Commissioning Alliance unlock the power of data with Microsoft Azure
Commissioning Alliance (CA) is a non-profit organisation that supports local authorities in the UK for the benefit of the most vulnerable members of society. They provide specialist services in social care, education, and housing, ensuring better outcomes for those who need them the most.
Originally founded by seven West London authorities, Commissioning Alliance now supports councils across England. They are the commercial arm of Ealing Council and collaboratively work with 66 Local Authorities to enhance services through data and improve the quality of provision of care.
Commissioning Alliance are passionate about enhancing the services available to local authorities through digital transformation. With an extensive partner network, they can bring together a range of specialist skills to meet the needs of the community.
Simpson Associates were selected by Commissioning Alliance to collaboratively deliver a Microsoft Azure Modern Data Platform, with a SQL Data Warehouse for modelling data and embedded Power BI reporting capabilities to provide self-service insights to the councils on services, performance, and benchmarking.
“Simpson Associates have been an incredible partner on the delivery of this project. Their ability to ask the tough questions has resulted in a solution that’s fit for purpose and accommodates all our needs. Together with Simpson Associates we have amplified the efforts of councils, enabling them to better serve and support their citizens. Together, we're creating positive change and fostering a brighter future for our citizens.”Robert Leete - Commissioning Alliance
What was the problem?
Local authorities collect and store data on peoples, place, and services from a myriad of sources. This data is locked within disconnected datasets, which are a wealth of insight and value. And many councils are struggling to make better use of it for reporting and analytics. Commissioning Alliance recognised the need for a modern cloud-based data infrastructure that supports Power BI reporting with trusted and integrated data. Separate and disparate sources of data bring with them a host of challenges for overburdened local councils, typically resulting in significant manual effort and cottage-industry approaches to preparing data for reporting.
Commissioning Alliance understood the possibilities that a modern Data Warehouse could offer them. It could take data from a wide variety of sources, and have a data model allowing effective, consistent reporting across a range of subject areas for a range of different consumers.
While the data platform can take data from a variety of sources and deliver numerous products of high value, one of Commissioning Alliance’s key use cases was to modernise the way London Borough Council’s report on a key type of data; the SSDA903 data. The SSDA903 is a mandatory data collection exercise for all councils in England, designed to provide central government with the information on children who were looked after.
The data is used to evaluate the outcome of policy initiatives and to monitor objectives on looked after children, both during their time in care and on reaching adulthood. Collectively, the data collected is used in the provision of information for research and statistical information in response to parliamentary questions.
Better integrating model and driving insights from SSDA903 data presents an incredibly valuable opportunity for individual councils to improve the quality and cost of services they provide to their citizens. This is achieved by integrating, modelling and driving insights from the data.
“It is a real pleasure to be supporting the Commissioning Alliance on their Data & Insights journey."Tom Hughes - Business Development Manager, Simpson Associates
Utilising the Microsoft Stack, Simpson Associates and Commissioning Alliance collaboratively delivered a Data Warehouse with Data Reporting Capabilities with Power BI.
Simpson Associates were engaged by CA to help them meet on their requirements. Simpsons undertook a series of workshops to establish the As-Is and To-Be states, performing a gap analysis to develop a roadmap, architecture, approach, and costings for delivery. Additionally, the project aligned with the Microsoft Cloud Security Benchmark to improve the security of workloads, data, and services on Azure and a multi-cloud environment. Ensuring adequate security measures were in place for all resources was vital, due to the extremely sensitive personal data involved.
An Azure data warehouse was developed using Simpsons’ ETL framework to accelerate the process of ingesting data from a range of sources into the data platform. The three tier architecture of the data warehouse is a proven approach to data transformation and data modelling for presentation, delivering a simplified data access layer that solves data challenges, answers key questions, and provides greater insights.
Investing in optimising the data access layer allowed CA to develop Power BI reports and dashboards for the specific 903 Social Care data with ease. The interactive reports make collaboration simple for local authorities, streamline and for managers and practitioners to self-serve answers to key performance questions. This improves benchmark rates and measures of looked-after children and can identify key characteristics between local authorities in the context of the indices of deprivation and demographics data sources.
The project was a collaborative effort between Commissioning Alliance and Simpsons, with both teams operating virtually as one. Commissioning Alliance led the project management, supported by Simpson Associates’ expertise in design, technical aspects, data analytics, and reporting. The project was underpinned by an Agile approach to delivery with regular feedback, and emphasised the transfer of skills and knowledge, enabling CA to fully manage the platform.
CA is actively seeking opportunities to develop their capabilities, such as collaborating on regional data with additional local authorities. Introducing data science capabilities and expanding into additional use cases will amplify the value of data and insights for their services, benefiting citizens and improving outcomes overall, but specifically for Child Social Care.
Creating a bespoke solution meant it could cater for Commissioning Alliances specific needs:
- A secure central place for all data
- Utilising the modern analytical and computing capabilities of the cloud, with security and governance
- Improved collaboration between local authorities
- Greater ability to deliver on key objectives
- Elevated competence and potential through the transfer of skills and knowledge
- Improved ability to report on 903 data
“It is a real pleasure to be supporting the Commissioning Alliance on their Data & Insights journey. They truly see the value of data and the potential insights have to transform lives and improve the quality of council services. An open an honest partnership has been key to the success of the programme, with both parties forming a really tight team that is far greater than the sum of its parts. We look forward to what Commissioning Alliance will achieve in the future...and being a partner in that.”Tom Hughes - Business Developemnt Manager, Simpson Associates