A challenge for businesses and public-sector organisations is making sense of huge amounts of data churned out by their computer systems and captured from the internet. Attempts to boost performance by analysing this has produced a multi-billion pound industry in 'big data'.
One approach to making sense of this data is to look at economic geography, i.e. using software to assess the strengths and weaknesses of a town or city based on economic and social criteria.
To harness this, some UK-based outsourcing companies and councils are using software owned by Grant Thornton (GT) to compare their city against others, and help them work out how to improve their economy, society and environment.
Developed by Local Futures Group, which GT bought in February, the software gives a city a rating of between 'A' to 'E' based on 20 criteria including its economy, its residents skills, health, crime and deprivation.
The software collates data from about 130 sources, such as the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and census and checks its accuracy before analysing it.
John Fisher, GT director, said around 100 organisations use the software, mainly councils but also large outsourcing companies that work in the public sector.
Fisher added it can produce 35-page reports for a client in less than five minutes. The software populates data in a template and writes 'intelligent text' (for example, council X has a strong economy with an above-average employment in the private sector, but a relatively low skilled workforce), based on a comparison with other councils.
Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of a council is a "useful tool" for partners at accounting firms before...