By working with AWS to achieve the FedRAMP Moderate ATO, we have more opportunities to expand our business into other areas of the federal government.
Kevin Merritt Founder and CEO, Socrata

Socrata customers often seek help in unlocking data from siloed, difficult-to-access systems and putting it into a self-service accessible platform that enables strategic use of that data in delivering on program outcomes. For example, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), a Socrata customer, had struggled to use data and analytics in its daily work because only a small group of employees had access to their business intelligence (BI) software.

“For UDOT, something as simple as changing a color on a graph could take months; it would lag on the long list of asks for the few folks who could access and use their BI tool,” says Saf Rabah, chief product officer for Socrata, an Advanced Technology Partner in the AWS Partner Network (APN). “The organization needed to consolidate different systems and give more people access to the information and basic analytic tools. Accomplishing this was especially important because UDOT relies on being able to get updated data quickly to the state legislature to secure funding for projects.”

Socrata migrated its platform from Microsoft Azure to Amazon Web Services (AWS) in 2016. “We like the elasticity and scalability of AWS, which enable our engineering team to focus more of their time on developing new solutions,” says Rabah. The Socrata platform is now on AWS, running on 172 Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances. Socrata stores platform data in the Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3).

In addition, as its business has grown, Socrata has increasingly needed to address customer compliance requirements. For example, many Socrata customers must comply with the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), a federally mandated assessment and authorization process to ensure security for cloud products and services. “When it comes to running their applications in the cloud, many of our customers require FedRAMP certifications, so we made it a top priority to work with AWS and ensure our offering would support those requirements,” says Rabah. With support from AWS, Socrata was able to achieve the FedRAMP Moderate Authority to Operate (ATO) certification in 2017. Around that time it also became an APN Advanced Technology Partner, joined the AWS Public Sector Partner Program, and obtained an AWS Government Competency.

To help UDOT meet its challenges, Socrata worked with technology integrator and consulting firm Grant Thornton to consolidate data from 15 of UDOT’s business systems into Socrata’s cloud-based platform. Socrata and Grant Thornton configured the platform and got it up and running in six weeks, continuing to add value every two weeks on an AGILE sprint schedule. Using the Socrata solution, any UDOT employee can now access basic budget and spending information, project funding and statuses, and asset management reporting, and find out how the department is performing on its top three strategic measures: Zero Fatalities, Preserving Infrastructure, and Optimizing Mobility. “This transportation analytics solution is now accessible by all UDOT workers, not just the power users or analysts,” says Rabah.

The organization is also helping UDOT achieve its business goal of providing its staff with easier data access by unlocking previously inaccessible project funding data. “Using the Socrata data platform on AWS, our line-of-business owners can view and analyze data flowing from more than a dozen source systems they previously couldn’t access” says Shane Marshall, deputy director of the Utah Department of Transportation. “This saves time and the resources required to create an interactive report, and the data is actually usable now.” Using the Socrata platform, UDOT has saved hundreds of hours of staff time that used to be spent building on static reports. UDOT also has saved several months by creating the annual strategic report in a Socrata-powered open data format rather than in a printed PDF file.

In addition, UDOT can now more closely track funding sources using Socrata’s platform on AWS, giving the organization’s executive director the ability to show legislators a real-time, interactive view of how UDOT is managing its budget. As a result, UDOT can present more accurate analytics of department data. “Using Socrata, we can more easily point to the outcomes of the state funding we were given, and how those outcomes impact our strategic goals,” says Marshall. “And with more accurate analytics, we are more likely to see our programs funded appropriately by the state legislature.”

By running its data platform on AWS, Socrata can scale to meet rapid business growth. “We work with many organizations like UDOT, and they have enormous volumes of data,” Rabah says. “As technology advances, they will be getting data from sensors and other sources as well, so our ability to scale on AWS to meet those demands is essential for our business.” In addition, Socrata is taking advantage of the elasticity of AWS. “Because of the elasticity we get on AWS, we’ve been able to develop new applications faster than before,” says Rabah.

Socrata is also benefiting from its achievement of the FedRAMP Moderate Authority to Operate (ATO) certification. “Socrata has exclusively focused on data-enabled innovation in government for over eight years. We have always believed that in order for government programs to succeed in the digital age, we need to make it our mission to dramatically improve the flow of data and empower those who are most able to affect outcomes to use the data as easily as they can send an email,” says Kevin Merritt, founder and chief executive officer of Socrata. “By working with AWS to achieve the FedRAMP Moderate ATO, we have more opportunities to expand our business into other areas of the federal government. Achieving FedRAMP Moderate Authority to Operate brings new levels of security and peace of mind to our customers who love Socrata for the speed, versatility and cost advantages that it gives them to stand up and sustainably grow effective data programs.”

Socrata, an AWS Partner Network (APN) Advanced Technology Partner, helps government use data strategically and effectively in the design and delivery of its programs and missions, improving outcomes and thereby improving society. The company’s solutions are designed to make government data discoverable, usable, and actionable for public sector knowledge workers, leaders and millions of their constituents.

For more information, contact Socrata through its listing on the APN Partner Solution Finder or on their website.   

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