Max Out Your Data Efficiency — Here’s How

September 03, 2019 by Justin Bruce

Max Out Your Data Efficiency — Here’s How

Photo credit: WOCinTech Chat/Flickr

Necessity is often the starting point for governmental data usage.

That is, staffers will turn to data because of a pending grant application deadline or the need to pull together a case for funding.

But data has far more power than justifying funding allocations and validating actions.

Put to work, data can point to the need for programs, frame their implementation, and measure their progress. And with so much of it readily available in governments and agencies of all sizes, using data efficiently is an achievable task.

Here are three tips for how to use your data to drive improvements and change outcomes.

Tip #1: Use the Data on Hand to Define Problems

Start with the pain points — those challenging issues that face your government or agency.

Very likely, you’re using data already to measure some aspects of this issue, such as your response. But data can also be used to pinpoint the underlying cause of a problem. Don’t fall into the trap of only using data to examine what you’re doing (e.g., tallying up the number of potholes filled) while failing to interrogate if those actions are meaningful and address the issue completely.

This approach may require looking at wider swathes of data than your organization is accustomed to examining. Your new goal should be to look at a comprehensive amount of data, capable of answering multiple questions across multiple dimensions. That will give you a full, nuanced sense of the issue.

Tip #2: Start Small … But Go Broad, Too

Ditch that urge to begin by tackling a major concern facing your jurisdiction. Instead, as you begin to craft your data-driven strategy, target small (but still pressing) issues that are both well-defined and within your sphere of influence.

That way, you can run a pilot program that generates best practices. Any errors can become part of the learning experience, without diminishing the credibility of the data-driven methodology. You can take a small theme, a small problem, and apply the effective and efficient use of data to it and make a big impact.

The efficient use of data is not always about quantity. It’s about examining your efforts through a qualitative lens to ensure the work and effort provided adds value in ways that go beyond making a flashy headline.

Even with small themes, make sure to use a wide view in scoping out the causes and results of the issue. Look to other agencies that might be involved in the situation for their perspective.

Tip #3: Change the Culture and Stick With It

Once you’ve run your pilot program and seen how a data-driven strategy can work, keep at it. Expand your efforts by teaching people around you how to mimic the approach — the entire burden of using data efficiently should not fall on any single staffer.

Expand outward and build your team and capacity as using data becomes second-nature across your organization.

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