Two years ago the Public Health Evidence & Intelligence team at Hertfordshire Country Council numbered 5, fast forward to today and the team have built their capability to 32 competent R users.
For Manager Will Yuill, it’s been an extremely busy few years as the urgency of the COVID-19 crisis took hold. The team’s workload doubled overnight, leading to extensive data sharing and analysis of daily infection rates to a range of partnership organisations. Within a week of infection rates hitting the UK, they were being asked to reprioritise workloads, model the pandemic and make recommendations locally on how to limit the spread of infection.
With a team largely using Excel or a desktop version of R, Will knew changes had to be made to keep up with the quantity and speed of data and to maintain efficiency across the team. Met with these challenges, the team knew they had to consider an outsourcing partnership to meet their immediate and long-term objectives.
In this blog, Will Yuill, Manager of the Public Health Evidence & Intelligence team at Hertfordshire Country Council, informs us of his challenges and just how his team have dramatically developed their remit, developed their internal capability whilst strengthened stakeholder collaboration across vital health partnerships to actively reduce the spread of the virus.
The teams’ blockers:
- Software – R was not supported internally
- Hardware – only able to use R on low power VM’s
- Skills – predominantly an academic team , R skills were not applied
- Culture – limited opportunity to try new things with IT
- Capacity – limited time to try new things
How I built my case for R
“Some of the team members were more familiar with using R, having exhausted the capability of Excel, so in our search for an immediate solution – an R environment seemed a logical solution. Our IT teams were Windows focused and didn’t have the capacity or skills required to support an internal Linux environment. Their priority was to support the council’s migration to home working.
Before committing to an outsourced partnership, the team had tried high specification laptops to help resolve the immediate challenges of managing data sets but were hindered by with IT corporate policy and firewalls. However, they simply could not meet our sharing analysis needs or compliance with data governance. With Mango’s Managed RStudio, core stakeholders could have a reliable, secure enterprise environment for data collaborating within days. There was no need for an infrastructure, and it meant we could have 24x7x365 outsourced application monitoring, performance alerts and support. Negating any dependency internally on an already stretched resource.
With the Managed RStudio, the team have successfully developed their own Shiny applications, both public and private. The public application is currently receiving c20,000 hits a month for detailed analysis around public health services. Internal more data sensitive applications, allow effective dissemination of data trends by location and services, such as environmental health and NHS”.
Through the use of RStudio Teams, the team is benefiting from a go-to tool which is empowering their statisticians to manage and develop their code. The ability to provide these tools on a centralised server, accessible from anywhere and without computational constraints of a laptop, has been highly conducive to team productivity, success, and stakeholder engagement. The data is significantly more secure with improved data governance and infinitely presents less work for the team, allowing them to focus on providing analytic value.
The lessons learnt
“Over the last 2 years and working across an R-environment we have transformed our procedures, implemented best practice and significantly enhanced our stakeholder communications. Here’s some lessons I learnt along the way.
Take your changes and run with it – if your team is working ineffectively, lacking processes and delivering value, then I strongly recommend investing in a modern data analytics enterprise. This means striving to do more with less resources, which involves pushing productivity to the max to gain the best value.
Show ROI early – Our team were able to show the impact of our investment. Our data is effectively shared to partnership organisations daily – it is relevant, complete, timely and consistent. Gone are the days where organisations operate in silos, Managed RStudio has been vital for critical communications with key stakeholders.
Know what you are looking for – Sometimes an independent view point prevents you from wasting significant amounts of time, when thinking about data in terms of your objectives is a good place to start.
Start small and scale – With RStudio Teams, my team is benefiting from a go-to tool which is empowering statisticians to manage and develop their code. The ability to provide these tools on a centralised server, accessible from anywhere and without computational constraints of a laptop, has been highly conducive to team productivity, success, and stakeholder engagement.
Deployment is hard – RStudio Connect and Pins have been invaluable for production and deployment. When we got R locally we thought we were set and then realised we could only share analysis via R Markdown and email. RStudio Connect has allowed to share and publish interactive analysis across partnership organisations.
Use Git – Git allows an abundance of team collaboration and help manage version control. Utilising Git provides the security, collaboration and certainty required to create and reproduce code and analysis across the team”.
Will Yuill be joining the NHS R Community as a guest speaker on xxx where he will expand on his case for R and the impact it has had on the local authority. He will be joined at Matt Sawkins, Product Manager of Mango.