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Although there are definitely benefits to having dedicated staff working from one physical location, most ODAs currently operate through a virtual hub, with analysts located in different services, allocated to projects on an ad hoc basis.

Here we outline the pros and cons of virtual and physical spaces, looking at who is using each approach:

Physical Hub

We observed this approach in The Office for Data Analytics - Avon and Somerset

Pros

  • It allows quick and easy communication between analysts
  • It can encourage good working relationships and inclusive practices
  • It breaks down organisational barriers
  • It can help give the ODA a sense of identity
  • It allows improved and consistent access to software and technology

Cons

  • A large investment may be needed to secure and maintain a space
  • Resources taken from other organisations may bring contractual challenges
  • Cultural differences between organisations may become more evident in a combined working space
  • Differences exist in data security and access for different types of service

Virtual Hub

Observed in the Worcestershire Office of Data Analytics, Suffolk Office of Data & Analytics, London Office of Technology and Innovation

Pros:

  • Lower cost
  • Number of resources is not limited or confined to a space
  • Shared resources can remain within own organisations, reducing contractual challenges
  • Data sharing capability is prioritised, e.g. need for good data sharing platform and information sharing protocols up front

Cons:

  • Culture and working practises are more difficult to develop
  • Communication can be more difficult
  • Organisations only have access to one source of software and tech
  • Potential for cross organisational project working is limited

Hybrid

Observed in the West Midlands Office of Data Analytics, Essex Centre for Data Analytics

Pros:

  • Allows quick and easy communication between analysts
  • Can begin to develop good working relationships
  • Can help give the ODA a sense of identity
  • Opportunities to introduce consistent software and technology for ad hoc working

Cons:

  • Can lead to inconsistent working practices
  • Only the ‘visible’ resources get recognised as the ODA resource

Authors

Michelle Eaton

Michelle Eaton

Michelle Eaton

Programme Manager

Michelle worked in the Government Innovation team on how the smarter use of data and technology can help civil society and public sector organisations deliver services, better.

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Camilla Bertoncin

Camilla Bertoncin

Camilla Bertoncin

Assistant Programme Manager, Government Innovation Team

Camilla is an Assistant Programme Manager in the Government Innovation Team.

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