InstantAtlas software for research and analytical support of the Staffordshire Strategic Partnership InstantAtlas_FreeTrial

Giving local strategic partners data in a customisable format to help them make better commissioning decisions


Staffordshire Observatory provides research and analytical support to Staffordshire Strategic Partnership. Its overall aim is to offer a robust, comprehensive evidence base which informs decision making, commissioning and service delivery, leading to better outcomes for the residents of Staffordshire.

The Observatory has developed a website to provide a one-stop-shop for access to a wide range of data, information and intelligence on Staffordshire and its communities. We spoke to Senior Research and Information Officer Duncan Smith about the Data Observatory and how it is currently using data visualisation to meet its objectives.

Getting started

Duncan says four years ago they began to consider a data hub that could be used for sharing intelligence between strategic partners. It was felt that the partnership needed a web-based system that would promote evidence-based commissioning decisions and ensure easy access to a shared intelligence. Staffordshire Observatory went out to tender for a data visualisation solution and Geowise was successful. Duncan was asked to become lead developer on the project and his initial task was to present the most popular data sets on the existing Observatory website.

Meeting the need

The project has moved on and the website currently offers users two ways to examine data. The first allows users to view existing data sets displayed either by theme or by geography. The second gives users the option to create their own custom data view composed of specific indicators of interest. Users can export their custom data view into Excel. Specific indicators can be either mapped or copied and pasted into other documents.

Duncan is particularly pleased with the ability to customise data. “It means users can choose what they want to see and this really helps to address ad hoc requests. In the past we would have to deal with requests which take up a lot of our time but now we are seeing these diverted to the system, freeing up time for more value-added research,” he says.

Although the website has only just launched, the unit is using Google analytics to work out how popular the website is. So far it has had 3,000 unique visitors mostly from the county and from the public sector. “However, there are also a lot of local people looking at the data,” he says.

Staffordshire Data Observatory - Child Obesity Atlas

Future developments

Duncan explains that although there are over 1,000 indicators on the website, they are keen to develop local sources of data to drive a more detailed insight into local communities. He says: “We would like to get more local data to inform the commissioning process. It’s what decision makers want. They need data at this level to really understand what is going on in our communities.”

Staffordshire Observatory have recently implemented the InstantAtlas NeSS data transfer tool which allows them import data from the NeSS service from the ONS.

Key benefits

  • Ensuring key decision-makers have instant access to up-to-date data on Staffordshire and its communities.
  • The website is already reducing the number of ad hoc requests for data which has led to a considerable time saving
  • The team has found InstantAtlas simple to use and it doesn’t need to involve IT which would have taken the project longer to get off the ground
  • The ability to customise outputs means users get to see what they want in an easy-to-interrogate way
  • InstantAtlas links to databases making data uploading straightforward and time is saved in terms of data processing

Other InstantAtlas LIS stories and reports that will interest you

St. Helens Analysis & Research Exchange - Helping non-expert and professional users understand a wide range of data for neighbourhood needs assessment

InformSomerset - How Somerset Intelligence Network is using data presentation to explain community profiles to a wide user audience

Coventry Partnership - Developing a centralised information hub that gives LSP partners the intelligence they need

Devon County Council  - Using a shared online resource to ensure Devon’s strategic partners make evidence-based decisions using the same data

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News and Articles


Arizona Department of Health Services | ‘Making data presentation meaningful when dealing with low rates of population density’


The Institute for Health Policy, School of Public Health, University of Texas | ‘Making data available to the community through easy-to-use data presentation tools’

Public Health Organization

Public Health Organization – ”Using data presentation to aid the policy-making process”