Defra’s Chief Operating Officer, Betsy Bassis, explains what ‘data-driven Defra’ means to her.
Hi Betsy thanks for finding time to speak to us. Do you want to introduce yourself first?
My name is Betsy Bassis. I am the Chief Operating Officer here at Defra.
Could you tell us what Data Driven Defra mean to you?
Having the data, or relevant data, at my fingertips when needing to make decisions. But also ensuring that the data we have, we actually do something with it. Often you get reports and you know what’s going on. You see trends in the data and you have a lovely conversation and then you come back a year later, six months later, and you are still looking at similar insight from the data, and I feel disappointed that we haven’t actually done anything with that insight and driven changes. I want to drive the action and the work of Defra so that we are actually doing things differently as a result of the insights that our data gives about the work that we do.
Where do you see value in data and perhaps where do you not see value in data?
I would say a couple of areas one I want to know that it’s correct. I mean I will value the data if I know that I can count that it’s correct and I know there’s a lot of things that we need to do to make sure that we can rely on our data. Because we collect in so many different places then we have lots of people spend much of their energy trying to agree what the data actually is, and which one we can rely on. I guess, assuming that gets addressed, the next thing that I really look for is trends. Data out of context I find very difficult you know customer satisfaction this month was x – well my question is what was it last month and what was it a year ago? Are we sing it trending up or trending down? 89% maybe really good but if it’s down 5% on last month well actually maybe we have a problem. So data in context in trends is very helpful.
Data in of itself is interesting but insights and recommendations are also very very helpful. So the ‘so what?’; what are we doing as a result of this data, what is it telling us? Actionable insights is what I very much value.
Do you think Defra is well placed to be able to adopt and take advantage of new technologies?
I think we are definitely on our way to getting there. Right now, as you know many of our systems are fragmented across the organisation. As a result we hold data in different parts we can’t see and that fragmentation results in multiple versions of the truth. I know through UnITy [Defra’s project to disaggregate information technbology hardware and service supply] and some of the other work we are doing in the data field we are looking to join up our systems and create single repositories of data so that will enable us to do that going forward.
I am very confident that we are starting to make Defra a destination of choice in terms of the right technology, digital and data specialists and I’m really very confident in both the strategy we have to join up our systems and processes across the organisation, but also the fact that we are making great strides in bringing in the talent and capability to achieve that strategy.
It’s always about the people isn’t it, as well as the technology?
Very much so, and I think it’s incredible what the data team has done over the last year in terms of really generating huge amount of enthusiasm within Defra and across the rest of government about what being a data-driven Department could look like. Something that could be seen as a really dry subject, or something that data scientists do in a corner, but actually actually what the whole programme, the campaign has done in the last year is make this something that has engaged and inspired the whole organisation. I’ve been really impressed with that, and really humbled by how a group of really excited and inspired people have managed to capture the attention of so many people who might otherwise have not have thought a lot about data.