Xero, Bill English and the power of data

NZ Herald reported this month how Sir Bill English’s skills are in demand by the Trump Administration as it moves to leverage US Federal data as a strategic asset to grow the economy.

The former PM and Finance Minister is taking American officials through the ground-breaking integrated government data system he spearheaded in New Zealand.

“I just spent a week in the States talking about integrated data,” he told a finance dinner on Wednesday.

The Federal Data Strategy is one of the initiatives that New Zealand-born Christopher Liddell helped to scope in his initial appointment as an assistant to the President. Liddell is now a deputy chief of staff to Trump and is heavily engaged in marshalling policy across the board.

English says because New Zealand is a “cohesive, single jurisdiction”, it is possible to get a comprehensive integrated data system “which is pretty powerful” in place relatively quickly.

Obviously Statistics NZ has comprehensive data posted on its website. But it is how that data is mined together with other data from within government agencies to provide meaningful insights enabling a government to make strategic policy moves which is the determinant factor.

English gives as an example the risk factors associated with the thousands of kids who have a dad in prison. “The cohort born in 1978, every second Māori and Polynesian male born in that year, has a criminal conviction. It’s unbelievable that is right at the core of your social chaos that generates so much, fiscal costs, but more importantly, so much misery.”

NZ Federal Data Strategy website acknowledges that the use of data is transforming the world.

It says Federal Government data has a unique place in society and maintaining trust in that data is pivotal to a democratic process.

A robust, integrated approach to using data to deliver on mission, serve customers and steward resources while respecting privacy and confidentiality.

The project is at the stage of developing principles. An action plan will be rolled out in 2019.

English is building his governance book and is in strong demand as a director. He indicates that it is not simply the White House which is interested in the pioneering work that was generated on his watch. Other governments have also been in touch, their interest sparked by a unique model. Not simply the integrated data but also the application of investment concepts to social policy.

Another example from the bottom one per cent in New Zealand is the group of kids who are “million-dollar babies”.

That’s the amount of public services in dollar terms they will soak up. He would like the coalition Government to further develop the techniques pioneered on his watch, pointing to the fact that about 80 per cent of sole parents who are under 20 come from a benefit household.

Targeted policies, including help to get them back into school and sharing houses, have helped reduce the number from 4600 to 2500.

At the core of the English approach is getting the Government to organise around its customers, or clients rather than suppliers, instead of applying a universal approach.

“You can’t change the ageing population but you can changes lives. When you see a million-dollar baby, well you put that in front of anybody and they want do something about it.”

How big data is being put to work in small business

Automation is taking over tasks that are dull, dangerous or dirty, according to Xero Australia Managing Director Trent Innes. Speaking at Xerocon South this year he explained how big data is transforming the way industries make decisions – aggregating a higher volume of structured and unstructured data than ever before.

“The opportunity to access a more complex consumer picture may sound like a run-of-the-mill development, but its impact is very real and far-reaching. Broader-range insights are rewriting key business touchpoints – improving customer experiences, business efficiencies and the hard-earned competitive edge,” Innes said.

In the past 12 months, Xero has processed more than $1 trillion of transactions. Working with more than 700,000 customers around the world, Xero now has a powerful aggregated data set that can be used to help small businesses and their advisors transform the way they work.

“We can start to use big data to help inform government policy and make small business stronger,” Innes said.

The key to moving small businesses forward is ensuring they have access to the right tools, no matter their size. Xero can give small businesses another way to see what’s going on across their business. It’s a real example of how big data is being utilised in small business.

Information is what enables businesses to make smart, informed decisions but bringing information together efficiently and effectively into a form that’s simple to digest and understand takes time and can become very costly. Understanding the true value of data, the ability to extract insights and the story it paints around the true health of a business is key.

“The drive toward this modern data set gives small businesses a stronger frame of reference than ever before. Used smartly, agile businesses can put big data to work to uncover real-time insights and trends, improve predictability and focus, enable the automation of repetitive tasks, and ultimately, create happier customers,” Innes said.

Alliotts in Auckland is a NZ Top 30 accounting firm with a team of dedicated, experienced Chartered Accountants and business advisers passionate about helping businesses grow and succeed. Contact us now for a free trial or to speak with one of our Xero certified advisors about how to get the most out of Xero cloud accounting in your business.

Source: Xero; nzherald.co.nz article by Fran O’Sullivan, Head of Business NZME. First published on 3 November 2018 – https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=12153631