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“The measure of good analysis is not just answering the question but asking a new one.”

Yusuf Ermak, Head of Public Sector Analytics, KPMG in the UK, talks to us about how technology-enabled analytics can unlock the information insights public sector organizations need to transform.

We met Yusuf at the UK firm’s Canary Wharf offices in London. In this interview Yusuf talks about the role of advanced technologies in transformation and how the information insights they reveal is helping public sector clients plan for a very different future.

Let’s start with how you believe advanced technologies, like artificial intelligence, can help clients add value?

Yusuf Ermak: The key driver of any sort of technology is how useful it is. ChatGPT is taking the world by storm with its natural language interface, many people find it useful. In essence it’s data analytics modelling done on a monumental scale. It is one thing for technology to do impressive things, it is another for it to improve our lives. That’s where I see my role — working out how to use these amazing technologies to do valuable things.

What’s KPMG’s approach to delivering tech-enabled transformation?

Yusuf Ermak: Typically, public sector clients know they have a problem and may have answers to one or two aspects of it. But they need expertise and experience across all areas to create a coherent approach.

As a multidisciplinary firm KPMG in the UK has experts who have worked in and know about almost every sector. We also have people who understand technology, what it can do and what you can build with it. It’s the marriage of these two that I believe makes a difference.

My approach, like that of the team, is to solve problems and open up great opportunities. In most cases technology will be part of the answer but leading with that creates a bias towards an approach where the problem may not have been not fully understood.

At KPMG we can advise you on what route you can take, the technology required to do it, and then use the capabilities we have to help you make it happen.

“That’s where I see my role – working out how to use these amazing technologies to do valuable things.”

How does KPMG help build the trust that’s essential for planning long-term public sector projects?

Yusuf Ermak: TWe listen to clients and seek to really understand what they need to do. There’s always more to do. I think that the measure of good analysis is not just answering the question but asking a new one.

Everybody has systems that can deal with massive amounts of data but it’s another thing to use these systems to address complex problems.

For example, KPMG in the UK have developed a strategic workforce planning solution for the NHS that enables them to look 10 to 15 years in advance, in detail. We did so by bringing together our understanding of the NHS’s challenges and our knowledge of modern technology and its potential.

The technology behind this has to manage millions of rows of data with potentially billions of combinations. So, we’re using cloud technology. Then there’s the coding required to add the necessary rules, such as how much should this workforce grow? It also needed a user-friendly interface where non-technical people could easily add data. Modern data visualization software then brings all this to life, so it’s easy to tell a story with the data and try out different scenarios, such as the effects of adopting new technology on reducing the hospital administration burden.

Yusuf Ermak
Yusuf Ermak

Can technology make a difference by playing a crucial role in creating approaches that change the way we behave?

Yusuf Ermak: Yes. Technology can deliver the information insights we need to develop exciting new services, for example the Bus Open Data Service. It is focused on collecting bus data for the whole country to create route-planning services that had previously only been available in London.

KPMG in the UK designed the service, built it and run it. We also interact with the stakeholders who give the data and the people who are going to build other services using that data.

The information insights it delivers can change how we live. It has in Germany, where people build their behaviour around buses because they have good quality information.

We are trying to create the same across the UK, where people know when the bus is going to come so they can plan their journeys. They can also plan their lives to use the bus instead of the car or a cab, because it’s a service that will give them a good experience.

Is user training and capability development a big part of gaining acceptance for tech-enabled transformation?

Yusuf Ermak: However advanced the technology. it amounts to nothing if people don’t know how to use it. About 30% of project time may be allocated to training. As one of the largest learning providers in Europe, KPMG firms can also help clients develop the capabilities of their teams so that they can do things themselves.

For example, our analytics learning programme is bringing together the things that are great about consultancy – listening skills, presentation skills, and soft skills in managing people and working with stakeholders — with all that a great analyst needs to have, from database to data visualisation skills.

As a difference maker in KPMG, where do you believe you make the most difference?

Yusuf Ermak: I often reflect on how can I bring the most value. As the partner lead for the UK firm’s public sector data analytics practice I have a team of 45 people working on projects for healthcare, transport, policing, education, central and local government clients as well as all manner of public sector bodies. How do I get everybody in my team to perform at their best? There’s an individual aspect: I can inspire them, get them excited about what they can do, share my experience, and so on. There’s also a group aspect of encouraging diversity within the team, so there are differences in thought, background, and skill sets. It doesn’t mean everyone agreeing. A measure of diversity is disagreement. Disagreement is exciting. One thing I encourage in our team is that it’s fine to see things differently and disagree, just respect each other. After all, an idea that isn’t tested or challenged isn’t necessarily going to be the best.

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