Keeping Score in the Public Sector

The performance management and information access reality

Published/updated: March 2012

By Dale Vile and Tony Lock

Key Points

Public sector organisations must often manage the opposing pulls of visibility and security
Many organisations in the public sector handle sensitive information from their stakeholders (citizens and businesses) that must be protected from a privacy and security perspective. At the same time, they also often hold information that is part of the public record and have an obligation to make this available as freely as possible. This creates a number of information management related challenges over and above those experienced in the private sector.

Most are meeting statutory obligations, but it is challenging and getting harder
Problems to do with information fragmentation and inconsistency between systems, aggravated by lack of automation, means producing routine reports for government and regulators is typically costly and time consuming. The escalating need to publish performance metrics more broadly, deeply and frequently, along with an increasing obligation to make information available on demand to regulators, citizens and businesses, is adding to the burden and creating some real challenges.

Significant gaps exist with regard to meeting internal needs and stakeholder expectations
The underlying information disjoints already mentioned also mean that the majority participating in our study do not do a good job in meeting the internal information needs of either management or the broader workforce. Public sector organisations are also finding that keeping up with the information access expectations of politicians, the media and, most importantly, an increasingly tech savvy population of stakeholders, is extremely difficult. Indeed most are failing at the moment.

Initiatives are in place to improve things, but lack of funding is an issue
Many public sector organisations have initiatives in place to improve the way in which information is managed, secured and accessed. These include making better use of electronic channels such as the Web, and in some cases coordinating, collaborating and sharing with similar organisations. However, the imperative to reduce both capital expenditure and operating costs often trumps such efforts, making it hard to secure funding for investment in new capability.

The trick is to make better use of what’s already in place, and work more smartly
Significant under-exploitation of the tools and systems already in place is an endemic problem. The reporting and analytics facilities within desktop tools, database management systems and even specialist business intelligence systems are far from fully utilised. However, this represents a great opportunity to improve capability without the need for major spend. Having said this, making the most of what’s in place will typically require investment in training and processes.

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