Leicestershire County Council improves government with data
Tableau: What does the Leicestershire County Council do?
Robert Radburn, Research & Insight Team Leader: There are around 670,000 people in Leicestershire and they all use one of our services whether they know it or not.
We just have so many different services. So we're looking at Web analytics data. We're looking at data from libraries, library usage. We're looking at survey data for consultations like budget consultations. We're looking at data for children who are in care. We've got multiple different outcomes—and it's not all about the bottom line for us.
Tableau: How does Tableau help?
Robert: What Tableau has done is show how important business intelligence is to a local authority. It's really raised the importance of data in decision making.
What Tableau has done is show how important business intelligence is to a local authority. It's just amazing how you just show a couple of visualizations and then the room starts talking about what they've seen...it's the data that affects them every day. It's the data that affects their job. So that's the amazing thing.
Robert: So what Tableau's really great at is that I don't have to be an expert in all those areas. I don't have to be an expert in social work or highways maintenance to bring something to the table. And that's because our organization's quite siloed, you know, and what Tableau allows us to do is just to break down those silos.
It's just amazing how you just show a couple of visualizations and then the room starts talking about what they've seen. They don't really care about Tableau, if I'm honest, they just care about that they can see this data, and it's the data that, you know, is -- affects them every day, you know. It's the data that affects their job. So that's the amazing thing.
Tableau: What were things like before Tableau?
Robert: When we first got Tableau, we were producing with dashboards from the 2011 census. So in the past, that sort of work in Excel would take us, I don't know, two to three months.
And we're producing dashboards for individual wards in Leicestershire; there's around 150 of them. And we're producing dashboards in about two or three hours. So it's really helped us.
I just love the fact that you can just get some data in there and you can just drag and drop and quickly change your mind. Oh, that hasn't worked and that hasn't worked.
You know, in Excel, you're just trying to figure out what the formula is. And to know—I'm spending more time trying to work out how Excel works. And with Tableau, you're just dragging and dropping and you're creating really—and just the way you can create interactivity.
I want to filter something. I want to take that away. I want to add that. You know, and you're just thinking all the time and you're just pressing buttons, and you're not thinking how you use the software. You're just thinking about what do I want to answer? And that, to me, that's really important.
Tableau: How are you using Tableau specifically?
Robert: We're using Tableau to help us understand how we redesign our services. And at the moment, we just trying to get service data and show people how their service is working.
One of the specific outputs from Tableau has been around consultation.
So we undertook a really big budget consultation last year with the public to find out where they wanted the council to spend its money over the next few years—it had around 7,000 responses.
And when people fill in this form, they expect to get some feedback. They are complicated surveys, so it's difficult to write a big report on every question.
So what we produced was a Tableau dashboard which allowed people to interact by gender and by age and by different areas to find out what people were thinking. And that not only helped the public, but it also helped our decision makers to see what people valued.
Just to get data to a visualization that quickly compared to something like Excel was just amazing. And to get that instant response from users where they just go, "Wow," —it just makes you feel really good about what you're doing.
People always react the same way, which is, you know, how did you do that? I mean, how is that possible? And certainly with the interactivity. If you get a map up and it just looks like static dots on map, which everyone's seen.
But then if you highlight an area in Leicestershire and then the bar chart's changed, and then you highlight another area and the bar chart changed, people -- how long did that take to do? And you -- in some ways, you don't want to tell them that all I've done is turned on a filter.
You know, you want to try and give the impression that, yeah, that took me ages to do. But in general, these things take seconds.
Tableau: How did you learn to use Tableau?
Robert: I learned Tableau just from the website, if I'm honest. The videos are brilliant. And we bought a couple of books.
But to be honest, the community is so helpful that you can pick it up pretty much as you go along. In general, the community feels like people want to help each other. And that people from different areas want to help each other.