A major new survey has found that civil servants see better use of data as the key to improving public services and staff tools – and they back action by the centre of government to promote progress across the civil service.
At the end of last year, NTT DATA partnered with Global Government Forum to gather civil servants’ views on the use of data in government. We wanted to find out where they think there’s the most potential to make better use of data; how well civil service bodies currently manage their data, and what actions – by departments and the centre – would best promote progress.
Our survey attracted responses from 346 civil servants – nearly half of them leaders and managers – and produced interesting results, finding strong demand across the workforce for stronger action by the centre of government. You can download the full report, or read our highlights and explore our data tool, below.
of Senior Civil Servants say better use of data is "absolutely essential"
Civil servants overwhelmingly recognise the importance of making better use of data
Some 63% of respondents – and 75% of Senior Civil Servants – say better use of data is “absolutely essential” to improving public services and staff tools, with a further 30% saying it’s “very important”.
Improving the use of data to strengthen evidence-based policymaking is seen as a
a top priority
Asked for their goals in using data, civil servants prioritised stronger policymaking and the creation of more targeted, accessible public services
Civil servants’ top priority in improving the use of data is to strengthen evidence-based policymaking. They are also keen to target services at the points of greatest need, and to create cross-departmental services built around the user.
of respondents were unable to say whether their employer has a data strategy
Most civil service bodies are making good progress on improving their use of data – but there is a long tail of slow movers
Asked how far their employer has got in introducing key aspects of good data management, well over half of respondents say they have advanced systems or are undertaking delivery; but about 20% say they haven’t got past early development work. And levels of awareness vary, with half of respondents unable to say whether their employer has a data strategy.
There has been a call for
strong, visible leadership
Asked how departments can make faster progress, civil servants call for strong, visible leadership
Departments should prioritise strong leadership and the production of data strategies, civil servants believe. And there was widespread support for the introduction of common standards and data management frameworks, plus investment in the digital workforce.
3 to 1 in favour
of the centre of government winning new powers to promote better use of data
The centre of government should win new powers to promote better use of data, civil servants believe
By a majority of three to one, civil servants want to see the centre given new levers to promote compliance with data standards and policies across government. Asked their priorities for central action, respondents first name better training for data professionals; but they also back key aspects of the Data Strategy, including the introduction of an integrated data platform and mandatory data standards.
Explore the research findings by selecting the questions from the dropdown menu below. You can then filter the results by grade, department or profession. For full findings and commentary, please download the research report.
How important is better use of data to improving the tools used by civil servants and the public services received by citizens?
Within each group, over 90% of respondents replied that it was either ‘very important’ or ‘absolutely essential’ – with far more opting for the latter.
Civil servants overwhelmingly recognise the need to make better use of data, regardless of grade, department or profession. Overall, 63% said that doing so is 'absolutely essential', and a further 30% that it's 'very important'.
What are your priorities for work to realise the potential of data?
Asked to name their top three goals in terms of better data use, nearly two-thirds of civil servants included improvements to evidence-based policymaking.
Whilst improvements to evidence-based policymaking came out on top, they also prioritised the use of data to better connect and target services, provide a single access point for users, and strengthen impact assessments.
Does your employer have a published data strategy?
A high proportion cannot say if their employer had a published data strategy.
Almost half of all respondents didn’t know whether their employer has published a strategy; 41% said it had such a strategy, and 10% that it didn’t. There are interesting variations across the groups – with awareness particularly low among Policy professionals, and very high among HMRC staff.
How advanced is your organisation’s handling of data in each of these four fields?
There has been limited progress towards putting data tools into the hands of staff.
For details on the breakdown of the findings, please download the research report.
Whilst there has been clear progress in relation to some of the core aspects of good data management, there has been very limited progress towards putting data tools into the hands of staff.
In your view, which of the following activities should your organisation prioritise in order to realise the potential of data?
Over half of respondents named strong and visible leadership as one of the three key requirements for improved use of data.
As well as strong and visible leadership – there was also strong support for the introduction of common standards and data management frameworks, and for work to boost the size and skills of digital workforces.
In your view – and assuming effective delivery – how would the following actions by the centre of government be likely to affect progress on realising the potential of data across the civil service?
There is overwhelming support for more action by the centre of government.
For details on the breakdown of the findings, please download the research report.
When presented with 13 possible central activities and powers, the proportion of those sceptical never exceeded 20% on any action, while those favourable never fell below 40%; on almost all the suggested actions, 50-70% expressed a belief that they would help hasten progress.
Do you believe the centre of government should have additional levers to promote departmental compliance with central data strategies, policies and standards?
52.9% back stronger levers for the centre of government.
Across the whole group, 52.9% backed stronger levers for the centre of government, 16.5% opposed the idea, and 30.6% said they didn’t know. Support was strongest among staff in grades below 7, within the DWP workforce, and among Operational Delivery and Project Delivery professionals; Policy professionals and SCS were the most sceptical.
To find out more about the Civil Service Data Survey and what the results mean for your organisation, book a meeting with a member of the NTT DATA UK Public Sector team.
Head of Public Sector, NTT DATA
Vicki has worked with the public sector for over 20 years, in fields including consulting, systems integration and managed services. Following a career with BAE Systems, Detica and BT Syntegra, since 2019 she has managed NTT DATA’s operations across the public and not-for-profit sectors. Vicki is passionate about helping public bodies to improve their programmes, services and staff tools, making a tangible difference to the lives of citizens and staff.
Vice President of Public Services, NTT DATA
Phill has built trusted partnerships across the public and private sectors for almost 20 years, helping his clients achieve their transformational objectives. His central government experience includes work with HMRC, DWP, DEFRA and the FCDO. Phill believes in cross-sector fertilisation of ideas, data and technology advancements to help drive innovation and deliver greater outcomes for his clients.
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