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Data Quality

Corporate Policy & Performance Team logo


Why is data quality important?


Data and performance indicators are not a ‘tick box’ compliance issue, but part of day to day planning, management of services and good decision making. Data should be presented in a way that people understand and value, thus all data needs to be of good quality and this is a core responsibility of all concerned.


Birmingham City Council is accountable for the public money it spends. The key contextual, financial and performance information published internally or externally (to users, partners, commissioners, government departments and regulators) must be accurate and reliable.


Nationally, considerable time and money is spent on collecting and analysing performance data – to secure its accuracy we carry out our own checks and balances but government appointed auditors also make checks and take a tough line with those who do not publish accurate data. Various causes include the national measures chosen (which in the past have been open to interpretation and are frequently changed) and data not being ‘owned’ by the management of an organisation and so not collected in a rigorous way.


Government has introduced a national suite of performance indicators which measure outcomes for Birmingham and our people (economy, health, etc). These indicators often require us to work in partnership with each partner needed to report progress against the agreed outcomes. This need for reliable data becomes more critical, Non-compliance increasingly carries financial penalties.


What is good quality data?


The following are the 6 characteristics of good quality data, as defined by the Audit Commission:


Accuracy – Data should be sufficiently accurate for its intended purposes, representing clearly and in sufficient detail the interaction provided at the point of activity. Data should be captured once only, although it may have multiple uses. Accuracy is most likely to be secured if data is captured as close to the point of activity as possible. Reported information that is based on accurate data provides a fair picture of performance and should enable informed decision making at all levels. The need for accuracy must be balanced with the importance of the uses for the data, and the costs and effort of collection. For example, it may be appropriate to accept some degree of inaccuracy where timeliness is important. Where compromises have to be made on accuracy, the resulting limitations of the data should be clear to its users


Validity - Data should be recorded and used in compliance with relevant requirements, including the correct application of any rules or definitions. This will ensure consistency between periods and with similar organisations. Where proxy data is used to compensate for an absence of actual data, organisations must consider how well this data is able to satisfy the intended purpose.


Reliability – Data should reflect stable and consistent data collection processes across collection points and over time, whether using manual or computer-based systems, or a combination. Managers and stakeholders should be confident that progress toward performance targets reflects real changes rather than variations in data collection approaches or methods.


Timely – Data should be captured as quickly as possible after the event or activity and must be available for the intended use within a reasonable time period. Data must be available quickly and frequently enough to support information needs and to influence the appropriate level of service or management decisions.


Relevant – Data captured should be relevant to the purposes for which it is used. This entails periodic review of requirements to reflect changing needs. It may be necessary to capture data at the point of activity which is relevant only for other purposes, rather than for the current intervention. Quality assurance and feedback processes are needed to ensure the quality of such data


Complete – Data requirements should be clearly specified based on the information needs of the organisation and data collection processes matched to these requirements. Monitoring missing, incomplete, or invalid records can provide an indication of data quality and can also point to problems in the recording of certain data items.


How do the Audit Commission assess our data quality?


The Audit Commission assessed our data quality as 'adequate' in 2008 and we are working hard to improve this assessment. In particular, our Excellence in Information Management business transformation stream will help to raise our data quality towards excellence.


How can i find out more?


If you wish to learn more about what Birmingham City Council is doing to ensure the quality of its data, please contact the Performance Management Team



Email: performance@birmingham.gov.uk

or


Telephone: 0121 675 5614


or


Write to us at : The Council House, Room 89, Victoria Square, Birmingham, B1 1BB

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