Pathway to City Scale Data Sharing

Full Application: Not funded at this stage

Problem Statement

Evidence and agreement exists about the benefits and opportunities to be gained from sharing data between public sector organisations. NESTA, INVOLVE and others have completed work tackling the ‘why’ question; outlining many potential benefits and risks.

The next stage for us is to understand how to take the rationale for linking and sharing data forwards, developing a roadmap towards an appropriate operating model that is applicable to authorities in different areas and with different structures. This requires a detailed understanding of potential contributors and users of data, types of data (personal and non-personal) and legal frameworks / requirements.  

Public sector organisations are producing and managing increasing amounts of city data. A crucial part of public sector / digital transformation is for these organisations to identify the most appropriate way to collaborate around data to deliver services that meet increasingly complex needs.


  1. Bring together existing frameworks and methods for city scale data sharing and apply them to different areas
  2. Develop existing frameworks towards including personal data sharing, with a focus on benefits, risks and data governance factors
  3. Consider appropriate operating models for delivery of city scale data sharing
  4. Engage with existing Offices Of Data Analytics (ODA), disseminate learnings from previous outputs and contribute to, or establish, a peer learning network.

A delivery manager will coordinate knowledge exchange and peer learning with an external consultant appointed to deliver the user research elements of the project.

Consultants will test through their internal and external user research the suitability of the Future Cities Catapult beta City Data Sharing Toolkit in Sheffield and NE Lincolnshire. This will result in insights, learning and improvements to the toolkit and develop understanding around its extension to personal as well as non-personal data.

User research will engage with Sheffield City Council and North East Lincolnshire Council officers, with city partner organisations; Police, Fire & Rescue, NHS, CCG and others. Establishing parameters for data sharing within the city moving forward and researching best practice.

We will use an agile project methodology, operating to the following approximate timetable.

Deadline Event / activity Milestone
Early Dec 18 Initial meeting: confirm objectives, methodology, outputs Initiation
Early-Mid Dec 18 Commissioning process for external partner to undertake user research External user research commissioning begins
Early-Mid Dec 18 Internal user research – desktop research undertaken internally Internal user research begins
Mid-Late Dec 18 Award external user research contract user research contract awarded
Mid Dec 18-Late Feb 19 Internal and external User research timetable drafted for interviews, site visits Commissioned internal / external user research begins
Early Mar 19 – Mid Mar 19 Analyse user research findings, explore options for data sharing operational model

Sense checking with sponsors and key partners  

Analysis and sense check of findings
Late Mar 19 Report released – options and recommendations for route map to improved data sharing Discovery outputs produced and shared

Objective / milestone monitoring will be carried out by the delivery manager using a framework developed at the outset, use of Trello will enable all involved in the project to track progress in real time.


The inability to adequately share data between organisations acts as a major obstacle to innovation, and has a cost burden for projects, programmes and organisations through the large amounts of officer resource required to identify and acquire relevant data. Significant opportunity costs are borne out of the long timescales and poor data quality of the outputs which can be developed with existing data sharing processes.

This project would allow us to understand patterns of data exchange for a range of cross cutting issues and questions:

  • Types of data that need to be shared
  • Relevant contact points within each organisation
  • Technical requirements
  • Techniques for record matching
  • Overcoming data quality issues
  • Legal and governance requirements
  • Measuring the benefits

This will allow us to take advantage of long term economies of scale, routinely making deep usage of the breadth of information we hold and that which is held by others to inform and improve day to day operations, specific questions and new problems. Broad areas of benefit have been identified with existing projects and workstreams that could be positively impacted and progressed, for example:

  1. Running a service more efficiently, e.g. understanding upstream information about patients in order to determine social care demand in the short, medium and long term, identifying possible savings to be made within the social care budget of around £110 million
  2. Measure effectiveness of interventions or services, e.g. the impact of investment in new service design for Adults with Complex Needs
  3. Ensuring services are properly targeted at need, e.g. timely understanding of child protection demand
  4. Ensure regulatory compliance / meet incoming statutory obligations, e.g. understanding the information governance landscape and preventing the need for multiple data sharing agreements for each project
  5. Development of outline operating models for delivery of city scale data sharing that other UK Local Authorities can learn and develop from.

We will use existing frameworks, draw on expertise of established ODAs and take advantage of best practice to ensure wide relevance of this work. By applying the same approach to Sheffield and NE Lincolnshire which have differing population size, organisational structure and commissioning arrangement we aim to extend applicability wider.

Collaboration tools such as Slack, Trello and Google Docs will be used to ensure transparency of process and thinking, and to allow efficient co-development of user research briefs and throughout development and delivery phases.

We will communicate with other councils in accordance with the Local Digital Declaration and collaborate on a regional/local basis through existing networks. We will share user research and test our thinking to ensure this meets the needs of partners. Progress and findings and  will be shared for verification and testing by others via social media, blogs and a launch event for the findings aimed at dissemination and discussion.

The project will produce specific outputs; user research report, business case and recommendations for how to progress a city data sharing mechanism. This work will also develop extended networks of relevant individuals within Sheffield and NE Lincolnshire this will, cross-organisationally link data professionals with data users. These networks will allow further dissemination of findings and extend the reach of this work.  

User Research Report

The user research report will bring together our intelligence gathering activities, particularly knowledge exchange and internal & external user research:

  1. Outlining likely users and use groups
  2. Understanding the current approach to data sharing and how this has developed
  3. Problems and frustrations with this approach
  4. How a data sharing approach needs to work

It is anticipated that user conversations will touch on a number of themes which will feed directly into the business case, e.g. legal and governance, types of questions / problems of interest, systems and data types, organisational structures and contact points.

Business Case

A business case for an appropriate delivery mechanism will give us a robust plan to get from our current, disjointed and time intensive data sharing approach to a transparent, systematic, intuitive and appropriate operating model, fit for purpose.

  1. Key challenges identified through external and internal user research
  2. Blockers which have prevented this approach previously and ways of overcoming them
  3. Recommendations for delivery including: sharing pathway and infrastructure options, how to approach cultural change and delivery models
  4. Costs associated with setting up an Office of Data Analytics (ODA)
  5. Savings which could be made through the development of a data sharing approach and where these savings would fall organisationally
  6. Investment prioritisation based on solid evidence and return on investment
  7. Timescales for the delivery of an ODA

User profile

The broad range of primary and secondary users of shared data at a city scale is at the heart of the problem. An improved understanding of who the likely users are, what they’re trying to do and how they’re trying to do it now, will be the first task of the user researchers.

Strategic role Facilitating role Analytical role Customer role
Head of Service Digital Services Office Data Analyst Frontline Officer
Chief Executive Chief Data Officer Data Scientist Business Analyst
Elected Leader Data Protection Officer Chief Data Officer Chief Executive
Chief Data Officer Legal Officer Elected Leader
Finance Officer Chief Data Officer
Information Management Officer Digital Services Officer
Frontline Data Request Officer


User engagement will be carried out through internal and external user research, carried out in two phases. Initially relevant individuals will be identified through consideration of the use cases. Users will be brought together to capture their experience of data sharing currently and how this can be improved and streamlined. Allowing discussion of current blocks to sharing will be vital. The second phase will allow the initial thinking to be discussed, revised and added to with the aim of reaching a user stories stage and filling outstanding gaps in knowledge. User sessions will be carried out in both Sheffield and NE Lincolnshire.  

User research objectives

To develop a coherent and peer validated set of users needs based on specific use cases:

  • Experience maps which represent interactions and needs at each stage of the process
  • User profiles describing groups with similar behaviours / needs

To progress from user needs to user stories enabling more in depth investigation of features, content and dependencies

Use of peer validation to determine where gaps in knowledge of the system or process exist.

Acting as a critical friend when we draft the user research brief would be helpful.

The Digital Leadership and Project Delivery training is a large and valuable part of this project.

This proposal is based on research and exploratory work intermittently undertaken over the last two years. However, no funding has been granted for the work undertaken or the work proposed.