Customer Summit Hemisphere Sessions: October 26

October 26, 2015 6:04 pm PST | Open Data

The Hemisphere breakout room was all about knowing your audience. From Socrata’s own User Experience Team’s product design efforts to the 100 Most Resilient Cities in the world, understanding what is needed and what problems you’re trying to solve was the focus of the content in the Hemisphere’s room today at the Socrata Customer Summit.

Creating a Great User Experience

  • Tira Schwartz, Socrata UX Team
  • Karin Hellman, Socrata UX Team

The Socrata UX team took the audience through a walkthrough of the iterative process used to design software, and how user outreach is critical to success.  With a focus on Datalens, Karin Hellman presented Socrata’s internal technical processes — asking ourselves what the problem we are solving, and who we are solving it for; turning research into solutions; executing by working hand-in-hand with engineers; and repeating the process iteratively until the product is a success.
Tira Schwartz presented Socrata’s efforts for determining customer use cases and experience satisfaction.  Socrata measures the customer experience through multiple channels, from web-based popup surveys to man-on-the-street interviews.  We use this data to form our products — focusing on three primary goals: Usable, Useful, and Engaging.

100 Resilient Cities

  • Jose Baptista, Vice President for Platform Service Operations

By the year 2050, almost 70% of the world’s population will live in cities — and these cities are not prepared for 21st century issues.  100 Resilient Cities aims to prepare these cities through four supporting initiatives: funding to hire Chief Resilience Officers, the development of a city resilience strategy, a platform of services to support strategy innovation, and a support network of resources from membership in the 100RC Network. Cities have been identified throughout the world due to their unique experience in areas of 21st century issues; for example, San Francisco was chosen for its expertise on earthquake and natural disaster recovery, and Rotterdam was chosen for their experience in living with water.

Telling a Story with Data

  • John Thompson, Manager of the Project Management Office

In attending various hackathons and community events, Thomson heard a recurring theme involving open data: rethinking how a county can better serve residents through data.  Thomson aimed to go beyond “just another government portal”, and to centralize all of his government’s data as much as possible, with a twist: Thomson did not want to get into the business of owning data and databases, but to encourage an open “share and share alike” solution.  Once Douglas County’s open data portal was launched, Thomson focused on four things that his county has learned in a very short time of having an open data portal:

  1.  When considering the data, consider the stories you want to tell.
  2. Invite data — don’t mandate. If there is a government mandate to release certain data, there will be minimal incentive to make the data usable and clean.  
  3. Invite others to tell their story.  If you invite and voluntarily make data available to your community, they will make it useful and tell a story.
  4. Find ways to involve your community. Listening to the “What ifs” of your citizens is the best way for success.  Your customers need more information on certain topics — and they’ll be more than willing to tell you if you just ask.

Fast, But Not Furious: Implementing Open Data in Record Time

  • Sanford Hess, Information Technology Director, City of Urbana, IL

Sanford Hess, Urbana’s Director of IT, discusses how he was able to implement a Socrata Open Data Portal and financial apps in record time by building a multidisciplinary team and overcoming organizational and cultural hurdles. Sanford recommends having a 360 degree understanding of customers and stakeholders — and to consider internal and peer stakeholders from day one. Sanford even built his program to address the needs of peer agencies — the different levels of government who need compliance or performance information from Urbana as part of their responsibilities. Starting with a strong understanding of all customers can create immediate ROI for an Open Data program by making government data sharing more efficient and effective.

360-Degree Open Data

  • Carmen Lavado Sánchez, Chief Information Officer for the City of Gava, Spain

The CIO of Gava, Spain, Carmen Lavado Sanchez, described how knowing your customers beyond just knowing who is going to be looking at your data, can be beneficial to your goals.  Sanchez separated the users into groups such as “Citizens”, “Companies”, “Providers”, and others and described the interests of each group and how they could influence an organization’s data plan.  Sanchez ended the performance by summarizing her five basic tenets of open data:

  1. Open data goes beyond a law. It creates a demand from citizens and we are required to dedicate resources to keep them alive.
  2. A multidisciplinary implementation team is required to consider all points of view.
  3. You must explain the project to your organization very well
  4. You need to share and teach customers how to use data.
  5. You have to define standard formats for consumption by supra-municipal governments automatically.

Opening the Books: Transforming Old School Budget Books to Dynamic Dashboards

  • Michael Lu, Principal Product Manager, Socrata
  • Michael Bailey, Finance Director, City of Redmond

Michael Bailey discussed the issues facing his city that drove them to be early adopters of Socrata’s Open Budget platform.  Due to Redmond’s participatory budget format, using focus groups and other methods to learn budget priorities from the citizens, the culture of Redmond allowed for a relatively smooth adoption of Socrata for Finance.  Their checkbook dataset displays line-item payment information to vendors from the city of Redmond. Michael Lu then provided a demo of the Socrata for Finance applications across several geographic locations.  Montgomery County, when looking at their own data, initially found that much of their traffic and demand for data was actually coming from within their own organization — which made Redmond realize that, while most organizations have a variety of data sources and systems, they will also have a variety of data consumers. There are three key metrics to focus on for an open data application: ease of access, lower barriers to comprehension, and a tool that’s operationally relevant to data consumers.

Stay tuned for more coverage of Customer Summit sessions or follow #SCS2015. 


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