Data is only relevant when it’s used. This is even more true for Open Data, “data that anyone can access, use and share“. Be inspired by these simple ideas and physical objects to make greater use of Open Data.
These 19 tales of open data in use range from the really useful, like Australia’s The National Public Toilet Map, to commercial business models like BrightScope, to crowd sourced, social projects like Leeds Art Crawl. They cover a gamut of categories too: art, government & politics, smart cities and more.
The stories come from all over the world, but you just have to click on my Open Data Stories Pinterest board to explore them.
B2B lead generation is all about connecting with the right people, at the right companies, at the right time and crucially maintaining the right sales funnel. So what does that have to do with data reconciliation?
Data reconciliation is just one tool data experts use to create valuable insight from a messy bunch of data. When you think of valuable B2B lead generation, what makes you really want to tear your hair out?
With data reconciliation, data experts attempt to minimise these frustrations by doing what any good researcher would do: cross-checking the facts. How does this work? Let’s look at some examples.
Targeting the right companies can really streamline your sales funnel, but how do you make sure they’re right? You probably want to filter and segment, maybe by number of employees, location, or SIC code. Before you do that, it’s really useful to pinpoint the company with a unique reference.
Why? If you can link “Fuzzy Logic Inc Limited” to it’s Companies House number, 08087004, you can pull in financials and a wealth of other information based on that number – the unique and authoritative reference.
A name like “Computer People” is messy because it could be a trading name: in this case, computerpeople.co.uk is actually “Ajilon (UK) Limited” (01458245) not the dormant “Computer People Limited” (01861259). On the other hand, the company name could be mis-spelt, or the company could no longer be trading. Reconciling to Companies House and other authoritative sources, means improving the quality and usefulness of your B2B lead generation list.
Where data reconciliation really gets exciting (and valuable!), is when it’s combined with data mining – a process to dig deeper into available data and pull out fresh insights. For example, it would be helpful to know that “Harrogate & District Travel Limited” (02327319) is one of six subsidiaries of “Transdev Blazefield Limited” (02605399) before you target them. With the data reconciled, this information can be automatically pulled into a single document, saving you time and yet more research.
Better insights can completely change your approach. What would your strategy be if you knew roughly how much Leeds City Council reportedly paid to “Mears Limited” (02519234) in January 2015? (Just over £4 million according to Council Spending on Leeds Data Mill, the highest amount to a limited company).
Data reconciliation is exciting because it paves the way for more advanced techniques; It leads to cleaner, more valuable information. Used correctly, data reconciliation can turn your messy list into a trustworthy, reliable B2B lead generation tool.
Information correct at time of publication but information can and does change, so why not hire me to provide you with up-to-date insights?
Practical – /ˈpraktɪk(ə)l/ adapted or designed for actual use; useful:
Data analysis – processing data into information that can be used to make decisions.
So you start to get that hopeful, excited feeling in your gut. Could this book be a step towards becoming analytics-driven? You want to be sure, so you check out the blurb:
“For small businesses, analyzing the information contained in their data using open source technology could be game-changing. All you need is some basic programming and mathematical skills to do just that.”
Basic programming? Basic mathematics? It’s looking even more promising! In fact, now, you only have one decision to make.
Is it worth it?
To answer that, let’s start with: who is the book is for?
“This book is for developers, small business users, and analysts who want to implement data analysis and visualization for their company in a practical way. You need no prior experience with data analysis or data processing; however, basic knowledge of programming, statistics, and linear algebra is assumed.”
Next, does it do what it says on the tin?
Well, here’s where it goes wrong. The book is clearly aimed at digitally literate people with some technical and mathematical skills, which you can pick up or dust off from CodeAcademy, Coursera, or your local Learn Direct for example. It insists you don’t need data analysis knowledge to get the most out of it. The author, Hector Cuesta, has the solid, trustworthy qualifications in the technical areas that make him a promising guide. Unfortunately, judging a book by it’s cover, this gets an F.
Don’t get me wrong, it covers a lot of interesting, technical topics. Using a cookbook approach, Hector touches on a number of great open source tools. Therein lies the problem. It’s a technical cook book that focuses on tools, pretending to be a book about practical data analysis for small business owners who are focused on their business thriving.
The bottom line is, you can get most of this information on the internet. It will also be more up-to-date as tools change regularly. You will not learn the secrets of data analysis because you will not learn how to turn data into relevant, contextual information that will give you the insight to support your goals.
So, why should you get this book?
Are you a an analyst or developer with data analysis skills looking for a reference book of open source tools? Then this is definitely for you. As long as you remember, tools change so rapidly, the information may well be out of date.
Leeds city council makes information about business rates freely available on the Leeds data mill. This is a forward thinking approach to reducing freedom of information requests. By publishing open data, the council saves money, gives the public much needed transparency, and provides a wealth of information to businesses investing in Leeds.
But what’s included and how can you create value with it? This is the missing guide to using the business rates open data.
Let’s see what’s included.
Since April 2014, Leeds city council has published spreadsheets, roughly every 2 months, to the business rates page.
Every rateable premises in Leeds including: the address, what the premises is used for, who’s responsible for paying the rate, the rateable value and a selection of relevant discounts (relief) given. It also tells you if a property is empty (as far as the council knows).
Any premises that are actually home addresses. So breathe easy. If you’ve registered your business premises at home, you won’t be on this list. However, mistakes do happen, so contact the business rates team to correct them.
How good is the information?
Pretty good! I looked through the latest file published on the 2nd of March 2015. I found a couple of problems with postcodes, which I emailed to the open data team. They’ll be fixed in the next release. That’s one great thing about the Leeds data mill, they listen and respond promptly to feedback.
When it comes to discounts however, treat them with a pinch of salt. Not everything is included and it would be hellishly complex if it were. There is enough information for most uses, but use the discounts as ball-park figures.
Another thing to note: the Retail Relief information mixes retail and other forms of relief. Retail relief is capped at £1,500.
Read on for an in-depth examination.
This is the organisation “entitled to possession”. In other words, the occupier, leaseholder or owner of the premises, depending on if it’s empty or not. Remember: Individuals are usually excluded from this open data publication to protect their privacy.
The council can, at it’s discretion, use this rate to top up the mandatory relief, sometimes up to 100%. This is mostly approved for sports clubs, the arts, social enterprises, and not for profit organisations like hospices.
Small Business Rate Relief (%)
This is another form of relief for small businesses. The criteria is a little more complex, but in a nutshell: it’s for businesses occupying a single premises with a rateable value less than £12,000. (There is some leeway in 2014/15 for taking on an additional premises or occupying multiple premises within certain rateable values). Legislation was changed in 2010, temporarily, to raise the discount up to 100% from 50%. Quirkily, this temporary (vote winning?) raise has been been renewed every year. Find out more about: small business rate relief (Leeds city council) and small business rate relief (gov.uk).
Retail relief is another form of mandatory relief for businesses occupying a retail premises, with a rateable value less than £50,000 (Eligibility criteria may apply). The relief is a fixed sum, rather than a discount (up to £1,000, £1,500 in 2015/16). Despite the name, other reliefs are included here, for example, enterprise zones like Aire Valley, but these are a tiny number over £1,500. Find out more about: relief from business rates and retail relief.
The address of the premises, this is good quality information! There are four lines of address available, handily named Address, Address 2, Address 3 and Address 4.
The postcode at the premises and also good quality information. There were a couple of oddities and incorrect postcodes putting the premises outside Leeds. These will be resolved in the next publication.
This flags up empty properties (as far as the council is aware): Yes means empty, V means empty and rate payer is unknown. Remember: There are additional temporary reliefs for long term empty retail premises, up to 50%.
The date when the premises became empty (as far as the council is aware). This is not available in a small number of cases but is still a good way of working out roughly how long a property has been empty for.
Empty Exemption Flag
Certain properties, like listed buildings, have a permanent 100% exemption. This flags up why the property or premises is exempt. Another reason for exemption includes action by crown (i.e. compulsory purchases which are exempt until the purchase is complete). Land or car parks are exempt if they’re unused. Finally, premises with a low rateable value (under £2,600) are exempt. Where occupation is prohibited by law (usually derelict properties with asbestos contamination), these may appear as exempt, however derelict properties are removed from ratings list. Find out more about: empty property rates.
Property Description Code
The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) code groups premises by how they’re used. Unless it can’t. Then it uses MX (miscellanous) for premises that don’t quite fit neatly into existing categories.
The council provides additional information about the property, sometimes adding context, like describing the condition (derelict) or numbers (25 car parking spaces, for example).
Handy tip: I’ve made these definitions available to download as a spreadsheet.
A couple of things to take into account. If you add up all the reliefs, you’ll get more than 100%. This is a quirk due to legislative shenanigans that I won’t go into here. Also, reliefs are applied in a certain order: Mandatory first, then Small Business then Discretionary including Retail Relief.
Now you understand how the business rates were put together (the model), you can do something with it.
Find out the rate payer’s company number which opens up a wealth of corporate information. I reconciled nearly 75% of ratepayers to companies and got back their SIC codes – useful for grouping companies by what they do or investigating corporate networks.