How data can help governments deal with uncertainty

By Workday

Interview with Rob Wells, President, Asia, Workday.

It’s hard to imagine how governments could have fought Covid-19 without data. Singapore hospitals used it to predict bottlenecks; West Java researchers used it to convince officials to go into a lockdown; and Taiwan used it to map local mask availability.

This required good datasets. The data had to be consolidated, standardised, and translated into insights for it to be useful. Governments have more access to data today than ever before, and they need proper ways to make sense of it.

Rob Wells, President of Asia at Workday, shares how organisations can manage their data to remain resilient in the face of rapid changes.

The trouble with digital

“The public sector traditionally had perceptions of being slow and bureaucratic, weighed down by inefficient paper-based processes and legacy systems in a rapidly digitalising world,” Wells says. For instance, Japan only recently announced that it would get rid of the personalised hanko seal in almost 15,000 government processes, freeing them up to go digital, The Financial Times reported.

Going digital means governments have to deal with a lot more data. Whatever they collect has to be consolidated, curated and translated into useful insights.

“Large organisations and governments often also have to work at much larger scales and have to manage a whole host of data: financial data, people data and operational data, often all in disjointed and disparate silos,” Wells explains.

Governments have to juggle expanding data troves with citizen trust, especially with the increasing intersection between the public and private sectors, he says. “Requirements for data governance, privacy and security are constantly evolving and organisations may not have sufficient data literacy or core skills within their workforce for managing these data banks well.”

Workday helps organisations pool together their data from across disparate sources to give decision makers all the key information they need. This has helped leaders prepare for the future and improve operations.

Insights for the future

Workday People Analytics allows organisations to gain deeper insights into their workforce. It picks up on patterns, highlights the most important shifts and breaks them down into simple next steps in natural language, wrote Global News Wire. This is done automatically, so HR spends more time on strategies than data processing.

For instance, HR teams can use this tool to study employee movements in the pandemic, as companies dispersed their workforce across office spaces. They can then optimise resources based on worker costs.

The tool also reveals why workers are leaving the organisation and suggests policy changes to retain talent. It can identify bottlenecks in the current hiring process as well, allowing organisations to speed up recruitment.

Workforce training can benefit from analytics too. Workday People Analytics studies employee performance to flag those with high potential for growth. HR can then design training programmes to develop existing talent.

Streamline internal operations

Data isn’t just important for improving citizen services, it can also help governments streamline internal processes so they become more effective. For instance, data can help agencies assess and attract the best talent, and identify core skills needed within their workforce and develop the necessary training, Wells explains.

But organisations need “a cohesive and integrated system of business applications in place that can make sense of this data and translate it into accurate information”, he adds. Otherwise, data will only remain a string of numbers.

Governments around the world are using Workday to improve finance and HR management. Clark County in the US used to rely heavily on hardcopy documents for state government processes. This was painful and slow - officials needed coding knowledge to make changes, so the IT staff were the only ones who could create reports.

Clark County then turned to Workday Financial Management and Workday Human Capital Management. These could be easily integrated with its existing treasury and banking management systems, saving officials precious time in getting data from multiple sources.

The county managed to combine 75 separate data sources onto one digital platform. Not only did staff complete payrolls 60 per cent more quickly and onboard new staff in half the time, the country successfully cut unapproved spending by 15 per cent.

Workday’s services have been helpful for regional businesses too. Grab, one of Southeast Asia’s leading private transport providers, used its HR management tools to track the amount of time employees were spending at work.

Maxis, one of the largest telcos in Malaysia, found value in Workday’s HR tools as well. “It’s very intuitive and it’s very easy to use,” said Tricia Lim, Head of Talent at Maxis. The company uses the HR data collected by Workday for predictive analysis, so they can improve employee engagement and experience, she shared.

“While Workday’s platforms mainly address finance and human capital, the overarching principle of simplifying processes where feasible should be the end-goal for many organisations in achieving true digital agility and transformation,” Wells says. Governments will need to understand their data, people and internal goings-on well in order to better serve the people.