About Middlesbrough Council
Everything that Middlesbrough Council does for its residents is influenced by the Mayor’s vision of a fairer, safer, stronger city in 2025. The Council empowers and encourages staff to be the best they can be and to achieve this the Council develops and applies modern working practices, which includes staying ahead of the curve with innovative technologies.
Needs: Faster, more powerful data prep and visualisation
The Council needed to solve the following challenges:
- Reduce the time taken to manually combine data and create reports in Excel (e.g. for local schools’ performance reports)
- Improve standards of schools and education for children and service for residents
- Create a way of visualising and analysing progress against the six major goals from the Council’s Investment Prospectus
Solution: Implementing a Powerful Combination of BI Tools
Middlesbrough Council chose Cybit to assist with implementing a BI solution. The Council are passionate about the local community and partnering with reputable companies from the North East.
Analytics Manager, David Skaife, says, “Cybit was better placed to suit our needs and able to offer a wider expertise. They could help us make an informed decision… We would heartily recommend Cybit as the go-to guys for BI needs.”
Why Power BI and Alteryx?
Alteryx and Microsoft Power BI were chosen as David explains: “You have Alteryx for the back-end tools; drawing your information from multiple sources and transforming it into useful data. Then Power BI is on the front end as a powerful visualisation tool. And we didn’t have to do any scripting.”
Cybit provided training for the performance team in tailored workshops, giving employees a good grounding in both systems before the dashboards went live.
Benefits: Better Understanding and Reacting to the Needs of Residents
From hours to just a few clicks for in-depth school performance reports
Easy to understand dashboards about schools and children’s education display performance against the national average, or versus their “statistical neighbours” – local authorities that are classed as similar based on certain resident demographics. If a statistical neighbour improves in one area, they discover what similar action they can take. This helps to find the best ways of improving education standards within the region.
“It is visual, interactive, and has the indicators that they would be interested in measuring as it is based on what School Improvement staff wanted to see and measure. They can now access school performance data straight away without having to wait for the team to collate and produce an Excel output – which is far better than we have been able to do previously,” the Analytics Manager says.
Residents in need receive a high-standard service
Families who are assigned a caseworker now benefit from a more efficient service. Caseworkers use Power BI to easily track dates, incidents and timelines of events. The initial meeting and follow-ups are targeted against KPIs and strict deadlines which are visualised in Power BI. This gives caseworkers deeper insight, and the ability to deal more efficiently with their workloads.
David says, “It’s got everything in one place that we need. The feedback is generally overwhelmingly positive.”
Making the Mayor’s ideas a reality and meeting goals
As per the Mayor’s request, the Council now has access to a dynamic, interactive thermometer-style gauge dashboard. It automatically pulls data from many different sources and compiles it to reveal their progress with achieving their six major goals. They regularly and easily see their actual and predicted performance to decide whether more needs to be done.
“Without sounding too gushing, the potential of the system for what we can use it for is almost is unlimited. We can do as much with it as we would like, and we are capable of doing it.”
Boosting confidence and abilities with personalised training
Cybit supported and trained Middlesbrough Council during the implementation and beyond, and with longer-term modifications and optimisations.
David says of the training: “It was very good. It was a workshop style, and very open to what we wanted to learn. Two days of training meant we were trained enough to make a start at doing anything ourselves.”
We taught their team how to connect Alteryx to data sources, clean data, and use Power BI to analyse and visualise data. This helped them to become more self-service, which was their goal. In one example, they learned how to replace a time-consuming quarterly task in Access with an automated workflow in Alteryx.
“This alone will save us a lot of time! We don’t spend a day doing all of this processing in Excel and Access. We can use Alteryx to do it in matter of minutes.”
The Future: Predicting Demand and Reducing Costs
Moving from reacting to data to using it to predict
In the future, the performance department wants to understand what they can analyse to help save on the Council’s costs, and to be able to predict demand in various areas. The team have many ideas about how the solution can be further developed to meet their needs.
David says: “We can spend more time looking at the predictive analytics, and more time really analysing the data to look for trends. It’s the next step for us. We can look at the influences on certain areas that are in high demand and go from reacting to our data, to using it to inform and predict what future services’ needs might be.”
On whether he would recommend a combination of Alteryx and Microsoft Power BI, David concludes: “I would say it’s worth it. In comparison to the other market-leading tools out there, the combination of Alteryx and Power BI is comparable in price. I would say to anyone who is considering a combination of both – go for it. They are a fantastic combination of tools. They work well together, they really complement each other.”
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