How Many Staff Members Does It Take To Create Open Data

Here’s what I imagine your checklist looks like for financial transparency:

  • Outline the city’s priorities? Check.
  • Create a narrative, visualization tool for open data? Check. (Or read how-to here.)
  • Generate citizen buy-in? Check.
  • Hire the appropriate amount of staff? …Maybe.

In last week’s online training, “How Kansas City Engaged Citizens with Open Data,” live audience members were asked what are their biggest barriers to greater financial transparency. Their answer: staff time and expertise to open up or visualize the data.

Luckily for you, by listening to the real-life examples in the webinar provided by Kansas City’s Budget Officer, Scott Huizenga, Deputy Performance Officer, Julie Steenson, and Chief Data Officer, Eric Roche – the people behind the KC Dashboards – you can gain insight on how to hire or become the dedicated staff member to run an open data portal.

Here are three vital city staff members you need on your open data team, and what skills to look for when hiring them:

  1. An IT wiz that handles all “true technical issues”

Key responsibilities include:

  • Structuring queries
  • Exchange, transform, and load situations
  • Automating data reporting
  1. Operational & Performance Management Analytics Pro

Do you find yourself questioning the norm? Do you love data? In this role you’ll get to ask lots of data questions, like:

  • “What data do we want to put out there”?
  • “How should it look”?
  • “What’s the community feedback”?
  • “Is it useful for staff”?

Steenson suggests assigning a team lead to direct the work of three analysts who can use Google analytics to measure sessions – including page views – to see what residents care about versus what your data is actually being used for at the national level. Building presentations is also a key responsibility for the data analysts.

  1. Open Data Evangelist

While the previous two staff members dedicate half of their time to open data – not just uploading data, but running visualizations and building maps off the data – most of the time the application will “spit out reports exactly as you need them,” according to Roche. Hire an evangelist in your city to report on what’s important to the rest of the staff and residents.

So, there you have it: how to get ready to hire your staff and complete your checklist for a city that rocks at financial transparency.

But, as you probably noticed from the Evangelist job description, if open budget applications like Open Data KC and KCSTAT Dashboard can actually run standard data dumps easily, doesn’t that require little staff? The answer is, theoretically, yes.

Yes, “you can upload data once a year and leave it out there as an excel file and that requires very little staffing other than just clicking upload,” noted Roche. “But, if you want to really engage residents and have these continuous and up-to-date tools for them to use and keep putting the data out in front of them it does take a dedicated staff person to keep plugging along and fixing the issues as they come up.”

To learn more about Kansas City’s leaderships’ role in transparency, be sure to view the on-demand version of the training here.


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