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The relevance of data analysis and visualization for local governments

This article describes the rise of business intelligence in private companies, and how its importance quickly became apparent to public authorities.

What exactly is business intelligence (BI)?

A quick search tells us that business intelligence is best described as a technology-driven approach to analyzing data and bringing information together that can be used immediately. Employees of the organization are able to make decisions with more (and better) knowledge.

In practice, this means taking a broad view of the organization and using data to monitor inefficiencies, monitor changes and respond quickly to changing market conditions.

The rapid rise of BI worldwide

Tableau (Salesforce), Qlik, Quicksight (Amazon), Power BI (Microsoft)… These are just a few names that indicate that BI is mainly made possible by the big Big-Tech players from America. In a fragmented market, Microsoft manages to position itself again as the winner in the business software domain with Power BI, this time in the segment “Analytics and BI platforms” (Gartner, 2021).

Power BI in the data visualization landscape

What started as a visualization tool on top of Excel eventually became a very comprehensive, standalone platform. In addition to various visualization techniques, Microsoft distinguishes itself from the rest with the introduction of advanced technologies (language detection, NLP, detecting anomalies…), without sacrificing ease of use.

According to research by SelectHub, 72% of organizations view business intelligence as important, very important or critical to the organization. Local governments are also one of the largest users of BI platforms worldwide. We will read why this is the case in the next section.

BI for local authorities

Local authorities are the ideal target group for BI platforms because there are a number of elements that make these organizations unique. The regulatory framework, for example. Many procedures are laid down by law, and reporting also stems from legal requirements, whereby certain information must be reported periodically. A second element is the (usually) decentralized nature of these organizations, where credits are managed by individual budget holders and the validation of incoming invoices follows a structured process.

But how do BI platforms translate into added value for the organisation?

a. Time saving

In the past, a lot of time was spent analyzing data via unwieldy export lists. The rise of Business Intelligence tools is putting an end to this. Employees and persons with ultimate responsibility indicate which data they want to see, and the data analysts get to work on the construction of various graphs, maps, tables and other visuals.

b. Proactive debugging

Duplicate bookings, duplicate payments, changed account numbers… These are just a few examples of things that can be detected by using BI software. Note that the definitions “ex. what is a double booking” must always be provided by the developer, and that there must therefore be sufficient communication between the developer and the end user.

c. Research on improvements

User-friendly analytics tools are increasingly becoming the norm for organizations in both the private and public sectors. Investigating where improvements (operational, financial, process) are possible enables an organization to continuously optimize its services.

d. Increased transparency to management

As the saying goes, “you can't improve what you don't measure”, obtaining detailed information about internal processes is a requirement to be able to tackle and improve these processes.

The basis of good reporting is a correct representation of the current situation. Confidence in the accuracy of the data is crucial here.

So many possible benefits, but how do you, as an organization, get started with the integration of Power BI in your way of working? Read our blog about the implementation of new software or contact someone from the team directly via Good luck in advance!


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