City of Bend Launches Data and Analytics Program: A Case Study
In September 2017, the City of Bend established a Data and Analytics Program (DAP) to make data available for City staff for decision making and ensuring its accuracy, timeliness and relevance. For several years, various City departments had been working on data projects, reporting and performance measurement. With DAP’s creation, City management took the next step to develop a central resource to support data sharing and analysis across the organization. “Many of our departments started this journey years ago,” said City Manager Eric King, “For example, the monthly Accountability Report generated by the Fire Department, measuring response times and resource deployment, the data analytics being deployed in Community Development to detect needed permitting process improvements, or the crime analysis done in the Police Department to develop a bike theft prevention program." Building on the work done by early adopters within the City, management decided to incubate the newly created Data and Analytics Program within a department that understood the importance of the work—the Community Development Department. The pilot program started as a four-person team charged with supporting data analysis and reporting. The program’s first priority was the creation of a public-facing dashboard that tracks progress on internal and community goals. With only two of the four team members dedicated full-time to DAP due to pre-existing project commitments, the team had a big job to do in a short amount of time with limited resources. The DAP team published the dashboard to the City's website in October 2017. “Gathering the data from a diverse and busy group was extremely difficult. Various datasets had to be cobbled together from multiple departments and systems, which in some cases was locked away in people’s heads,” said Interim DAP Manager Jesse Thomas. “Adding to the complexity was the task of building simple indicators and metrics to explain complex and non-intuitive programs or policies.” In addition to the dashboard, DAP staff also worked to establish the Data Governance Board and Data Advisory Committee to guide City data policy. The Data Governance Board monitors and evaluates the forces driving change to provide data management strategies that satisfy the City's evolving business needs. Members of the Data Advisory Committee serve as subject-matter experts, managing the City's data assets, researching best practices and making recommendations on policies, standards, and initiatives. The Data Governance Board, facilitated by the DAP team, developed a strategic plan to address the shortcomings of current data management practices that are established and managed at the department level. The plan establishes a path towards removing silos between departments and fostering data sharing. “The goal of our strategic plan is to provide direction on how to overcome our data obstacles and create an environment of continuous improvement,” said Thomas. “The plan allows for experimentation, innovation and a bit of risk/failure without losing momentum and growth. Most importantly, it facilitates an environment where data is developed and organized so it serves more than one department.” With the strategic plan adopted in April 2018, the City Manager next formed an inter-departmental Performance Management Committee in May. The Committee’s charge was to prepare a proposal to formalize the long-term future of the pilot program and broaden its scope to include:
Improving the connectivity of the existing performance management system with budget development, human resource management and data analytics;
Directing, supporting, and monitoring business process improvements and change management as well as ongoing departmental needs for improvement;
Incubating new or innovative ways of solving problems;
Improving the quality and consistency of citywide project management;
Positioning the City toward an open data environment.
The Performance Management Committee met regularly from June through August 2018 to evaluate options for organizational structure, roles, and responsibilities. Committee members interviewed key staff from seven cities with analytics/performance management programs across the country. Based on the Performance Management Committee’s recommendation, the City Manager announced the creation of the Office of Performance Management in October 2018. "Creating a centralized structure that allows resources to be deployed more efficiently and uses data and strategic thinking in aligning results and performance metrics to our strategic plan will keep us focused in times of high expectations and limited resources. Ultimately, this effort will help the City think differently about how we operate, becoming a more customer-focused and strategically aligned organization with data and technology solutions to help us get there," said King. A yet-to-be-hired Chief Innovation Officer who will report directly to the City Manager will lead the Office of Performance Management. The new CIO role, together with the forthcoming Office of Performance Management, will position the City of Bend to more wisely use resources, be more transparent and better serve its citizens.