Better Together: Data and Decisions

May 13, 2021 by Derek Arnold

Better Together: Data and Decisions

Assessing offices are like other government departments with staff wading through streams of data to inform smart policy decisions and provide exceptional services. Assessing offices rely on data to accurately determine property values in a jurisdiction. This fair, equitable valuation is the cornerstone of funding vibrant communities. It’s necessary for public safety, community infrastructure, quality education, social services, and more, and the data behind the valuation is an assessor’s most important asset. It can, however, also be the most challenging asset to manage.

How can assessing offices have confidence in the accuracy of their data? And, how can staff maintain efficiency while still reviewing comparison data and all relevant sources of information on properties? There is certainly quite a bit of legwork involved.

Valuation and taxation involve permitting information, land records, utility billing data, official records, property change information, market value data, and more. Oftentimes, access to these disparate information sources is limited by different software platforms, staff gatekeepers, and time-consuming manual research. The biggest challenge is putting together data in a meaningful way so users can see trends, identify outliers, monitor performance, and focus on important tasks.

For instance, without knowing comparable sales data for properties nearby, in conjunction with land records and exemptions, the property valuation could differ by tens of thousands of dollars. If assessing offices do not have the ability to consult and analyze all relevant information when arriving at a valuation, they invite more appeals, negative constituent experiences, and poor public trust in their operations.

Only certain providers can offer a single, comprehensive solution allowing a complete view of all relevant data that also delivers information in an easy-to-understand and actionable manner. Being able to view and compare data is one thing, but being able to understand and act on it is another.

The three steps outlined below can assist assessing offices in fully leveraging their data to support smarter decisions, improved efficiency, and maintain accurate records for precise revenue generation.

1. Inventory Assets

An office’s data, hardware, software, and personnel are all valuable data assets. Offices must take stock of everything that receives, stores, or delivers information. Is the technology system outdated? Are there hardware limitations? Does existing software limit productivity due to siloed information? As offices answer these questions, they can determine which tools, functions, and features they truly must have in order to upgrade capabilities and enhance operations. For instance, if an office were to implement a more comprehensive data solution, they could reallocate staffing resources to other important projects and increase productivity. We recommend looking for a tool that is a one-stop data hub, capable of integrating with other data sources such that all data assets are accessible and applicable for confident decisions.

2. Review Processes

Offices might identify the bottlenecks in day-to-day business processes and consider frequent scenarios of data investigation. A frequent occurrence might be acquiring information on a commercial property in a neighboring jurisdiction. How is the property valuation determined for the assessing jurisdiction? How many hours a week does staff spend searching for and analyzing data? Do they call different agencies, sift through files, and email other offices for information? Is it easy to compare price per square foot of construction properties across jurisdictions? Must staff visit multiple systems to view information? Does the CAMA data integrate with data from other offices? More often than not, these kinds of questions will drive discussions around how best to enhance processes. We recommend using a modern data aggregation solution with precision analytics and drill-down capabilities. This way, staff can maximize efficiency and be sure that all relevant information was considered when arriving at property valuations.

3. Pick the Right Partner

Offices might look for a technology partner that has significant CAMA and appraisal experience while also keeping up with modern innovations. This partner should offer a long-term strategic plan supporting a broader digital strategy, including creating connections and system integrations. The technology an office selects should aggregate critical information from a variety of sources into easily accessible dashboards for effective analysis and performance measurement. Ideally, these dashboards should be powered by a dynamic, secure data and insights platform to protect sensitive information and enhance the office’s capabilities.

One might ask if the technology supports any peer data network integration or mapping visuals for cross-jurisdictional analysis. This would allow a user to pinpoint specific properties or areas in order to determine accurate comparison-based valuations. Next, staff may also wish to monitor or flag property exemptions and appeals — this would also be a critical feature or function within a new technology package — capable of offering a significant, tangible return to the jurisdiction. Finally, the chosen technology vendor should provide remote interactive support to continue a high level of service even when buildings and offices are closed, especially with remote work being so prevalent.

Ultimately, data and decisions go hand in hand. Modern operations with electronic files, digital workflows, and system integrations enable the data aggregation and sharing necessary for meaningful comparison and analysis. Technology that connects data sources and surfaces it to stakeholders through interactive charts, maps, graphs, and other easy-to-understand visualizations empowers employees and decision-makers alike. As an office eliminates the need to consult multiple sources of data, productivity naturally increases.

Modern times call for modern innovations — is it time you made a change to transform your office?

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