINK, Data for Government’s conference, along with Shivani Patel, one of our Digital Analytics Managers, this quote made it back to the company slack channel in record time.

Data continues to be a hot topic (specifically AI) and Meghan and Shivani were both inspired by the senior data leaders who shared not only their expertise but also how government departments could and should be using data in the future.

We asked Meghan to share the highlights from the event:

1. The Data vs Technology Debate

Budgets are typically finite which means choices have to be made but as one panelist put it: “Data matures like fine wine and technology matures like fish”. You can imagine this sparked a number of interesting conversations during the breaks and discussions about whether you can truly deliver one without the other. As departments have focused on digitising services, technology has taken a front seat in investment decisions. Now it’s time for data to step forward and play its part in modernising services, as the speaker from Department for Work and Pensions shared. There was a consolidated view from many attendees that now it’s about redefining service delivery and management, powered by data for decision making.

2. How Much is the “Right Amount” of Data?

Big data hasn’t gone away. Many speakers touched on the sheer amount of data they hold, debating when does enough become too much? David Canning from the Cabinet Office talked passionately about “learning to love the delete button”, and sharing how CO has created an algorithm to support the deletion and archiving of much of the data they hold. Something we could all make use of!

There can be a temptation to collect data on everything but success will come from collecting data with a purpose. You’ll need to define use cases early on though.

Tetyana Mykhaylyk from Companies House talked about creating a data development framework which is then overlaid with general project frameworks and key gates built in, so at each lifecycle stage data is included in the discussion.

3. The human element is still key within Data

Anyone heard a rumour that AI will replace humans in the job market? It was refreshing to hear many conversations focused on the human-centred elements of data, from strategy, to careers, to policy.

During one of the event’s fireside chats, Tetyana Mykhaylyk talked about taking Companies House on their data transformation journey: from data business partnering to making best friends with the internal communications department to help generate a more data centric culture.

When future data career paths were discussed, there was a lot of excitement and intrigue about Homes England’s new Data Academy, which will help their people learn more about possible careers within data. There was also an interesting debate on the ‘Building Data Capability and Data Careers’ panel, centred on whether data should be treated as a vocation and the potential challenges that might arise around inclusion which will need to be monitored.

All in all, an excellent day. Plenty of good conversations, on and off stage, and a great opportunity to catch up with people face-to-face. We’re already looking forward to the next one.

If you’re interested in talking to us about data whether that’s one of the topics raised at the conference or to understand how we’re helping organisations in this space, please get in touch by emailing

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