In the know: using information to make better decisions - A discussion paper
Audit Commission for local authorities and the National Health Service in England
February 2008 -
Available online as PDF file [52p.] at:
“….This paper is not quite the same as other Audit Commission studies.
1. Instead of analyzing issues and presenting solutions, this paper aims to encourage people to think about the information they use whenever they make decisions. And because people have different roles, different skills and different backgrounds, there is no one approach that suits every situation.
2. The core argument is simple: the quality and cost of our public services depend upon the decisions that many, many people make. The public, professionals, managers and politicians all make decisions that affect public services. If they could all make better use of information about those services in decision making, the services themselves would improve.
3. This paper has many examples of how information has been used in improving public services, including reducing fly-posting by 90 per cent, reducing the number of young people not in education, employment or training and increasing library membership by 58 per cent.
4. There are many examples in the private sector where companies have developed a competitive edge by exploiting information. For example, Tesco has tracked the shopping habits of up to 13 million British families for more than a decade through its Clubcard, making good use of a lot of data on customers and their behaviour
5. This simple argument is widely recognised in government and elsewhere. For example, the 2006 Local Government White Paper (Ref. 2) said that the new performance regime would provide: ‘clear information – for citizens, local authorities, partners and Government – about delivery in an area, including comparability with performance in other areas.’
6. But this simple argument hides a complex truth: the information available when a decision is made will never be as relevant, complete, accurate or timely as might be desired, and those who make decisions are often ill-equipped to draw appropriate conclusions from whatever is available. As a result, information can often mislead decision makers, and centrally driven demands for performance information can have unintended, negative consequences at a local level….”
1. Introduction for managers of public services
2. Better information, better decisions, better performance
3. Decisions, decisions
4. Information, information, information: relevance, quality and presentation
5. Only the start
Appendix 1: Definitions
Appendix 2: Examples of good use of information by the private sector
Appendix 3: References
Appendix 4: Methodology
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