Surrey County Council reduces analysis time from days to hours

The United Kingdom’s Surrey County Council manages a range of public services from education to transportation. The council’s previous business intelligence solutions caused long reporting delays. Some visualizations took weeks and required several iterations to answer business questions. The council needed a visual analytics tool. The solution had to be robust with analytical depth, accessible to the entire team including managers, executives, and front line staff.

With Tableau, everyone in the council can make the most of data—regardless of technical skill. Rich Stockley, Chief Research Officer, explains how Tableau has changed the dynamic at Surrey County Council. He regularly meets with senior managers to discuss data, prioritizing fact over intuition.

Rich shares how the council uses a Tableau dashboard to track interventions at youth clubs. The dashboard updates every morning, allowing the team to understand priorities and better manage their time. As a result, the team has eliminated unnecessary travel, saving the council money.

Processes that used to take weeks now takes mere hours in Tableau. Rich says that this time savings has “freed up staff to spend time doing more important things.”

Tableau: What motivated the council to adopt Tableau?
Rich Stockley, Chief Research Officer, Surrey County Council: One of the key problems at the council is that a lot of people that we work with know data quite well, but a lot of the people that we work with don't. So we need to provide them with a tool that they can use that allows them to query a data set.

Tableau: Has the council changed how they approach data?
Rich: So we're spending time with senior managers, with senior decision makers. We're going into senior management meetings with a data set and with Tableau and sitting down with them and working through the data, answering their questions about the data, dispelling some of the myths that they have about the data, because they always have a perception about the way things are.

Tableau: Is it just senior managers who use Tableau?
Rich: We really are working right across the organization, right from the bottom up, from front line staff.

In terms of significant savings in time, I mean it's just immense...Some of the repetitive processes used to take a person all week. And I had one manager who came to me and said that a job that took a week once a month now takes two hours.

Tableau: Can you give an example of how you use Tableau?
Rich: We have a visualization that tells the team that manages interventions with young people at youth clubs. They get in. It's a live data set. The next morning they can see what happened the night before and they can plan their day ahead, and the manager of that team has said that both he and his staff are driving less miles at work because they know where they need to go when they get into work, and they look at the visualization through Tableau.

It also has these unintended benefits as well. It means that we're saving the council money and time by not wasting our time driving around the county. In terms of significant savings in time, I mean it's just immense. So some of the visualizations we're replicating—things that we created previously in other software packages—some of the repetitive processes would take a person all week. And I had one manager who came to me and said that a job that took a week once a month now takes two hours.

Tableau: How has that impacted teams?
Rich: It's really freed up our staff to spend time doing more important things than looking at Excel and manipulating objects inside Excel.

Tableau: How do you keep data secure?
Rich: In local government, we have a statutory responsibility to abide by information governance guidelines. So we have a very tight regime around how we store data, how we use data, especially any individual level data we have to be very careful about. In Tableau we have a Tableau Server that runs in our data center and that's completely secure.

Tableau: How does the council manage data governance in Tableau Server?
Rich: Tableau Server allows staff to have access only to the particular visualizations that they have permission to look at.

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