Performance Management Strategies for Cities of All Sizes

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This is a guest post by Brian Aylward, association manager for Tyler Technologies.

Performance management was a hot topic recently at Socrata Connect. The most common feeling among the municipal staff, leaders and visionaries in attendance was a conflicting context of increased expectations and limited resources.

One way for city leaders and staff to thrive in uncertain environments is through effective performance management programs. Smart programs use data along with modern technology to create efficiencies and produce measurable outcomes, ultimately enhancing agency operations as well as community life.

The pathway between theory and practice can seem daunting, but governments of all sizes and in any location can begin – or continue – journeys to improved sustainability and service delivery through the following performance management strategies.  These steps emerged from leaders in field who joined together as Connect panel participants:

Find and Leverage Champions

In any endeavor, internal champions provide a critical connection between executive vision and ground-level practice. As Shearin aptly noted, “Finding people who can carry the water for what you want to do is key. If you don’t, you’re out there on your own.”

Staff members who recognize the benefits of performance management and are enthusiastic about a program’s potential can generate critical internal buy-in. As in many areas of operation, often the most valuable insight and assistance can come from front-line staff. “There are a lot of departmental directors who aren’t necessarily working with the information day-to-day,” said Bridges, “so they don’t always see the value in putting it out.”

The strategy here is to implement performance management in a bottom-up way. Leverage the knowledge and connections of ground-level staff who can spread the word and become program leaders within their departments. Consider cross-departmental working groups and empower staff who can generate ideas to move the program forward faster.

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Aim to Decentralize

The old adage, “many hands make light work” has application in government. As performance measurement relies on accurate, up-to-date data, the more people who can effectively work with data the better.

Shearin increased organizational capacity in Henderson by expanding the number of people who can comfortably use data to glean insight for performance management. “The key in our experience,” she said, “is decentralization and the training that goes with it.”

Such training is key in Little Rock as well. Bridges has used both Socrata’s on-site education opportunities as well as other online training to increase staff’s data know-how and create a multiplier effect.

In Austin, department heads have created their own internal mini performance offices. “I’m thrilled because the more people we can have digging into the data, the better,” said Olivares.  “My team doesn’t have the capacity to dig into the data with that kind of detail.”

Training empowers staff across the agency and lightens the load.

Tie Performance to Budget and Collaborate

Data is a powerful tool that can support budget requests and facilitate smarter resource deployment. With reliable baseline performance data in place, managers can see potential outcomes of different options and make data-driven decisions.

In many cases, data that is collected by one department is useful for another. Connecting people in different departments who are asking similar questions can eliminate redundancies and free up budget dollars for allocation towards strategic goals.

In Little Rock, for example, both the golf course and the zoo manually collected weather data.  Staff created an API to collect and share weather data automatically, and now those departments along with public works (vegetation growth) and even public safety (crime statistics) benefit from it.

Make the connection between budgeting and performance management to support decisions and ensure that resources are being wisely deployed. Share data to eliminate redundant work, enhance insight, and free up staff time.

Instituting performance management programs can be done incrementally, and at little-to-no organizational cost. Watch the full Connect panel discussion for a deeper dive into practical performance management strategies and opportunities.

aylwadAbout the Author: Brian Aylward is the association manager for Tyler Technologies. Brian works to generate thought leadership opportunities by connecting state and local governments to industry partners to tell their stories of advancing strategic initiatives and program outcomes as they relate to public sector software.