Connecting state and local government leaders

Data Doesn’t Have to be the Enemy

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By looking at data the right way, you can make it work for you.

Analysts today have more data than they know what to do with. Modern tools like cloud computing, automation and mobile technology have made it easier than ever to collect and share data across the globe. This has led to a potential plethora of different analytics, a challenge that has increased exponentially over time as technology has advanced. It is easy to be overwhelmed by it all. With so many different types of analytics available, keeping track of everything is a huge job.

In the public sector this task is even more challenging. With tight budgets, reporting requirements, complicated federal and state regulations and public scrutiny at an all-time high, it is no longer enough to just collect massive amounts of data—that is just the first step in the process. No one collects data for the sake of itself; you collect data in order to make informed decisions. The data has to work for you. But when it is clear and understandable, data has huge potential.

Looking at how data is presented is a big part of achieving that potential. When an agency is able to collect and analyze the most current data available, and has a full understanding of what that data means specifically for them, it can use it to better create goals, track progress, and improve transparency efforts. Pouring through endless static spreadsheets and presentation is not just monotonous—it’s ineffective, especially when multiple people or agencies all need to access the same data at once. The ability to work off of one shared files not only ensures that everyone is on the same page, it encourages collaboration.

Due to the independent natures of governments and public sector agencies, the wide variety of different types of data government collects, and the rapid process in which technology evolves, there will never be one definitive approach that works for everyone. Governments deliver a range of services to their constituents, and often house several different, siloed departments that don’t necessarily communicate with each other. To become truly data-driven, governments need a solution that will work for every division.

In 2015, the City of Boston and Tableau worked to solve this problem. Mayor Martin Walsh wanted to improve the quality of day-to-day life for citizens using data and analytics. The mayor had a vision: “We are building this vision from the inside out, by installing a responsive, innovative, data-driven culture in city government.” Tableau worked with the city’s data and analytics team to build an interactive public works dashboard visualizing city services right in his office, which updated in real-time. They then expanded that idea to the city’s many other offices and departments.

More data isn’t the enemy, as long as you’re looking at it in the right ways. Tableau makes it easy to make complex data accessible and understandable. By creating dynamic, impactful visual dashboards that can be easily-shared between agencies and the public, governments can do more to increase openness, boost cooperation and provide more effective services.

Visit here to learn more about this important topic. For more information about Tableau's approach, read their white paper.