Moving from PDFs to the Cloud Brings Big Benefits to DOTs

October 11, 2018 2:31 pm PST | Data as a Service

Given the volume of data collected by state transportation departments, paper- or PDF-based reports can be unwieldy, tedious, and out-of-date.

Elizabeth Weight, Director of Communications at Utah Department of Transportation, shared her data transformation story at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Transportation Communications Annual Meeting in Biloxi, Mississippi.

“I have a literal suitcase in my office in which I used to take our strategic plan up to the capital,” recalls Weight.

She shared the stage with Scott Higley, Director of Strategic Communications at Georgia Department of Transportation, and Oliver Wise, Digital Government Principal at Tyler Technologies Inc.

She and Wise outlined during the panel that there are more limitations to PDF reports beyond inconvenience.

“Paper does a very ineffective job of communicating all the important work that government does for their stakeholders,” says Wise.

Massive annual reports are challenging to produce and consume, and, reports quickly become stagnant and out of date. For example, Utah DOT’s annual strategic document was formerly distributed in January, using the previous year’s data.

“By the time you get to September or October when our interim sessions were really starting to pick up and we were looking at the next legislative session, we had data that was almost two years old,” says Weight.

Moving data to a Data-as-a-Service platform — and sharing it through readily accessible, updated in real-time dashboards — not only counteracts these issues. It leads to other big advantages as well.

Current data is always available, making it easier for UDOT and legislators to perform their responsibilities. Dashboards make consuming data easier too. Charts and visualizations can be customized by meaningful parameters, meaning no more flipping through voluminous reports. And, preparation is easier.

As Wise puts it, the tedious work of compiling and prepping data is outsourced to computers. Because it’s in the cloud with an API around it, the data can always be accessed with the most up-to-date information, rather than updating the data annually.

“You’re not just creating this report, you laid the foundation for a much smarter organization,” Wise says.

Read our case study on how UDOT uses the online strategic report to directly connect funding to outcomes.

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