Good Performance Management is Good Government

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This is a guest post by Oliver Wise, director of the Socrata Data Academy.

Local governments are stretched thin.

Not only are they responsible for public services such as utilities, transportation, police, and tourism, they are also expected to respond to emerging issues that have no clear path forward: natural disasters, homelessness, and the opioid epidemic.

What these objectives — from everyday tasks to headline-making issues — all have in common is that data can help.

For senior and elected city officials to lead with evidence-backed decisions and smarter use of limited resources, they must be empowered with the skills and know-how to execute analysis and gain insight.

What I’ve found throughout my career of building government performance programs — starting with New Orleans’ BlightSTAT in the wake of Hurricane Katrina — is that data is the only resource governments have in abundance. The challenge is in making better use of it.

Katrina left New Orleans in the middle of the most severe blighted housing crisis in the country. The crisis affected about 43,000 properties — a fourth of all addresses in the city. Mayor Mitch Landreau’s goal was to reduce blight by 10,000 addresses by the end of his first term.

While initial reports were rudimentary, the iterative, data-driven approach BlightSTAT represented to service delivery was a sea change. One of BlightSTAT’s biggest contributions is that it provided forum for departments — such as code enforcement, housing, and law — to collaborate across bureaucratic silos.

With BlightSTAT in place, New Orleans met its blight reduction goal. Along the way, it also set up enduring capacity for data analytics.

That’s what we’re seeing in East Point, Georgia, a small city of about 35,000 people. With a new, modern data platform in place, leaders needed some building blocks to be successful. They had limited resources, capacity, and no performance program.

East Point leveraged Performance Accelerator to gain alignment from departments heads on implementation of their strategic plan and to articulate measurable benchmarks to gauge progress. More than 20 department leaders attended the workshop. Initially, they were skeptical of the relevance and utility of the training, but saw the results/found the tools to help them as they gained momentum by creating sustainable goals for performance management.

This year, Tyler Technologies is teaming up with National League of Cities to offer our Performance Accelerator workshop as part of NLC University at City Summit in November.

This workshop is designed to help leaders leverage data to create a feedback loop for their most strategic priorities. The training is precisely geared towards their needs on how to better lead their cities with data. Participants will learn how to

  • identify a strategic goal
  • map programs that align to those goals
  • and develop performance measures to track productivity, quality, and efficiency of program delivery

Attendees will walk away with a prototype of a dashboard to help track progress on their most important priorities.

The Performance Accelerator workshop is offered through Socrata Data Academy, a program focused on equipping government leaders, program managers, and analysts with the skills they need to leverage data across an organization for better public policy impact.

We believe in the power of government employees to transform our public institutions from the inside out.When given a few key tools and strategies , they can lead with data to address the needs of their communities — from everyday services to emerging issues — with collaboration, competence, and care.

About the Author: Oliver Wise is the director of the Socrata Data Academy. In this role, he helps governments develop the skills, leadership strategies, and execution tactics necessary to harness of the potential of data to transform public services. Before joining Tyler Technologies Inc., Socrata’s parent company, Oliver was the founding director of the City of New Orleans Office of Performance and Accountability, the city’s first data analytics team. He holds an MPA from NYU Wagner, a BA from Tufts, and lives in the Mid-City neighborhood of New Orleans with his awesome family: Ryan, Annie, Olive, and Eamonn.