Utah DOT Staff Unite Around Shared Annual Report

July 18, 2017 9:00 am PDT | Effective Governing

The state of Utah’s Department of Transportation (UDOT) has moved to a fully digital version of their annual report shared in the cloud. A static PDF document has transformed into a year-round resource for citizens, legislators, and UDOT employees. Staff especially are better able to track and manage goals within the new open data portal.

 

UTAH DOT Report

 

Reporting on 3 Goals

Employees at the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) work toward three strategic goals laid out by Executive Director Carlos Braceras: eliminate traffic-related fatalities, preserve the state’s transportation infrastructure, and optimize mobility. For many years, UDOT staff has been required to provide the legislature and public with an annual update on their progress toward these goals and give information to inform state budget decisions. This large, lengthy Strategic Direction Report was a static PDF document covering projects, spending, goals, and achievements. It took nine months and countless staff hours to compile.

 

This chart from the Strategic Direction Report shows performance on sub-metrics supporting the “zero fatalities” goal.

 

Unfortunately, the report had an incredibly short shelf-life. “On January 1st, it was current, and the rest of the year it was out of date,” says Ivan Hartle, Business IT Manager for UDOT. Hartle and others at UDOT needed to find a way to streamline the compilation of the Strategic Direction Report and make the large amount of data within the report accessible and usable to the entire staff, year round.

 

Open Data Increases Access and Visibility

When UDOT put out an RFP for a transportation intelligence solution, the state of Utah reached out to Socrata to encourage them to respond. Socrata then contacted its partner Grant Thornton, a technology integrator and consulting firm, to bring analytical expertise based on decades of experience in transportation. Grant Thornton agreed to join the project and went to work on gathering and consolidating all of the data. Everyone involved focused on making the data in the report more available to citizens, staff, and executive leadership.

“Moving our Strategic Direction Report to an open data platform allows more people to have more data about the most recent information,” says Hartle. “We wanted Utah citizens and UDOT employees to have access to the most up-to-date data.”

Getting the entire 2017 Strategic Direction Report onto an open data platform took only weeks instead of months, like the previous report. And, the information was finally searchable and interactive.

 

“Before, staff would generate reports from spreadsheets and present those findings. Now, they just open the Strategic Direction Report and walk through their measures specifically.” —Ivan Hartle, Business IT Manager for UDOT 

 

Now, says Hartle, people can ask questions about the data and easily find specific information. The shift to sharing the data broadly has made life easier for UDOT staff, especially when it comes to reporting to the Transportation Commission. “Before, staff would generate reports from spreadsheets and present those findings. Now, they just open the Strategic Direction Report and walk through their measures specifically,” explains Hartle. Additionally, commissioners have immediate access to the information presented, instead of waiting up to a month for that information to get into their hands.

 

Benefits of Interactive Annual Report

  • 7 months of time saved on building the report each year
  • More staff acknowledged and recognized for their work
  • Easy access to specific information for staff, citizens, and legislators

 

Previously, because the report was printed on paper and accessible to mostly UDOT and the legislature, the work done by UDOT staff members received little recognition, which impacted morale. Now, many staffers are enjoying newfound visibility on the open data portal.

“Now, they feel like their data and their performance is as important as everything else in the Strategic Direction Report,” says Hartle.

Over the next few months, Hartle expects to see their portal include finance data, project data, traffic flow, traffic statistics, and freeway sensor data (speed, car count, and car type count), just to name a few.

 

Improved Transparency, Analytics, and Access

Trust matters at UDOT and open data is supporting its maintenance and growth.

“[Executive Director Braceras] says that UDOT’s currency is trust and the way we build trust is by being transparent and making good decisions,” says Hartle. “Our open data platform allows us to showcase the decisions we make and the impact UDOT has on the state. The data allows us to be more transparent with our legislature, staffers, and citizens.”

 

“Our open data platform allows us to showcase the decisions we make and the impact UDOT has on the state. The data allows us to be more transparent with our legislature, staffers, and citizens.” —Ivan Hartle, Business IT Manager for UDOT 

 

In order to increase that trust and be more effective in their work, UDOT leaders are working to move the organization away from performance analytics and toward performance forecasting. “We look at outcomes and use our data to understand how we got to those outcomes,” explains Hartle. He’s hoping to use the growing body of data on the platform to predict what would happen in response to particular decisions and investments.

With the new tool, the data lives at the fingertips of staffers and leaders. “[Braceras] goes everywhere with his iPad. Now, when people ask him questions about the Strategic Direction Report, he can pull it up right away and walk through the data and answers,” Hartle says.

 

Data for Everyone 

Within months of launching their open data platform, UDOT staff have found numerous ways to use the tool outside of the Strategic Direction Report. One team has used the portal to help build a newsletter. Hartle’s team has used the tool to compile retirement eligibility in order to forecast future staffing and core competencies needs. Hartle has also seen the tool used for employee recognition. “Employees and supervisors can use the tool to sing the praises of their coworkers. Now, UDOT can recognize our unsung heroes,” he says.

 

Internal Platform Uses

  • Improve internal communications through a newsletter
  • Forecast staffing and core competency needs
  • Recognize employee achievements 

 

Hartle appreciates the ease of use with their open data portal. “People with very little experience can play around, search, and find their own answers,” he explains. “We’ve developed several one-off reports that allow people to dump their data into Socrata, ask questions, search through the data, and find relationships within the data to understand what’s happening. It helps us mitigate and understand risk.”

By ensuring better access to accurate data for the entire staff, UDOT leaders are creating an environment of transparency, progress, and improved employee morale.

 

Strategic-Direction-Zero-Fatalities
This chart shows snow and ice removal in the state of Utah by month.

 

Ready to Make Your Data a Centralized Resource for Your Staff?

Utah DOT’s success with moving their data to a more accessible, cloud format is just one example of what is possible on the Socrata platform. Are you curious what your team could do with faster, more up-to-date data sharing? Contact Socrata to share your story and we’ll be happy to help you see how you could spend more time creating great, new programs and less time asking, waiting, and digging around for data. Write us at info@socrata.com

Plus, download a case study to discover how UDOT was able to save staff time, improve communications, and connect state funding directly to outcomes.