AWS Public Sector Blog

4 steps to build a data strategy for managing performance in the public sector

“What gets measured gets managed.” This popular tenet underscores the importance of using a modern data strategy to drive organizational performance management. In the public sector, civic leaders must make sure that a wide variety of citizen services are delivered efficiently, responsibly, and successfully. To identify high performing operations and support those in need of improvement, decision-makers need real-time data in formats that are simple to interpret and understand.

Before I came to Amazon Web Services (AWS) as an executive government advisor, I spent years as a local government chief information officer (CIO). In my 25 years of experience serving the public sector, I’ve found that there are four foundational considerations for implementing a comprehensive public sector data analytics and performance management strategy.

1. Start with prioritized operational goals and objectives

Before diving into the technical aspects of analysis and other data management principles, organizations must first identify and prioritize the operational goals and objectives they want their data to support. Identifying key performance objectives (KPOs) that service providers can be measured against and aligning those objectives with the mission goals of top level leadership makes the data invaluable. For example, a city 911 center may establish a KPO of answering 90 percent of all emergency calls in less than 10 seconds, which maps to an executive leadership goal of supporting safe neighborhoods; a permitting department may set an objective that all permit requests are processed within a certain number of business days, which integrates with the executive goal of accelerated business development. Mapping department objectives to broader executive leadership goals can increase the value of data and generate more support for increased data usage.

Then, organizations must identify relevant datasets that indicate how well services are performing. These key performance indicators (KPIs) establish the basis for measuring operational efficiency. The datasets found within the systems used to manage and deliver services hold the keys to service improvements. It is important to capture this data in a manner that turns it into wisdom for business leaders through reports, dashboards, and visualizations.

2. Establish data governance policies and processes

Once organizational performance objectives and indicators are defined and relevant datasets are identified, establishing data governance is a critical next step in establishing a data strategy .

Access to departmental data can quickly become a divisive subject. Public sector organizations can deal with a large amount of personally identifiable citizen information, tax records, and other sensitive public data. Comprehensive policies, processes, and in some cases legislation must be put in place to make sure it is protected. Organizations must establish a strategy to resolve issues regarding data ownership, sovereignty, access rights, classification levels, privacy, usage requirements, and legal and ethical use of data. Agencies often draft a formal data governance policy, enforceable by executive leadership, to document and manage these decisions. Depending on the size and scale of an organization and the amount of data that exists, a structured data governance board may be needed to make sure enterprise datasets and decisions related to them are legislated securely, inclusively, and transparently.Through advisory work with our customers, the AWS Worldwide Public Sector team has seen such boards advise on best practices for aggregating organizational data in a central location as a system of record, establishing requirements for data sharing and usage, and defining technical standards for securely extracting, transferring, and loading data from various sources.

We have also seen an increase in public sector chief data officers (CDOs) being appointed to serve as the stewards of data governance policies and the primary spokesperson for an organization’s data. Responsibilities of this role tend to include making sure that data sources are accurately inventoried, governance policies are unified, and data sharing agreements are enacted. CDOs are also responsible data champions with accountability to executive leadership and all stakeholders of an organization’s data. This role must work closely with other C-suite technology executives and departmental leaders to make sure data standards are aligned and serve the good of the organization and the public.

3. Aggregate data in the cloud for business use

After performance objectives are set, data governance is established, data sources are inventoried, performance indicators are defined, and a data officer is appointed, the foundation is in place for the technical work of pulling and pushing data into a central repository for reporting and visualization. An enterprise data warehouse with APIs configured to retrieve data from needed sources at agreed-upon intervals can enable business leaders to fully leverage their data. The data repository should be purpose-built with collaboratively developed dashboards and visualizations populating in real-time based on the established KPOs, KPIs, and business needs.

Many agencies are turning to the cloud as their enterprise data storage environment. The AWS Cloud enables simplified data access and sharing in a secure, elastic, and highly available manner with the ability to increase storage capacity on demand as data grows without procuring new hardware. Using the cloud, organizations can rapidly advance their data strategies without common hardware and data center concerns as a barrier. Backup and disaster recovery strategies are also simplified and more comprehensive in the AWS Cloud, positioning organizations to quickly and simply share data globally with no service interruptions.

The AWS Cloud also positions organizations for the future by providing many of the building blocks required to implement data lakes. A data lake is a centralized repository that allows you to store all your structured and unstructured data at any scale. Organizations can store data as-is, without having to first structure the data, and run different types of analytics—from dashboards and visualizations to big data processing, real-time analytics, and machine learning to guide better decisions.

4. Turn data into wisdom through performance management

If data is not given a business use, it is simply information that has been gathered. With well-curated and published data, government leaders can evaluate citizen service delivery and create departmental accountabilities through structured performance management.

The City of Stockton, California is a model example of utilizing data to improve civic operations. The city implemented an Office of Performance and Data Analytics and worked with the city’s chief data officer to review metrics and continuously monitor citywide operations. Stockton utilized a simplified one-page strategic plan to share the city’s annual goals and establish performance agreements with each city department head to create accountability and measure their operational progress. This performance and data analytics model, developed with AWS Partner Tyler Technologies (formerly Socrata) and AWS, has helped the city of Stockton to rank in the top 10 in WalletHub’s “Best Run Cities in California” and 80th in Resonance Consulting’s “America’s Best Cities” in 2022.

Learn more about data strategies for public sector

Data is every organization’s most valuable asset. Many of the solutions to service delivery challenges, inefficient operations, and underutilized resources can be discovered through the analysis of organizational data. With a modernized data management strategy that consists of well-defined performance objectives and indicators that can be validated by leaders with collected data, organizations can make evidenced-based decisions from a single source of truth that leads to organizational improvements.

The AWS World Wide Public Sector team continues to build and innovate with cities, counties, and states all over the world, and we want to build with you. To hear more exciting innovation success stories from your public sector peers, such as Fulton County’s using their data analytics platform on AWS to give their citizens access to the services they need, and how AWS is helping local governments use data to address the housing crisis, please visit the AWS Public Sector Blog.

To watch the full National League of Cities interview with Stockton City Manager Harry Black, please visit Cities of the Future Webinar Series.

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Jayson A. Dunn

Jayson A. Dunn

Jayson Dunn in an executive government advisor at Amazon Web Services (AWS) with 25 years of public sector experience. He helps customers develop enterprise strategies and accelerate innovation, and enjoys diving deep into enterprise IT operations, cybersecurity, utilities, and public safety. Jayson is based in Florida and enjoys sports, writing, and spending time with his wife and two children.