How Governments Can Use Data to Manage Programs More Effectively
It’s well-established that data stored in silos is less than ideal: in fact, siloed data is both inefficient and costly. Yet this is the reality for the large majority of government agencies. Pure data — giant files jam-packed with information — is not, by default, useful for governments. Instead, data is most effective when it helps determine how to address a particular problem, facilitates cross-departmental cooperation, and tracks performance.
So how can governments ensure their data is actionable? Here are three big ways data helps drive performance:
Data Makes Goals Visible Throughout an Organization
When governments set goals in a vacuum, senior leadership and on-the-ground knowledge workers can wind up with misaligned priorities, impeding the success of programs and departments.
Stating clear, measurable goals is important. But, it’s also essential to provide a means to publicize these priorities and track progress toward achieving them, to avoid misalignment within the organization. That’s why KCStat, Kansas City, Missouri’s public-facing performance dashboard, highlights the mayor and city council’s six priority areas. With KCStat, city employees throughout the organization and regardless of their role can know the goals the city wants to achieve, how they’re being measured, and current progress.
Share Data Across Departments — And Create Collaborative Programs
For a government to succeed at tackling large-scale, complex issues, interdepartmental cooperation and collaboration is a must. To that end, Washington State formed collaborative councils around the governor’s five priority areas, which include providing a world-class education, a prosperous economy, and more.
It would be impossible for the Department of Health to move the needle on health and safety in the state singlehandedly, so the council working on this issue has participants from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington Traffic Safety Commission, Liquor and Cannabis Board, among others. By sharing data seamlessly, these organizations can implement strategies that are not limited to a single department’s sphere of knowledge and influence.
The value of collaboration and knowledge-sharing extends beyond achieving strategic goals. It can be a matter of a safety, too: With cooperation between the Housing Department and Public Safety Agency, for instance, housing inspectors checking for violations can avoid unknowingly visiting homes with convicted felons. When data is shared, leaders throughout government can perform their jobs better.
Data Helps Align Resources, Too
Outcomes in government typically aren’t achieved in a fiscal year, or even during an elected official’s term and often require multiple delivery partners to achieve. That makes tracking the connection between a program’s funding and its outcomes particularly challenging, especially when funding towards an outcome originates from multiple budget lines. Ideally, though, planning for performance measurement begins during the budget conversation — that is, start with what you want to accomplish and from there, determine the intermediate goals and how to measure them.
If the priority is reducing youth violence in 10 years, for instance, you might measure tutoring program availability, community outreach, students enrolled in after-school activities, etc. Leading with data allows governments to see which programs are effective — and which are not — so they can make wise investment decisions and ultimately deliver better services to the people they serve.
Join Jeffrey Press at Socrata Connect, where he'll interview Debbie Volk, StPeteStat Coordinator for the city of St. Petersburg, Florida, and David Alba, Evaluation Officer at the European Commission, on performance management.