Proven Tactics: Defining What Works in Government Innovation

What do government agencies mean when they say innovation? With the term’s popularity on the rise, we took a moment to define it, identify core themes, and provide examples. To begin, here are a handful of key stakeholders you should know about:

How do we define it? Government Innovation solves complex issues that traditional structures face with unexpected approaches. While projects and results vary from reducing murder rates to improving payment experiences for constituents, three themes are critical to successful government innovation: technology, data analysis, and customer service.

Technology: Cutting-edge IT resources and best practices are non-negotiable. A clear strategy coordinates agencies’ activity in a way that serves the city (or state) best as a whole. Eliminate the opportunity for different agencies to develop separate policies for reaching the same goal. Instead, lead with a single approach.

IN ACTION: New York City set out to improve efficiency for revenue operations through technology (physical products and software services). When the Police Department acquired and deployed 2,000 new handheld devices, it increased accuracy, confidence and collectability of parking summonses. During the same initiative, the Department of Finance launched a web-based service for hearings which reduced foot traffic to hearings.

Data Analysis: Identify specific metrics that measure success. Track data in something that has scale. “Shared services” centralize functions for many departments. Make each agency accountable for unique metrics. With data in one place, it is accessible as a single, independent resource for analysts to mine insights. From there, discover ways to become more effective and efficient.

IN ACTION: In Louisville, Kentucky, data analysis improved Emergency Health services. Louiestat publishes key performance metrics for each agencies and their performance. Within the first three months of measuring the process, the hospital drop-off time decreased by 5 minutes. Within a year, crews left the hospital within 30 minutes 90% of the time. That equals putting two more ambulances in the fleet. In one year, they delivered 18,000 more people to the hospital.

Customer Service: Refocus all agencies towards customer service. Become responsive to the needs of agencies and employees by listening. Build necessary services based on what external customers — residents, businesses, and visitors — want. Accountability and operational efficiency enhance ability to deliver services. McKinsey references this in an article where David J. Kappos talks about making the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) more service-focused.

IN ACTION: New Orleans, Louisiana recently launched BlightStatus as part of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s strategy to reduce blighted units by 10,000 by the end of 2014. Neighbors, city staff, non-profits and local businesses see vacant properties in their community returned to productive use with new public access to critical information about these properties. The site is an easy-to-use, public website that connects to internal government data systems to make information about the status of vacant or underutilized spaces available in real-time.

Interested in keeping up with Government Innovation? Here are some of our favorite blogs and thought leaders.

What does Government Innovation mean for your agency or organization? What core themes do you see bringing the efforts together? Let us know your thoughts! Shout out to us on Twitter (@bureaublank) with the hashtag #govinnovation, and we will respond to your comments.

This was originally posted on Ideas + Execution here.

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