Data is the ‘fabric’ on which better decision-making can take place in business.

That’s according to Catherine Brien, data science director at Co-op Digital, which is one of a number of organisations “grappling to join the dots” between different data sets.

Brien was recruited to the Co-op by Mike Bracken, former head of the Government Digital Service, who announced his departure from the group in June 2017 after less than two years.

He was tasked with carrying out a root and branch review of the Co-op’s digital strategy after it was widely acknowledged that the 173-year-old organisation had been slow to embrace the digital revolution.

“We lost our way, that is well documented and we’re coming out the other side of that,” said Brien, who took part in a recent digital summit called by Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham.

Brien said the Co-op would be using data ethically.

“One of our founding things that is dear to our heart is we can be trusted, we rely on and are trusted by our members,” said Brien.

“How that manifests in a data world is something that we’re putting huge amounts of research into. The Co-op is owned by our members. It should be their data, they should have a say in how it’s used.

“I think data for me is the fabric that can underpin great decision-making, the ability to spot patterns whether you are working for a commercial organisation or a not-for-profit or in government. 

“If an organisation was founded in the last ten years it’s probably architected itself, so it’s got a really good data architecture underpinning it that makes life a lot easier.

“For those of us that weren’t, most organisations are grappling with 'how do I join the dots between that data and other data'. Because when you join the dots suddenly new patterns come up.”

Wigan Council deputy chief executive Alison McKenzie-Folan says politicians should become less risk averse and use data to make savings and support people.

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