Essex County Council unlock the power of data with the Azure Modern Data Platform
Essex County Council (ECC) is one of the largest local authorities in England. It governs the non-metropolitan county of Essex in England, serving a population of around 1,500,000, making it one of the largest local authorities in England. ECC has a wide range of responsibilities such as registering births, marriages, civil partnerships, and deaths. Additionally, they are responsible for roads, libraries and archives, refuse disposal, most of the state education, social services and transport which are provided at a county level.
Leading data analytics consultancy, Simpson Associates, were selected by Essex County Council to collaboratively deliver a Modern Data Analytics Platform using Microsoft Azure. By developing this data platform, Essex County Council will be able to develop a single version of the truth for its data assets, enhancing the value of data and insights and helping to improve the lives of its citizens as time goes on.
“Our Modern Data Platform will allow us to make data use more integral, more innovative and more widely understood. As a consequence, outcomes for our residents in Essex are improved, both for now and the future.”Nicola Mallett - Head of Profession Data and Analytics, Essex County Council
Through its data strategy, Essex County Council (ECC) recognised the need to modernise its approach to data as a strategic asset. They wanted to provide consumers self-service access to trusted data for decision making. ECC were operating a traditional on-premises Microsoft SQL Data Warehouse and SSRS reporting solution deployed in a legacy Data Centre.
Maintaining and supporting the platform had grown to require significant time and effort, the performance had begun to experience issues, and it couldn’t easily scale to meet consumer demands or take advantage of the modern analytical and computing capabilities available in the cloud. These factors undermined ECC’s ability to drive value from its data to enhance the services it delivers for citizens, collaborate with multi-agency partners in a best governed way, and provide staff with readily accessible tools for self-service insights.
In line with its Cloud migration agenda, ECC engaged Simpson Associates to develop a strategy for the design and delivery of a Modern Data Analytics Platform utilising Microsoft Azure.
“It has been a pleasure partnering with Essex County Council, it’s a great team and we’re very pleased to be able to help them turn their data strategy into a reality together. The Modern Data Platform will enable Essex to take control of data, making it a complete, accurate, accessible asset that supports citizens, council services and enables collaboration across the region.”Tom Hughes - Business Development Manager for Local Government, Simpson Associates
Utilising the Microsoft Modern Data Analytics Assessment framework, Simpson’s undertook a series of workshops to establish the As-Is and To-Be states, baselined the Council’s maturity, undertaking a gap analysis to develop a roadmap, architecture, approach, and costings for delivery.
Subsequently, Simpsons were engaged by ECC to assist them in delivering the recommendations of the assessment. In collaboration they deployed a Modern Data Analytics platform based upon Azure Synapse and Power BI, with additional features including Purview for Data Cataloguing and Governance. A three-tier architecture (Development, Test and Production) was deployed with automated CI/CD release processes via DevOps. The platform was secured using Private Networking and End-Points in line with the Council’s security and networking policy.
Once the platform was established, work began to migrate key datasets from the legacy on-premises platform, starting with Adult and Childrens Social Care, with the goal of creating one Single Version for all ECC’s data assets. Power BI paginated reports and dashboards could then be developed for social care managers and practitioners to self-serve answers to key performance questions.
The project was collaboratively delivered by both ECC and Simpsons as a virtual team, led by ECC project management and incorporating Simpsons professional resources with ECC design, technical, data analytics and reporting staff. The project was also underpinned by a skills and knowledge transfer approach, which has enabled ECC to take full control of the platform. ECC are already looking for opportunities to enhance their capabilities, including regional data collaboration with multi-agency partners in Local Government and the NHS. The introduction of data science capabilities, and expansion into additional use cases will increase the value that data and insights bring to their services, citizens and staff improving outcomes for all.
A bespoke Azure solution meant Essex County Council’s individual requirements could be satisfied for:
- Single view of the data for analysis and insight
- Harness the modern analytical and computing capabilities of the cloud, with security and governance
- Governed self-service access to bespoke Power BI reports
- Increased efficiency in data and report sharing
- Enable data and insight collaboration across the county
- Greater agility to delivering reporting aligned to council objectives
- Improved capability and capacity through skills and knowledge transfer
“Simpsons have been an excellent partner to Essex during the delivery of our data strategy. Their collaborative approach has meant they’ve adapted to our ways of working, supported ECC to develop our skills and ensured as a council we’ve achieved best-value. Our Modern Data Platform will allow us to unlock the value of our data, better servicing our citizens and supporting those in need. It sets Essex up to become a truly data led authority in the years to come.”Nicola Mallett - Head of Profession Data and Analytics, Essex County Council