Cognos hears London calling

Business intelligence made The City of London more fiscally efficient, now it hopes the software will make the Ontario city safer.

The municipal government has used Cognos

business intelligence (BI) solutions for three years to improve access to financial and operational performance data across most of its departments. It announced Wednesday it is implementing BI in the police services division as well.

London systems administrator Brian Whitelaw says officials felt the solution played a role in other departments’ improved efficiency and could now help the police bring better protection services to the community.

“”We’re developing a PowerPlay cube for (police services) that allows them to track crimes, statistical data for crimes, where the police are at the time, response times, and various other things,”” he says.

Public and private sector organizations are familiar with the traditional uses of BI in the financial and accounting reporting and management. They’re finding that it can also be applied to the day to day operations of a department, providing clues to how those processes can be tightened, says Cognos director of public sector solutions Terence Atkinson.

Atkinson points to the city of Albuquerque, NM, where the police department is using Cognos software to track crime statistics and broadcast them through an e-government site. Residents, or anyone else who’s interested, can find out what crimes are on the rise, which neighbourhoods are safest and other similar public safety issues, he says.

The London, UK, fire department is also using the solution, Atkinson says. It is using statistical information on where false alarms are most frequently coming from to better prepare the firefighters for dealing with those calls.

“”The value for them is that it increases their readiness and responsiveness for other fires and lowers their costs,”” he says.

Business Intelligence solutions are fast becoming a critical performance management tool, Atkinson explains. Initially allowing better insight and transparency into the business. As better understanding and more historical information is gathered, historical trends and performance levels can be evaluated.

“”With police services, they can compare police or fire 911 response,”” Atkinson says. “”Let’s say that if you place a 911 call the average response time is 9 minutes. How does that compare to the average for cities of our size?””

Whitelaw explains that the city turned to the Cognos solution three years ago in an attempt to free its employees from having to rely on IT department generated performance reports.

“”Now they have reports that allow them to drill down and look at any detail they want,”” he says.

The market has been kind to Cognos, Atkinson says, because its solutions enable the kind of insight critical in times of economic uncertainty.

“”I think we tend to underestimate the value that governments would place on efficiency and performance,”” he says. “”But around the world governments are being called to task about how they’re spending their money and how they need to be more efficient how they deliver services to their constituents.””

That increased scrutiny is making government departments’ search for tools that will help them understand how their organization is performing, and BI is becoming their tool of choice, Atkinson says.

Whitelaw and the City of London agree. They are going full steam ahead with the police services rollout which should be completed by the end of this fiscal quarter.


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