Understanding Data Science and Data Quality

As part of the digital strategy, the London Borough of Hounslow (LBH) now have a Data Science and Data Quality Team.

We interviewed the team to get a sense of what the Data Science and Data Quality Team will be working on.

The team

Ejaz Hussain, Lead Data Scientist

Anna Trichkine, Data Quality Lead

Ahmed Babalola Lasisi, Data Engineer

Neil Gordon, Data and Development Manager

What does Data Quality and Data Science mean to the team?

Data Quality:

Data Quality is a focus area for many teams. Data Quality can be developed in many ways including focusing on data engineering and creating good data pipelines, running regular data quality reports, and visualising data to showcase the quality to users.

Anna

Data Science:

The role of data science is unique and stands between the business operational world and the technical world. Data Science offers opportunities of deep data analysis where artificial intelligence technologies such as machine learning play a vital role to design and build predictive models. Such predictive models run on algorithm-based principles and help us to achieve business specific outcomes, for example data enabled decision making.

Ejaz

Data Science and Data Quality:

This is a genuinely exciting time at Hounslow, with the creation of a dedicated Data Science and Data Quality Team helping to leverage data as one of our most powerful assets driving greater sharing, analysis and insight across all areas of the council. Predictive modelling, AI and machine learning are all dependent on data quality so combining both disciplines within the new team provides a wonderful opportunity to progress at pace and deliver real value to colleagues and constituents alike.

Neil

What are the 3 things you love most about your role?

Ejaz:

 1. I love to explore complex data and to predict the best data-enabled options moving forward so that the London Borough of Hounslow and its residents can see real benefits

 2. I love to be able to see hidden opportunities and then interpret such opportunities for wider good

 3. To learn and share data science activities (like machine learning) with collaborative channels such as LOTI (London Office for Technology and Innovation)

Ahmed:

1. I love data engineering because it involves picking pieces of data from diverse sources and integrating them for data driven decisions

2. Consolidating and cleaning the data to create data pipelines

3. Working within the data quality and data science team to make sense of the council data that will support the council’s data-enabled decision making

Anna:

1. Data Quality is like solving puzzles and having the opportunity to solve puzzles is so fun

2. Data Quality tasks are not restricted to any single tool and provide opportunities to constantly upskill in either new programming languages, or new tools, or both

3. Data Quality is something that is important for every team and having the opportunity to work with every team means that you feel integrated into the council very quickly

Neil:

1. Transforming unstructured, poor quality data into intelligence, insight and learning that informs decision making and delivers positive customer experiences

2. As a fellow ‘data geek’ who cut his teeth processing name and address data on mainframes, I really enjoy seeing how technology has evolved and enables the Team to cleanse, analyse and visualise data seamlessly

3. Collaboration and team building

What are your favourite things about working for Hounslow Council?

Ejaz:

1. I love the positivity and engagement throughout the Council

2. Trust and excellent support from line management

3. Able to speak up and contribute positives ideas and thoughts with others

Ahmed:

1. The London Borough of Hounslow is a hub for collaboration and openness

2. Good working environment, although working remotely

3. Opportunity for training and growth

Anna:

1. I live in the borough so I love learning about all the work that is being done to support local residents

2. Hounslow House is a beautiful building to work in

3. The focus on inclusivity in tech is an area that the council are working hard to support and it is closely linked to my own values

Neil:

1. The challenge of building new teams, technology, environments and processes

2. Independence, opportunity to influence strategy, direction and collaborate with internal and external colleagues

3. People!

Service Design – User feedback

Helping design services to make them user centred and easy to use is what we do in the Service Design team.  

Recently, some of our colleagues who run public facing services procured a new back-end system. It gifted us a great opportunity to build a low fidelity prototype to show them what a fully digital end to end customer experience could look like for them. 

We built a small team to work on this, with skillsets of Service Design, Content Design and User Experience Design. 

We are testing this prototype to get feedback from a small group of users, which – together with input from the service – will allow us to move to a high-fidelity alpha prototype that we can test and iterate with more users.  

We have used a few different systems to allow us to work in an innovative and collaborative way. We started by creating a Miro board to allow us to group together all the information we had about the service and to gather research about what other local authorities were doing in this space. We also use the Miro board to run our sprint retrospective and planning sessions. The beauty of Miro is that collaboration is so easy, the team was able to work well together from the get-go.  

We also used Figma to build the prototype. It allows multiple team members to work on a single project. It also lets you to build up libraries of reusable components, which the whole team has access to. Finally, you can use it to do all kinds of work, such as website prototypes, interface design or graphic design and everything in between. 

Once we started to think about testing, we used Maze to create a self-guided test script. Maze lets you import a prototype directly from Figma, then ask users to complete specific tasks by interacting with the prototype. It’s a really simple way to get some high-level feedback remotely, as users can do it in their own time, on their devices. As well as testing end-to-end journeys, you can ask multiple choice questions to help guide the design of individual elements. This is a great complement to more intensive and traditional one-to-one testing, which typically takes more time. 

As we develop the service, we will share updates with you about our progress.

Hounslow and Open Data

The London Borough of Hounslow is committed to playing a full part in the local government open data agenda. Here we outline the essential elements of our approach.

What is open data?

Open data is non-personal data that is made freely available to be used, reused and redistributed by anyone.

To qualify as open data a set of data should have the following characteristics:

  • It should be published in an open format.
  • It should be machine readable.
  • It should be published under an open licence that allows for free reuse.

You can read more about the definition of open data in the Open Data Handbook.

Why should local authorities publish open data?

The Local Government Association (LGA) has argued that local government should encourage a meaningful approach to open data in order to:

  • foster accountability;
  • innovate and transform services leading to improvements and efficiencies;
  • empower citizen and community groups to choose or run services and shape neighbourhoods;
  • and drive local economic growth.

Greater transparency is at the heart of enabling the public to hold politicians and public bodies to account. Where public money is involved there is a fundamental public interest in being able to see how it is being spent, to demonstrate how value for money has been achieved or to highlight inefficiency.

Making public sector data available for use can also provide an opportunity for innovation by the public, business and third sector. New ways of using or interpreting the data, perhaps combining it with other sources of data, can be developed independently. With these new tools and greater understanding, a more informed public can make better decisions, both for themselves and the wider community, and develop new ways to solve problems.

Finally, publishing open data plays an important role for local government in meeting its legislative and regulatory obligations. For example, the local government transparency code requires local authorities to publish specific information about assets, expenditure, and staff salaries.

“We use Open Data to publish our information in relation to senior pay and our pay multiple, as required under the Localism Act.  It is useful to have a central place where this data is stored and available to colleagues and the public.  We link to this data in internal reports, and it is helpful to signpost enquiries to this site.”

Strategic People Services, HR & OD

The Hounslow approach to Open Data 

The council has committed to the timely and accessible publication of data about the full range of services we provide, the money we spend and the resources we hold. We will also seek to collect, aggregate and publish data about the borough of Hounslow itself and its economy and community.

We have decided that we will follow six open data principles:

  • We will publish open data by default
  • We will publish accurate and complete data
  • We will publish data quickly
  • We will publish data that is easy to access and use
  • We will continually seek to enhance the data we publish
  • The publication of our data will be responsive to the needs of our residents and will help support the delivery of services

In order to realise this commitment we have developed, and will continue to evolve and improve, a set of procedures and standards for the management of open data within the organisation. We have identified a number of roles with specific responsibilities for open data amongst staff across all levels and departments of the organisation. We have also invested in developing a dedicated online platform on which to publish and make available to the public our data.

Beyond the publishing of open data, the council will also seek to find new and innovative ways to use that data. We will seek to build tools, applications and services that make use of the data. We will look for ways that the open data can be used to improve service delivery and outcomes. We believe our new specialist data team will help us build on the progress we have made so far and that we will be able to increase the range and frequency of the open data we publish.

Our data online

The London Borough of Hounslow’s dedicated online platform for open data can be found here:

data.hounslow.gov.uk

Further resources

New online Registrar Services

Sue Hayter – Assistant Director of Customers, Libraries, Registrations and Culture tells us about the new online Registrar Services.

Previously, residents would have to call in to use the Registrar Service. We are excited to have launched a new service that enables residents to book appointments online for births, deaths, marriages, and civil partnerships.

Once booked residents are sent confirmation of their appointment via text and/or email with a reminder of any documentation they need to bring for the appointment.

As well as booking appointments, people will also be able to make payments in advance for the services and any additional certificates they may need.

Residents will also be able to cancel and rebook appointments without the need to call using the link provided in the email and text.

How the new service is getting on?

So far, the uptake has been great. In just the first ten days, we’ve already seen:

· 84% of births registered online

· 60% of deaths registered online

· 92% of marriage notices made online

For the moment we will be offering a phone service to support our customers who have difficulty accessing the online service. This will be reviewed regularly with a view of making this a fully digital service.

This new service means that residents have access to the service 24/7 via a simple form, with choice of dates and times of appointments, email confirmations and reminders for customers. This in return removes the need to use the time consuming telephone booking system.

This is the first phase of Hounslow’s Registration Services going digital so keep an eye out for a future post of what’s coming up.

Service Design – what does this really mean for you?

LBH is taking Service design seriously – setting up a dedicated team to help deliver services.

So, what is Service design, well it is what is “says on the tin” the design of services, and what is a service I hear you ask? Well, that is simply something that helps a user to do something, eg report a missed bin, become a childminder, buy a theatre ticket.

Conventionally council teams work independently and yet often the services they provide are really made up of separate items, and tasks many of which are reusable. Service designers look at how the pieces of the puzzle fit together checking how well they work for the users of the services (customer/businesses/residents/visitors/staff etc.) and suggest way to rebuild so that the user experience is simple and effective.

A bad service is expensive, if the user is unable to easily achieve what they set out to do, then it will be costly to LBH in terms of phone calls, repeated communications and often duplication of data entry. It is also costly to the user, they must spend more time trying to do something, chasing the council for updates, and writing more complaints when dissatisfied. Staff are also frustrated and demoralised as they seem to always be firefighting and workload pressures are high and no one’s needs are satisfied.

Process map

In creating a service that your customers can use easily, that does what they want, they will return and reuse, and even tell their friends. We will have more happy customers satisfied at first point of contact, therefore fewer repeat conversions about a single translation and fewer complaints. This also reduces workload for internal teams, win win.

Service design is about understanding your users:

  • What do they want to do?
  • How can we make it easy for them to do?

Check out the video for an example of service design which I am sure many of us relate to. Think about why Uber, Amazon, and Expedia are successful.

London College of Communication explain Service Design

Projects we are currently helping with:

  • Housing – understanding the user journeys, mapping processes in use currently
  • Children’s safeguarding – mapping complex processes in use and identifying touch points with other agencies.
  • Digital & IT – looking at internal processes for managing assets eg laptops and software to improve efficiency of process (reduce double entry).
  • Web design and accessibility – providing advice on best practice for website design to improve customer journey and ensure accessible to all.
  • Pest control – understanding the customer’s needs and defining a prototype to allow users to book online rather than call the Contact Centre; developing an end-to-end process.

What does this mean for our residents and businesses?

  • Available services – we understand that you want to be able to access the services 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.
  • Reliable Services – the service should work and be easy to use.
  • Joined up services – to minimise the number of times we ask you for the same piece of information. 
  • Keep you informed – providing you with simple updates so you know your request is being handled.
  • Improved efficiency – by reviewing our processes and removing duplication, and reusing the elements that work well, we will improve efficiency and “make every penny count.”

Check back to find out ways you can help us to help you, we will shortly be looking to recruit residents and businesses, to better understand how you want to access the services we provide.

How to get the most out of your anonymous surveys

By Anna Trichkine, Data Quality Lead

During a period of change, surveys are a go to tool. If my own experience is anything to go by, I would say you’ve probably filled out dozens of surveys over the last year and for most of these surveys you are yet to see the results.

The good news is that the survey results often have important stories contained within them, even if they’re anonymous.

So how can we retell the stories whilst still maintaining anonymity?

The data team at London Borough of Hounslow have recently been tasked with analysing the data for anonymous workplace surveys. These surveys aim to capture how participants feel about working in the borough, and how they feel about working from home. As the data that are collected are anonymous, it is important to try to find patterns or stories in the responses without revealing any personally identifiable experiences. The user profile must not reveal an individual but must provide an insight into a group of people with similar experiences.

How do we do this?

One way to do this is by using decision trees, a type of mathematical model that identifies patterns in your data set by asking true/false style questions.

Using this mathematical model we are able to identify patterns in the data set. The mathematical model takes into consideration all of the questions asked by the survey, and suggests which of these questions are more important. Even if a survey had dozens of questions, it may be that only two or three of the questions have significant differences for the way people respond.

Once these key questions are identified, the data team specify minimum sample sizes for each group to make sure anonymity is maintained.

This combined approach can build a compelling story whilst also making sure that the narrative is anonymous.

Results

Once the model identified the key questions, and the groupings, the team were able to build up a user profile from the grouped responses.

We were able to create 4 main personas, each with unique reflections and experiences of working in the Borough of Hounslow. Underneath these personas were the collective responses for a group of individuals who shared similar thoughts.

Relaying these stories as personas, rather than as graphs and line charts, allows the stories to come to life. We can empathise a lot more with a person, rather than with a line. In this way, the anonymous surveys become more exciting both for our team, and hopefully for those who would like to see the results of the survey.

We will be sharing the personas internally with staff, and would love to hear which persona resonates with you.

First step towards data science collaboration

By Ejaz Hussain – Data Scientist and Anna Trichkine – Data Quality Lead

An exciting learning Journey with LOTI and ONS.

The Data Science and Data Quality Team at London Borough of Hounslow is a newly formed team within Digital and IT. The team is made up of Lead Data Scientist Ejaz Hussain, and Data Quality Lead Anna Trichkine.

As a new team, we will be working to improve data practices and data ethics within London Borough of Hounslow. We will be exploring new opportunities for how to use our data and how to make sure we are making more data-enabled decisions across the borough.

To begin with, we have been selected to join the pilot data science and machine learning programme run collaboratively by ONS and LOTI.

Who are ONS?

The Office for National Statistics, the government department specialising in everything data and statistics!

Who are LOTI?

The London Office for Technology and Innovation, working to support collaboration between 33 London local authorities.

What is the programme?

The programme focuses on developing the team’s expertise in data science, specifically to improve the quality of local government data by using programming languages; R and Python.

This is an 8-12-week programme and we will be meeting with the ONS mentors on a weekly basis.

During these weekly sessions, we review data projects together with the mentors along with other local authority participants who have also been selected to join the programme.

A picture of our first session together is shared below.

Zoom call screenshot of first data science programme session

How will this benefit London Borough of Hounslow?

We will be taking the learning from these sessions and sharing the tools and techniques with other analysts across the council.

We have been given access to the ONS learning pool, a hub of well-prepared learning materials, that we can share with staff across the council.

If you are interested in accessing this content or to find out more about our sessions, please email us and we will be happy to guide and support.

Thank you to ONS and LOTI for this exciting opportunity.  

My first three months at Hounslow

As the new Strategic Relationship and Programmes Manager at Hounslow, I have had a fantastic time in my first three months and have really got a good flavour of how we connect our communities in order to design consistent services across the authority.  Currently, I manage the strategic and support teams within Digital & IT and as part of that work I lead the teams delivering the range of different programmes ensuring that everything we do aligns with the overall Digital Strategy and the portfolio roadmap. 

Joining the family

Starting a new role during a world pandemic is never easy as I didn’t have the opportunity to meet my colleagues face-to-face and especially when we look around the world and notice that so many organisations are down-sizing, making redundancies and even shutting multi-billion pound companies down as they are not able to survive, but Hounslow has done quite the opposite actually.  I have been made to feel extremely welcomed by Simon Klee (Head of Digital Transformation) and furthermore, he has made it seamlessly possible in getting me really involved across all the teams in their delivery of work and to drive change in order to better the lives of Hounslow residents.  Simon was absolutely right when he told me on my first day that he will ensure I fit into the Digital & IT family and that is exactly how I feel, a part of the family.

Building my team

I have had the opportunity to really influence the recruitment drive across the Digital & IT team and have worked closely with my colleagues to make this happen.  Hannah Rixon (Programme Lead) and Shireen Green (PMO Team Lead) have been a pleasure to work with and have really supported me in decision making processes and across the organisation with the day to day activities that I have been tasked with during my first three months here.  This has really assisted me in focussing on what needs to be delivered as part of the overall Digital Strategy.  So far, I have managed to recruit a handful of Project Delivery Managers, a PMO Team Lead, a Programme Lead and also a Strategic Lead who will be responsible for line managing the Business Relationship Managers (who form such a fundamental part of my overall team).  I am continuing the recruitment drive with Alison Venning (Digital Transformation Consultant) and Alison Bellamy (Digital Consultant) who have been vital in making sure we follow the correct processes in our campaigns.

The One Hounslow approach

As part of the One Hounslow Framework that forms part of the Digital Strategy, I have worked closely with Claire Brookes-Daniels (One Hounslow Programme Director) in determining the processes of how the workstream should operate and although I have been in the role for only three months, I have had the opportunity to help shape the process-flow from an early stage.  This really showcases how the Digital and IT team like to have new, fresh and innovative ideas to help map a process going forward and really engage staff across the whole team when communicating changes.

Local Government Strategy Forum

As we see the government guidelines towards lockdown and social distancing easing and events opening up, it was an absolute delight to meet Mark Lumley (Director of Digital and IT) in person at the Local Government Strategy Forum that took place at the stunning venue of Heythrop Park and Resorts Hotel in Oxfordshire.

Mark Lumley at the Local Government Strategy Forum
Mark Lumley at the Local Government Strategy Forum

Mark was a guest speaker and spoke about how we engage with our communities to understand our user needs and journeys.  He delivered a presentation on how we have evolved the Community Hub into our Community Solutions model, aiming to be more preventative in our approach that is delivered by us alongside the voluntary sector, local charities, and public sector partners. 

I personally learnt a lot from having the chance to attend this event and it was a great networking opportunity for me at such an early stage of my role, which additionally demonstrates the upskilling of the workforce that makes Hounslow proud.

Adi Khan at the Local Government Strategy Forum
Adi Khan at the Local Government Strategy Forum

Exciting times ahead for Hounslow

At Hounslow, we all thrive to discuss solutions rather than the problems.  If this has been my experience working remotely, I can’t wait to work with my whole team in person.  It will be phenomenal and I look forward to ensuring that I embrace and lead on the responsibilities involved in driving the change in order to put the residents at the heart of all the decisions I make for the exciting time ahead.

Fibre broadband in Hounslow

Current schedule for Community Fibre

South Road work covered 263 properties – Community Fibre – completed.

Cottington Road covered 306 properties – Community Fibre – completed.

Hampton Road East (44 properties) , Oxford Court (59 ), Swift Road (48), The Hollands (126) – Community Fibre completed

New Chapel Square (58 properties), Midsummer Avenue (187) – Community Fibre completed.

Areas starting 19th to 23rd August

Hunter House (206 properties), Watermead (153), Rose Gardens (73), Wynne Court (87), Pears Road (115)

What is fibre broadband to premises?

This is the where the fibre cable is delivered direct into premises and not via the green boxes you may see which then need a copper cable into each individual property.

A fibre optic cable is able to handle a much larger volume of data than a copper cable without degrading. Fibre optic is therefore quicker than standard broadband, as the signal strength is less likely to fail with distance from the exchange, and speeds are maintained over greater distance. Maintenance is also better with fibre broadband and better guarantees of speed can be offered by suppliers.

The work also helps as part of move to fibre from copper by BT Openreach over the coming years with the current final date for disconnection set at 31 December 2025 for equipment connected from exchanges via copper to local “green” boxes.

Fibre broadband in Hounslow

The principles for guiding the roll out of fibre broadband:

  • To maximise the extent and coverage of fibre broadband availability for residents and businesses in the borough.
  • To deliver the rollout of improved fibre infrastructure in a way that minimises the disturbance to residents and businesses in the borough.
  • To ensure delivery of fibre broadband networks at pace.
  • To leverage social, environmental and economic value and secure investment in digital investment that everyone in the borough can benefit from.

The Council has been working in partnership with Harrow and Barnet Councils, so far Community Fibre and Hyperoptic have signed agreements with more expected, with the rollout programmes being developed currently for the Council’s social housing stock. This will help to unlock the investment needed to get fibre broadband into all premises in Hounslow,

As different sites around Hounslow have confirmed dates we will publish here this information in addition to direct communication by the suppliers at each site.

Information sent to residents

Integrated Care Partnership (ICP) digital workstream exciting developments… view from a Business Relationship Manager

by Hirva Shah hirva.shah@hounslow.gov.uk

I work in the Digital and IT (D&IT) service as Business Relationship Manager and social care service is one of the key accounts that I work very closely within my current role. I work with them to understand their digital requirements and the support needed for delivering services to the residents. During the Covid times, the digital tools and virtual platform available through D&IT has helped them to work in partnership with Health, however, they did not have access to the NHS’s clinical systems which was essential to them to acquire a broader knowledge on the patients and get a holistic view of patient needs for delivering the best care. 

The integrated care partnership  (ICP) initiative is lead by the NHS to bring together the providers and commissioners of NHS services to work with the local authorities and other local partners collectively to plan health and care services to meet the needs of the residents has been very advantageous to the council. This collaborative partnership initiative has led into the Digital ICP workstream which facilitates knowledge and information sharing and partnership working between the council and Health partners such as NWCCGs, Trust, Primary care and GPs on the digital elements linked to high-level ICP strategic objectives. These objectives are in place to promote and encourage healthy choices to reduce health inequality, improve resilience, age well and improved social connection in the community.

This joined-up approach has facilitated discussion and agreements on digital elements such as: having a single and secure WiFi infrastructure; data-sharing and access agreement; digital technologies used between the partners for social prescribing; assistive living independently and remote monitoring. Information gathered through these discussions has helped to draft the guidelines and principles which will be used to develop an operating model against each of these workstreams to deliver coordinated services tailored around the needs of the community. Activities such as service design and mapping out clinical pathway may be carried out to understand the technical requirements, impact and affordability for care technology procurement. 

Through digital collaboration work alongside our health partners, we have succeeded in clarifying the technical and legal requirements needed for the data information-sharing agreement on NHS clinical systems. We have increased our understanding of the different portals being used by Health and Social Care partners within the North West London region to access patient information for delivering care. Information gathered through this collaborative approach has helped us to provide the relevant systems and access details to West London Mental Health Trust and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. This agreement has now been approved and is in place between the Trust and the Council for the NHS clinical systems, RIO and Cerner. 

The Hospital Discharge Team co-ordinate with various care professionals and support agencies involved in decision making for residents who are admitted to the hospital and agree on the most beneficial way to continue their care following discharge from the hospital. Through the Cerner system, they are now able to see when the residents have been admitted to the hospital and when they are due to be discharged so that a subsequent care support plan can be put in place. The Approved Mental Health Practitioner Team, which is part of the Adult Social care service area, deal with mental health needs by applying various sections of the Mental Health Act. Working in partnership with West London Health Trust, access to the RIO system allows them to screen the referrals and gather assessment information. 

The aim is to enable our residents to have healthier lives and get the care and treatment they need at the right time and in the right location. Providing integrated care through digital technology will deliver better services that can be made available and easily accessible and cost-effectively from home (e.g. via video call/call conferencing for carrying out remote assessments and triage services appropriately). The ongoing collaboration work between the Healthcare partners and the Council has helped develop an in-depth understanding of the needs, challenges and barriers to delivering integrated care service to the wider population. Sharing ideas and experience between the partners will help to build a road map and a plan to deliver the outcomes required for the integrated care service to provide better health outcomes for residents. 

We are planning on more joined-up working through the ICP and our One Hounslow programme of work – with Digital systems being the levers for change to ensure that we transform the services that we can provide. 

I am excited to be continuing to be a part of the joined-up organisations and improving services for the residents. After all, I am also a part of the community who would be benefiting from receiving the highest care through this joined-up partnership.   

Watch this space!