, ,

6 Steps Cities, Counties and States Can Take To Leverage Data

With the rise of cloud-based data platforms, local and state governments have realized they don’t need big government budgets or multiyear timelines to see the benefits of data initiatives.

The old days of data access — or more accurately, lack of access — have ended. A new crop of web-accessible data platforms has agencies and entire jurisdictions rethinking how to make use of information. Whether for demonstrating achievement of key performance goals or for creating self-service constituent access to open data, agencies are seizing on the power of accessible data.

“People haven’t thought of data — the words we have in these tables and fields — as an asset in government. But leveraging this data as an asset can be transformative for those willing to do it across the organization, not in small pockets,” says Melissa Bridges, a former leader of open data efforts in Little Rock, Arkansas.

A new white paper, Leveraging Data as a Transformative Asset, outlines opportunities around data. Here are six steps for embarking on an enterprisewide approach:

1. Identify Leadership and Support

Having a clearly identified point person is key for launching data projects. Look for a leader from the department pursuing the initiative. Projects also need sponsorship from senior executives and strong support from the IT department to understand existing systems. “It cuts out a lot of the legwork,” Bridges says. “You’re walking in the dark unless you have a good relationship with the IT department.”

2. Begin With a Specific Challenge

A successful proof of concept is the most powerful way to demonstrate the value of data analysis. With that in mind, identify a specific decision-making challenge that can be addressed using data. “The advice has changed over the years,” says Elliot Flautt, a data solutions expert. “We used to say start small — now we say start specific.”

3. Expand on Existing Data Uses

Raising awareness about data often uncovers existing departmental initiatives that can be expanded upon. Alternatively, identify data sets commonly requested by external audiences. Propose an initiative that provides data for the public and reduces workload for staff responding to data requests, recommends Kristine Grill, the open data program administrator for Ramsey County, Minnesota.

4. Talk to Your Key Audiences

Connect with your end data users — internally or externally — to understand why and how data will serve their interests. “Start with the problem you’re trying to solve,” Grill says. “It sounds very simple, but it’s very easy to see some data and think it would be useful without starting with the end user in mind and making sure you’re creating something useful for them.”

5. Establish Data Governance Early

Governments have no shortage of data. Getting a handle on what exists and establishing usage rules is an early order of business. “The universe of data is huge,” says Katie Regan, director of the Office of Performance and Data Analytics in Stockton, California. “A dataset inventory is helping us find, classify and tackle the elements of that universe, even though it will continue to be an ever-moving target.”

6. Share and Expand Your Initiatives

From a successful data proof of concept, you can build out concentric circles of engaged stakeholders. Cloud-based data platforms enable access not only internally but also across jurisdictional boundaries. Once decision-makers have access to previously buried data, watch as interest in data multiplies.

Steve Goll is the editorial content manager at Tyler Technologies, Inc. In his role, he shares stories of government leaders finding solutions to challenges across a range of disciplines. During his 15 years of government experience, he worked at the state level in economic development and higher education, at the local level in K-12 education, and at the county/regional level as a workforce development council member.

Leave a Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply