How to get insight from public sector content

How to get insight from public sector content

Few people would argue that there is more content in existence than at any other time in history. Not only are there piles (physical and digital) of content in public sector departments already, but new content is coming through the door in ever-increasing volumes. That content comes in a broad variety of different formats too, which makes managing it a much harder task than previously and also has an impact on a public sector department’s ability to extract meaningful insight from this content.
The public sector is undoubtedly keen to explore the potential of the data and content it holds. The UK open data initiative is where government opens up for greater public usage the large volumes of data it holds. This has been generally acknowledged as a positive step – transparent, innovative and with improved governance – but it also contributes to the content stockpiles that abound in the public sector. Yet getting the most possible value from data and content is by no means a straightforward process. Making sense of it all is becoming a major challenge for businesses and public sector bodies in 2015. And that’s not even factoring in the enormous volumes of ‘dark data’ that already reside in most organisations.

Content analytics – an essential tool?
At AIIM we recently conducted research with executives from the public and private sectors in the US and UK about content analytics – the analysis and deriving of insight from in-bound and legacy content – and three-quarters of respondents said there is real insight to be gained from content analytics. Six in 10 said it will be essential within five years’ time, further highlighting its position as a technology that adds true value to an organisation.
Content analytics is also seen as increasingly important to addressing risks associated with incorrectly identified content. Respondents felt auto-classification of content helps protect against security breaches, sensitive or offensive content, and exposure to compliance regulations. More than half of respondents feel that their organisation is at considerable risk from such threats.
The public sector is arguably much more at risk than those operating in the private sector. Generally speaking, the technology being used to manage content in the public sector is not as up-to-date as that within enterprises. A combination of bureaucracy and budget constraints over the past five or six years, often means public sector departments have to deal with out-dated systems, that are not as useful as when they were first created and cannot cope with the volume and variety of modern content. Older systems simply weren’t designed to accommodate the huge amount of unstructured data, and are not capable of storing and managing it effectively.
But the benefits of content analytics are huge. Automated classification is taking over boring and time-intensive tasks like filing, and in doing so, helping to clean up redundant ‘dark data’ and improving the searchability of everything else.

Organisational insight
AIIM first reported on content analytics and its use in the public sector five years ago. Our subsequent reports picked up on the big data theme, or ‘big content’ as we prefer to call it. The problem then, as it is now, is to come up with a picklist of the most common applications. Then it was mostly based on blue-sky thinking: what would be the most useful thing for your business to know?
Now we have a much more established set of applications, although that is not to say that there aren’t plenty of innovative uses of content analytics in the public sector yet to come.
Now, as then, help-desk logs and CRM reports are the most popular source for analysis, picking up on customer experience, and a little further down, the free-form comment fields from feedback forms. Next come HR applications, particularly screening résumés for match with job specifications. Web accessible databases figure highly for plans-in-place, and this is often a curated feed, or might be a check of publicly available data.
Incoming customer communications and help-desk streams also top the list for live or near-time alerting, along with an increasing interest in media channels and news feeds. There is, quite rightly, much interest in what citizens are saying on a public sector organisation’s external social streams, whist areas such as CCTV have their place too, but this is obviously a more difficult type of technology to classify and extract insight from.
With citizens increasingly using social media to talk about and with, public sector organisations, the importance of monitoring these fast-moving streams has soared in the past few years, and as a result many organisations have implemented a monitoring mechanism (64 per cent) but only 14 per cent have an automated system. Relying on designated staff to alert the right department when complaints (or praise) show up can be somewhat hit-and-miss, and the speed of response can be crucial in these situations.
Automated monitoring using sentiment analysis is a much more reliable way to alert the appropriate people to make a response and is something that public sector departments will rely on more and more, as social channels become the de facto way of interacting with a local council, especially with younger more socially-savvy generations.

Improving content analytics
But despite contact analytics’ potential for adding true insight to the content held by a public sector department, 80 per cent of our survey respondents are yet to allocate a senior role to initiate and coordinate analytics applications. This lack of designated leadership and also a shortfall of analytics skills is restricting the potential and holding back the deployment of content analytics tools, according to almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of the research respondents.
So just how can public sector departments best get around this shortfall of skills and leadership? And with content analytics becoming important in both managing risk and making the most of opportunity, how do organisations go about making it work for them? Encouragingly, most of our research respondents expect to spend more on content analytics over the next 12 months, with the strongest growth to be found in enhanced or contextual search, analytics for business insight, and automated classification tools or modules.
That is a positive sign indeed, but any organisation should also be mindful of the following seven ways to improve their content analytics. Firstly, organisations should consider metadata correction agents - if your content or records management deployment is stalled due to poor decisions early on regarding classification, metadata and taxonomies, or if you are migrating content from multiple repositories to a single system, metadata correction agents can sort ROT from valuable content, and align content types and metadata.
Secondly, organisations should ensure contextual search is properly tuned – and also that your employees know how to use it. If you are reliant on more basic search, consider improving the searchability, and therefore the value of your content, by correcting and enhancing the metadata using analytic agents.
Additionally, aim for full auto-classification. Unless your staff are more diligent and consistent at declaring, classifying and tagging records than many are, consider providing full auto-classification, or at the very least, auto-classification assistance. Be aware that your information governance policies need to be updated and consistent as they will provide the rules for automated agents.
Risk exposure
Organisations should aim to take control of their emails. If you have no archive, or the archive is ‘file and forget’ you are not only losing potential corporate knowledge, but are also exposing the business to risk, and creating a potential e-discovery nightmare.
On top of this, using retention policies to control increasing storage requirements is important. Accurate metadata and enforced retention policies are the only way to limit storage, but will also improve your compliance and risk exposure. In addition, organisations should implement a digital mailroom philosophy. Inbound content handling can rapidly overload process staff, and reduce speed of response to citizens. Implementing a digital mailroom philosophy, and using automated recognition, routing and data extraction will address this.
Finally, reviewing where content analytics can really help is crucial. Organisations should look across the range of your activities to see where content analytics could provide insight to understand citizen needs and improve service delivery.
Extracting insight from data and content is a significant challenge for the public sector, and utilising content analytics technologies can play a major role in meeting that challenge. With the right strategy, content can be used  to better understand citizens and improve service delivery, showing just why so many involved in the public sector believe content analytics will be essential in just five years’ time.

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