Gather Your Team
If you’re just getting started with performance measurement, you’ll need to decide who will work on your new effort. There are many organizational models that have been created by adapting existing staff structures. The most successful performance programs share these common participants:
Principal: the governor, mayor, county executive, or any other (typically elected or appointed) leader who has the desire to manage a government or a branch of a government utilizing a data-driven approach.
Department or Program Lead: the cabinet secretary, agency director, or division administrator who owns the data that is being used to measure progress. This person is accountable to the principal for making progress on shared goals or a strategic plan.
Performance Lead: dedicated member of the principal’s team that is responsible for overseeing the agencies through the Open Performance process. This person should have credibility with agency leaders and direct access to the principal and senior leadership. This position should have the authority to make things happen — on par with a state’s chief operating officer or deputy chief of staff.
Performance Analyst: this person (or group of people) supports the performance lead and is responsible for managing the data involved in the Open Performance program. This is a key consumer of the department data and the person who creates analyses and reports.
What to look for when choosing a Performance Analyst
The Open Performance analyst plays a crucial role in the success of the program. The best analysts tend to possess the following:
Strong intellectual curiosity. They must dig in and discover lessons from the data.
Good interpersonal skills. They will need to gain the respect of everyone involved in the program, including department heads and frontline workers. A common pitfall is an analyst who thinks they knows more than the subject matter experts because of the relationship they have with the data and the data practitioners.
Excellent writing skills. Not only will they mine the data, they will need to communicate what they have found in a clear, concise, and compelling way.
Confidence. They must be willing to take risks and accept that they may make mistakes.
Technical experience. To create reports and visualizations, it’s helpful for them to have knowledge of and experience working with a broad set of technologies.
Team attitude. They must understand the relationship their work has to the work of other analysts on staff and partnering departments.
Department or Agency Contact (as needed): this person serves on the department or program lead’s staff and ranges from director of research, business analyst, or database manager, to a chief of staff. They should have the best understanding of the department, data about its day-to-day operations, and the value and quality of the data. This person is a subject matter expert, not an IT staffer. The contact will provide data to the Open Performance team. They are responsible for curating the data and ensuring it’s clean. The department or program lead may designate this person.
Government Employees: this group of people seek to improve their knowledge across departments and programs by monitoring progress in and out of their own departments.
Constituents: for many Open Performance programs, the general public will be an important end user of the platform. Public use of Open Performance will generally occur in three broad forms:
- Individual seeking services or general information
- Press or non-profit organization seeking details or context for government data — may be used to support writing an article, grant application, or for another purpose
- A developer who wants to understand the capacity of the data — may access via API
These positions may scale up and down; a large state may dedicate multiple analysts to various subject areas, while a small municipality may function with one staffer to support the performance lead. Likewise, the number of agency contacts will vary depending on the range of data being managed.
“I’d strongly suggest launching a performance management program to solve a particular problem. Then get started on setting goals and tracking performance with whatever you have. Start with the basics and leave room for improvement at every Stat meeting. The important part is to just get started with something that matters that will show ROI. You’re not going to hit it out of the park on the first swing, but discipline yourself to make improvements to your analysis as you proceed.”
Find Department Contacts and Gather Data
Once your team is in place, you’ll need to gather your data. A performance analyst may lead this effort by meeting with a department or program lead and their leadership team. It can be helpful to invite department staffers with “research” or “analyst” in their title; titles may vary from place to place, so use your best judgement.
Consider inviting GIS professionals, database administrators, internal auditors, and budget analysts to your conversations. These are the people in your organization who manage data or who have an idea of where data lives. It’s advantageous to engage these important members of your government from the start, so you can begin to make connections and take stock of existing assets. You may be surprised to discover the amount and variety of data that is already being stored in separate silos.
Once you’ve gathered your data contacts, encourage them to share any data they own. In some governments, staffers might not see themselves as data managers or owners. You’ll want to make sure that you’re defining data in the same terms and you’re clear on your performance needs, so the departmental staff members will be empowered once they leave the meeting.
In advance of your meeting, it may be helpful to ask departmental staff:
- Do you provide information for reports on federal, state, or nonprofit grants?
- Do you manage a database?
- Do you compile reports for a legislative body (congress, state legislator, city or county council, or cabinet meeting)?
- Does your agency have a strategic plan or any other organization of key performance areas or objectives?
- Is your organization under any oversight from federal agencies, external auditors, or investigators? Is there a corrective action plan?
- Do you already have a performance-based budgeting or program evaluation program?