3 Big Benefits of Self-Service Data Access

June 15, 2018 8:09 am PST | Data as a Service
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In order to truly transform their programs, front-line staff often need self-service access to raw data more than roll-up of data that has been aggregated.

Aggregate data shows sweeping trends: Are crime rates up or down? Have the number of buildings damaged by blight changed? How are graduation rates trending? This is valuable, of course, but for on-the-ground knowledge workers, access to raw data is even more meaningful.

With self-service access to the more granular information that makes up the aggregate data — the timing of parking tickets, for instance, or locations of blighted buildings — government staffers can understand what’s causing trends. The nitty-gritty details can also shape strategic plans. Yet, too often, on-the-ground departmental employees can’t get eyes on data without requesting a report from IT.

With self-service access to data, numerous benefits follow.

 

Know the “Why” Behind the “What”

It’s relatively easy to see if there’s an uptick or downturn in the number of parking tickets issued with a simple comparison of quarterly or annual data. That’s the “what.” Understanding what’s behind the number of parking tickets issued — the “why” — is not so simple. All sorts of factors can influence a change, from faulty equipment to staff schedules to policy changes. Aggregate data can allow a police department to develop theories for what’s driving trends, but access to full data allows for detailed, data-backed analysis.

Gathering up all that data in order to perform that analysis can be a major undertaking, involving getting details from tickets issued electronically, through a handheld system, and on paper into one place. That’s one perk of a shared data portal: Data from multiple applications are merged into one location, and can be updated frequently, rather than having to make a one-time IT department request for a report.

Once all the data is in a single location, accessible through a self-service portal, employees can view and analyze the data, using charts, graphs, and visualizations to uncover what’s behind the trend. This allows the police department to make data-based changes to policy or practices, as needed, rather than basing these adjustments on theories drawn from an upward or downward trend in aggregate data.

 

Spot Errors and Organize Data Logically

Getting 311 data with the total number of blighted properties in your city can’t help you determine the best strategy for reducing the numbers of those properties, or steer prioritization of teardowns and clean-up. With direct access to the data, though, your planning department can uncover and merge duplicate tickets (potentially reducing the total number of blighted buildings). It can also place all those buildings on a map, and work strategically and systematically to deal with clusters of buildings in the same geographic location.

With data available, departments can work more efficiently and effectively on their day-to-day tasks.

 

Empower All Staff

With information available and accessible, any government employee can feel confident making suggestions and proposing solutions. A manager’s question about why a trend is unfolding is an opportunity to dig in and formulate an analysis. That’s empowering to staffers — instead of greeting requests with anxiety or inertia, they can respond with insights.

Learn more about Socrata Connected Government Cloud, Socrata’s new, transformative data-as-a-service platform.


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