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Are you optimising your data ecosystem?

A data ecosystem is essentially a network of interconnected parties that work together to manage, distribute, and utilise data. A typical data ecosystem includes players such as; data providers who generate the data; data users who will have various goals and uses for the data; data managers who maintain and process the data; and data intermediaries, who play a crucial role in facilitating data exchange, ensuring that the right data reaches the right players.

Data providers play an important role in setting the frequency of data updates. If achieving the required outcomes requires greater volume and frequency of updates, it’s crucial to support data providers in playing their role, understanding that this may cause them an additional burden, which could lead to data quality issues. 

Data users will be making decisions based on insights from the data, and therefore are expecting high data quality. They may have differing needs and levels of data literacy, so it is important to carry out user research and design work, to ensure that outputs are being delivered in a way that users are truly gaining value from. 

In some cases, data providers and users can be the same parties. We worked with the Department for Education (DfE) as part of the team leading the development of an attendance data ecosystem. Under this scenario, schools played both of these roles, which creates unique considerations. Schools were expecting to see processed data coming back to them with the same internal coded values that they sent out, while users that handled aggregated data (such as internal DfE analysts and local authorities) would want values from all schools to be translated into a standard common coding system. 

Data managers have a responsibility to ensure data is secure, both during processing and when being presented back to users. Security is vital, as confidence from the entire ecosystem is required to keep everyone collaborating actively, which ultimately leads to the best outcomes for everyone. At the DfE, we supported the build of external user-facing dissemination platforms, as well as internal analyst systems, ensuring that data governance was applied correctly in all scenarios, balancing usability with privacy.

Data intermediaries are hugely beneficial to data ecosystems. They can aid in standardising data; in ensuring control over data privacy; and in both creating the introductions and facilitating the connections that unlock valuable partnerships. Within the education data ecosystem, Wonde, a data sync platform, are instrumental in allowing schools to share their data, with the confidence that they remain in full control; while enabling third parties to build tools that make innovative use of this data to support school’s objectives.

Developing a data ecosystem presents unique challenges, including the need for extensive collaboration, ensuring data quality, maintaining robust privacy and developing with the various needs of an extensive set of users in mind. While these are complex challenges to navigate, good user research and design can mitigate them. User research provides a deep understanding of the needs, behaviours, and motivations of the different players in the data ecosystem. By exploring the roles, interactions, and concerns of these players, we can identify potential barriers to data sharing and uncover opportunities for enhancing the use of data. Thoughtful design, subsequently ensures that the insights gathered from user research are effectively translated into the final products; playing a critical role in the creation of intuitive and accessible interfaces that cater to the various skill levels and needs of the players within the ecosystem. Innovations in artificial intelligence are poised to aid in developing data ecosystems, accelerating processes with automation and enhancing data quality through machine learning algorithms. Distributed ledger technologies like blockchain, may also cause disruption, offering exciting new ways to manage data privacy and integrity.

We stay abreast of these tech trends and seek to incorporate cutting-edge solutions where they add real value.

Because of their wide-reaching nature, data ecosystems hold immense potential for driving positive outcomes. At Future Arc, we’ve shown how careful, user-focused design, and an understanding of the latest technologies, can result in services that harness the full potential of data ecosystems. We specialise in partnering with organisations that are keen to drive positive change using data. If you’re a decision-maker eager to leverage data ecosystems to drive innovation, enhance efficiency, or simply gain a competitive edge, we’re here to guide you through that journey.