Learning to use data analytics to manage an outsourced public service : a case study of organizational learning
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Public service outsourcing has been a decades-long practice of governments intent on downsizing and leveraging private enterprise to realize market efficiencies. The practice has delivered challenges for public managers, a key one being detecting and managing opportunism, service provider advantage-seeking behaviour. Outsourcing challenges may be met with the emerging potential of data analytics, but to realize the potential, an organization is faced with learning how to use data, analysis and scientific methods so that an orientation for evidence based management becomes an organizational norm. In this thesis the literature from outsourced service management, the phenomenon of opportunism, data analytics and organizational learning is examined to synthesize significant findings and validate exploring the research question: When data analytics is introduced to manage opportunism and accountability for an outsourced public service, in what ways does the organization learn to use data and analytical methods for performance management? The research was designed using the foundational tenets of qualitative research, involving participants in an action research case study. Through prolonged, longitudinal engagement the case delivered the experience of a learning journey using the interview as purposeful conversation. The research was designed in three phases to implement technology and processes for data analytics in a public registry service outsourced to a network of providers, then support the organization to develop familiarity with using analytics, and finally evaluate the learning journey. This study shows that pressure from authoritative sources in the government and enthusiasm for the public service value of accountability led to accelerated learning to work in new ways with data and analytics to manage service provider performance. But the outsourced environment, and more particularly the business environment played critical roles to limit learning and shift the focus from new ways of working to exploiting existing ways and to mire the perceived problems of the organization as top-of-mind for many. This study underscores how complex and fraught with barriers a learning journey is and supplies lessons on organizational learning for academics and practitioners. The study adds depth and nuance to the value of the learning lens, where learning was an outcome from a study of learning.