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Posts tagged ‘big data’

A Primer on Public Sector Big Data

Today’s blog is from Don Pagel, VP Public Sector Services at Kronos.

Big Data, Data Warehousing, Data Marts, Analytics, Business Intelligence….all are part of the same evolution of the growing digital world, the data it generates and the structured information contained therein.

 

As computer systems began to house databases of transactional data, users and executives have asked for more and more “reporting” from those systems to investigate problems, maximize efficiencies within processes, and my favorite in the public sector, or determine solutions or answers based on factual information rather than supposition or anecdotal experiences. In recent years the data generated by all of the systems we use and the potential interrelated information from disparate systems has generated voluminous amounts of data…thus “Big Data”.

 

The public sector is beginning to use analytical tools to mine all of the data they have to inform their constituents, look for efficiencies and also to help off-set some political “agendas” by focusing on facts. Public safety organizations use collected data to look for geographical or date-specific trends to help staff for the best use of safety manpower as well as educate the public on what is going on in their areas. Human resource departments regularly extract and update public pay and benefits data to reduce demand on their staff for public information requests. Executives are finding value in workforce management data to determine labor productivity and improve resource and budget management. Finance departments are unifying all of their collections data into one analytical format from disparate systems in order to gage how well they are collecting outstanding fines and fees, develop metrics to monitor and look for ways to enhance processes to improve collections. Parking and Police departments are collaborating on vast amounts of data collected by license plate recognition equipment and software to share information that can be valuable to both organizations. Parking departments are also learning the value of parking transaction data for both numerous supply and demand calculations as well as justifying new garage or meter placements. Traffic managers have long used data to determine traffic patterns but now can use that same data to automate lane use or determine where the next road work or expansion is necessary.

 

Putting some thought into structuring data within a larger organization that may contain multiple systems can lead to an easier delivery of many of the above ideas, allow for “drill-down” structured online reporting as well as simpler ad-hoc querying to more easily find true factual information in a political environment. This is not generally an inexpensive project, but it can pay off handsomely for years to come. If your organization hasn’t started a Big Data project, I suggest you consider the following:

 

  • Take an assessment of all of the different important systems you have and determine their purpose.
  • What data is being stored on each system?
  • Are their proprietary analytic programs already on a system that can be used to export data to a larger environment?
  • Is there an opportunity in an external database to link these disparate data sets together? Over time, you may initiate some data normalization of different systems in order to link data easier.
  • Now that you have a data storage strategy for your important data, what are your current pain points that you most want to solve with data? Start small or start focused on just those pain points. There will be a tendency to over-develop analytics that may or may not be useful. Since you spent time up front on your data storage strategy, you can build them as needed so they have the greatest impact and potential use by your organizations.
  • Develop a plan to use the analytical tools developed in a structured way or using a process. In other words, don’t just make them available, develop a process or policy for their use.
  • Use dashboards that are visible to wide audiences so that there is a natural draw to the information as well as a natural desire to improve the results. Visibility can create powerful competition.
  • Develop education around the data being displayed. Don’t assume that others will know what the data is saying or how to use it to improve results.

 

In short, Big Data is collecting the vast amounts of data we have and putting it to good public use. You have the data, it’s a shame for it to go to waste

Thinking like an innovator – One county’s story

Who knew government finance could be so cool? After attending the GFOA (Government Finance Officers Association) Annual Conference this week, I have to say I saw some pretty innovative best practices from a variety of cities and counties. Like the Town of Cary, NC and it’s advanced meter reading, or the City & County of Denver creating efficiencies with Lean principles, and the City of Minneapolis making better decisions with predictive analytics. But there was one initiative that really had that “wow” factor. It was the Montgomery County, MD’s Open Data project. This new site, called dataMontgomery, gives citizens and employees alike visibility into budgets that puts transparency at a whole new level.dataMontgomery pic 1
dataMontgomery is a tool that makes reading financial data fun and interesting. How can that be you ask? Well, for one, it’s visually appealing. You can choose to look at the data in different views (charts, graphs, etc…). And coming soon, you’ll be able to drill down into each department’s costs, even down to project level spending. Another thing is, its user friendly. The data can be exported or used right on the site. They also have reports already created and ready to be viewed in multiple formats. Public requests for data – no problem!

Meaningful data is unfortunately a rarity in more than just government, but around the world. We keep hearing the term “big data”, but all that data is useless without a tool or resource to help you understand it. An open data tool, such as dataMontgomery, can benefit not just the external customers (citizens, media, etc…), but also internal customers (employees). Think of the knowledge gained by making data-driven decisions. Time, money, and resources that can be reallocated to more fulfilling initiatives. And the satisfaction that they (employees) are serving the community in a purposeful way.  What a wonderful world that would be.

2014 Top Trends in Managing the Public Sector Workforce

At its recent annual board of advisors meeting, board members of The Workforce Institute™ discussed their predictions about the top trends of workforce management in 2014.
To take this a step further, let’s look at this through the lens of government and how (or if) it will impact the public sector specifically.

Making Data Small – The real value lies not in big data, but in the ability to make data small and actionable. Tools and technologies that enable organizations to do this are essential to carry this forward.

State and localities have powerful data at their fingertips to aid in efficiency, reduced costs, and better services to citizens. The ability to analyze trends such as overtime and absences are just two examples of how information can turn to knowledge.

To Cloud or Not to Cloud? – As more organizations look to move their HR systems to the cloud, practical advice on how to do so successfully will be needed. In addition, more will be written about why some organizations are choosing not to move to the cloud and the value of vendors that offer both options.

Both NASCIO (National Association of State CIO’s) and PTI (Public Technology Institute) continue to rank Cloud Services high on their priority lists.1,2 While IT staff and resource numbers fluctuate, and are sometimes outsourced, having an option to host or not lends the organization some flexibility to purchase and deploy HR systems unlike just 5 or 10 years ago.

The Workplace Goes Social – Social media has revolutionized the way people communicate in their personal lives but its impact has yet to be truly leveraged in the workplace. Social tools can drive manager and employee collaboration and knowledge acceleration.

Social media is making waves in government particularly in an effort to engage citizens. But is it working internally to connect departments and project teams?

Mobile Workforce Management – As employees continue to bring their own devices to work, employers will need to determine how to best use the technology to gain access to the information they need, to make frequent tasks simpler and less time consuming, and to keep employees happier and more engaged.

As the mass exodus of retirees comes upon government organizations, it’s going to be important to meet the demands of and attract a younger generation. A generation that does not remember life before mobile devices.

The Affordable Care Act – A year ago, most affected organizations probably thought that they would have a strategy in place by now, but with changes and delays to the process, most are still in a holding pattern.

There’s no stopping it, no matter how hard you wish! Public sector employers share the same responsibility as the private sector when it comes to complying with upcoming ACA regulations. A strategy has to include a way to have constant vigile over part-time hours to watch employees who teeter on the 30-hour threshold.

To read the full press release, go to: The Workforce Institute at Kronos Predicts Top Five Trends in Workforce Management for 2014

1 State CIO Priorities for 2014

2 City and County Technology Ins and Outs for 2014

 

Open Data – Can citizens and government employees work together?

If you attended the ICMA (International City/County Management Association) annual conference this week, then you know citizen engagement is becoming a growing theme in local government.  Why?  Well, for one thing, with limited resources it makes sense to tap into the community when so many are willing to play a role.  And cultivating data is a great place to start.  Governments have so much data; more than they know what to do with or have the bandwidth to analyze.  The concept of open data is to provide transparency and create an environment of “open government”.  Data can hold many thought-provoking discoveries for educative purposes.  All it takes is the right people to unleash its powers.  Street Bump

Take the City of Boston for example.  They encourage their residents to take an active role in bettering their neighborhoods and community with the City of Boston Open Government site.  One really cool project they are piloting is something called “Street Bump”, created through the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics.  Street Bump is an innovative app that actually counts the number of bumps you hit on your commute through your phone.  Residents are the ones collecting the data and serving it up to the Mayor’s office.  Think of how much more efficient the app is than taking complaint calls about pot holes. The city can actually proactively go out and fix the problem.

Now this brings us to the question of can citizens and government employees work together?  Employees are public servants who are paid to serve the community.  And citizens are recipients of these services, whether good or bad.  But when it comes down to it, the community is what they both care about.  So why couldn’t they work together to make it better?   The answer is, they can, and they are!  As Beth Simone Novack, founder and director of the Governance Lab, said during her keynote presentation at the ICMA 99th Annual Conference, “Local government staffs have jobs that allow them to do work that matters. Most citizens want to do things that matter too. Data availability offers them the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution”.

 Government employees are in a unique position to partner up with citizens to use data to bring solutions to real problems.  Keep your eyes open for more amazing things coming out of the move towards greater citizen engagement.

To read more about open data/open government and Beth Simone Novack’s keynote session, visit: Smart Communities and the Opportunities of Big Data