The following post is an excerpt of GovLoop’s recent report: Unlocking the Power of Government Analytics. The report features case studies from the state, local, and federal government on how agencies have leveraged analytics to improve services. You can view the full report below or download a PDF
Transparency can be described as providing the public with large amounts of data about a company or agency in order to represent its activities, and can potentially earn the support and trust of the public. Transparency also can directly benefit the agencies themselves. One such organization is Maryland StateStat, which has harnessed the power of analytics to transform Baltimore.
Maryland StateStat is a program based on the CitiStat program implemented in New York City in the nineties to battle the rampant crime and civic issues by collecting data and then analyze it in order to create programs to remedy them. Maryland StateStat was implemented by Governor Martin O’Malley of Baltimore, a city plagued by many of the same issues as NYC had previously experienced. O’Malley wanted to run government like a business in the sense that local agencies would have more concrete awareness of its resources and functions.
One project that benefited from transparency was trash collection. O’Malley wanted to be able to know how many trash removal trucks Baltimore had and where they were scheduled to pick-up, so if trash was left on the side of the road, there was a clear path to holding someone accountable. This accountability encouraged employees to accomplish their tasks. O’Malley was able to succeed in this project and others because of the transparency that came from using analytics. StateStat has since been used for the collecting and analyzing data for the rest of the state of Maryland.
To get more insight on the effects of analytics and the benefits of transparency in the public sector, GovLoop interviewed Beth Blauer, a former employee at Maryland State Stat.
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6 Lessons Learned Maryland State Stat
1. Know Your Agency
“Getting your data all in one place provides an enormous opportunity to baseline and figure out where you are,” says Blauer. Analytics provides the opportunity for an agency to look at itself more objectively. Through analytics initiatives, agencies can reveal places where spending needs to decrease, communication needs to increase and can also clearly define the quality of the services the agency provides.
2. Have Realistic Goals
“The use of data and analytics from a baseline perspective helps agencies create more realistic strategic goals, and strategic planning in government helps you contextualize what you’re trying to do.” Before analytics, government agencies had to rely on anecdotal evidence, limited data and the desires of leaders. With data being widely available, agencies employees and constituents can understand the capabilities and limitations of their agency and then create goals based on that data. In the end, both the agency and the public will be more satisfied with project outcomes.
3. Hold People Accountable
Accountability lies at the heart of the desire for increased transparency. Maryland StateStat, says Blauer, “was not designed as a transparency initiative; we were a performance management initiative.” The goal initially was to improve productivity; however, by using analytics, StateStat learned how to collaborate and communicate with all of their partners to provide a more transparent work process.
4. Recognize the Importance of Leadership
Beth Blauer described leadership as the most important step in any analytics initiative. “Leadership is the first thing,” She said, “you need to have a cheerleader.” Leadership provides legitimacy in the efforts of government employees. If a visible leader spearheads or supports an initiative, then other employees and constituents will be more likely to support and trust the program.
5. Show a Clear Business Value
Though analytics adoption is increasing, local governments and the public may still not understand its benefits. If an agency makes data and the results of the analytics available then this transparency will allow the public to see the agency’s analytics program value. On the Maryland StateStat website, there is a section called “Open Data Portal” that provides statistics from everything from number of arrests to greenhouse gas emissions. By providing this information, citizens can know the state of their city and the efforts that their local government is making to improve their community.
6. Collect Right Data and Develop Baselines
You can’t have analytics with data, but it needs to be the right data; it needs to be information that will support the efforts of an agency. For an agency to understand the type of data i needs, it needs to determine what data it already has and what data is wants, thus creating a baseline. “Base lining helps you strategically figure out where you want to be,” says Blauer “so you can start building your goals and not make decisions based on anecdotes or not based on evidence.”
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