Data analytics offers new opportunities to innovate the public sector – says Jon Betts, Senior Consultant at Trilateral Research

In this interview, Jon Betts tells us about his policing background, work at Trilateral and discusses the role of data analytics in changing the policing and public sector landscape.

Having completed over 30 years of senior operational policing service in the UK, how did you get into your role at Trilateral?

I met and worked alongside Trilateral colleagues while I acted as an advisor previously on the INSPEC2T project for The Home Office and then latterly on the DANTE project. We got to know each other professionally and socially which was a good start to building relations. We then had a chat and found some mutual benefits not least personal outlooks and sense of how business should be conducted, and as they say, the rest is history …

Tell us about your role…

Where do I start!- I think its developing all the time, however I primarily work within the Crisis and Security Team at Trilateral to develop Proposals for H2020 calls where I can add value and my network, and support project delivery. I also look at opportunities to develop Trilateral’s Data Analytics and Consulting offering within the public sector focusing upon customer/stakeholder acquisition and relationships, understanding the needs/requirements as well as how we can enhance our offering.

Finally, I am happy to leverage my policing background and experience to develop the wider Trilateral offering where I may and act as an ‘Operational Sounding Board’ to support the development of any matter…

What does a typical day look like?

Well there is no such thing as a typical day for me, plus I work flexibly and not currently full time. But to try and answer… it will be a mix of engagement activities, facetime customer meetings, phone calls, internal Skype meetings and supporting various conferences and exhibitions to keep up to date with emerging issues.

Mostly I try to be as accessible as possible to Trilateral colleagues advising on a range of issues from marketing content to proposal preparation and way beyond! I am also a Visiting Fellow at Anglia Ruskin University Policing Institute so there are often cross over activities which benefit both roles.

What skills from your policing background, do you think have been most transferable to your work at Trilateral?

So for context.. I was an operational police officer for 27 years mostly as a Senior Detective (Detective Chief Inspector) leading departments and investigations such as Homicide, Kidnap, Serious Sex Offences as well as managing Volume Crime. I also managed the community policing for a while and departments like Crime Management / Recording, Criminal Justice and Crime Policy as well as leading organisational change projects.

When I went to the Home office for the last 3 years of my service, as a Detective Superintendent, I lead on strategic stakeholder engagement prioritising and understanding requirements and translating them to Civil Servants, Academia and Technologists to support technology development for Policing and Border security.

I try to leverage the knowledge and experience of the public and policing/security sector to develop effective commercial and research relationships and utilise my EuropeanProject Experience in H2020 programmes to widen Trilateral’s offering. I like to think of myself as a people person so I am very happy to lead as a customer/partner interface. As I’ve enjoyed running large departments and organisational development objectives, I also try to bring those experiences to wider Trilateral business.

Policing is often a high-pressure decision-making forum so I feel very comfortable being accountable for problem-solving, issue resolution and recommending a way forward or leading in any given matter. But of course, Trilateral isn’t Policing so I value the skills and knowledge of others to help this process and indeed I am very happy to give a different perspective to colleagues in their challenges.

To finish, whilst I’m rather older than most of my colleagues at Trilateral and have been around the block a number of times, I do think it is critical to remain balanced and indeed humble with interactions. My colleagues at Trilateral offer a huge amount of expertise that I can only hope to partly understand, so I am always happy to learn and take a supporting role as opposed to my leadership role in policing.

What is the biggest challenge to data analytics in the policing sector? Which areas will be more impacted in the next five/ten years?

Rather than “challenge”, data analytics offers significant opportunities for Policing and the wider Public sector. In what is being described as the 4th Industrial Revolution the availability of data for informed strategic and tactical decision making will only increase and I believe will truly need to be embedded within the daily business.

For me, we must find novel ways of pooling the increasing volumes of data from all sources and critically identify the hidden inferences of which it informs. In this way, policing and the wider public sector can organise, plan and deploy resources in an intelligent way providing early intervention responses so as to reduce risk and harm in a cost-efficient fashion.

Within policing, budgets over the last few years have reduced some 20% whilst crime is starting to rise and the wider public-sector face similar challenges. It will be critical to make supported well-informed decisions to determine what will be done and fully justify what will not be done within the public sector in order to maintain the confidence of the public and provision of services which meet public expectations and needs.

The problem for the public sector is to find sufficient ‘head space’ to commission data analytics when their planning and budgets are so near-term and marginal. I could wax lyrical about this issue all day so will try not to bore you. Plenty more to discuss over a coffee though…

What is the most interesting part of your role?

Meeting People and forming positive professional relationships without a doubt.. I like to think of myself as a people person and really enjoy working with lovely people from a personality and professional perspective. This is why Trilateral is my place of work by choice for sure.

I do need to add in also that I really enjoy identifying business opportunities and brokering new partnerships and hopefully successful contracts. It must be the secret second-hand car dealer in me (actually I’ve done a fair bit of that)

What is the hardest part of your role?

This is definitely managing my time as I’ve only just started with Trilateral as well as being a Visiting Fellow for Anglia Ruskin University Policing Institute for Eastern Region. I do find myself though wanting to do far more than my contracted hours permit albeit it suits me often not to have full-time hours. When I see an opportunity I really like to throw myself into it to bring it on. Its my failing and I do need to strike a better balance, but I do enjoy being part of Trilateral and the University so I’m not so sure I will overcome this one so easily.

When you were younger what was your dream job?

I guess I wasn’t much different to many lads. I was a keen footballer and cricketer when I had the privilege to play in the same team as my father.  I would have loved to have earnt a living playing those sports, however as a youth I couldn’t quite break into the professional football youth teams or county cricket so life moved on. I enjoyed playing cricket up until about 14 years ago when I smashed my knee up which abruptly brought that to an end.

How do you like to unwind outside of work?

This is a bit of an odd one.. As a police officer, I generally kept my role as part of who I am both on and off duty so in many ways even on days off and in evenings I would be happy to answer calls and share emails. All very bad for a work-life balance I am sure, but that was me so to some extent I still do that now with Trilateral. That said, it doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy downtime in other ways.. I do enjoy the company of good friends either chilling at our homes or a possibly “excessive” night out enjoying some real ale or the odd malt whiskey with a nice meal.

The weekends are taken up with following rugby and sporting events.. I do love visiting interesting places and that’s something I want to do more of.


Jon Betts is Senior Consultant at Trilateral Research. Please contact us and sign up for our newsletter for updates on Trilateral work within the public sector in collaboration with the UK local and central government.

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