Tech Language for Regulators: Analytics

March 12, 2021 by Caroline Miller

Reports and Analytics

Tech Language for Regulators: Analytics

In this second blog post of my Tech Language for Regulators series, I will explain what reports and analytics mean in the context of a regulatory agency’s transparency and accountability goals.

The regulatory community talks a lot about transparency and accountability. However, when it is time to look at technology to support our regulatory processes, you rarely see a “transparency” feature or an “accountability” button. So how do you get what you need from the software solutions you use? Through reports and analytics.

Understanding Stakeholders’ Needs

Regulatory agencies issue and enforce standards, ensure public safety, and are tasked with establishing a system of trust, collaboration, and public participation. Stakeholders demand and deserve transparency into all of these different activities, but each stakeholder group tends to care about different things.

  • Legislatures want to know how the agency is progressing against legislative requirements like resolving complaints within 60 days, how finances are being managed, and how effectively program initiatives are impacting citizens and communities.
  • License holders want to know how long it takes to apply for initial licensure and how and when to renew, along with how many continuing education credits are required to process the renewal application.
  • Citizens want to know how and where their complaint can be filed with the agency, what the process is, and what they can reasonably expect as an outcome.

How Reports Offer Transparency

Reports collect and present the data your different stakeholder groups care about in a way they can easily understand. Regulators must make their data available, but for many regulatory agencies it would be an impossible task to gather, organize, and present everything in a coherent way without relying on software for reporting.

For example, if you are a multi-board agency overseeing 10 boards, five commissions, three advisory boards, 50 regulatory programs, 300,000 license holders, 2,000 complaints, 500 investigations, and 10 financial audits, the data is overwhelming.

Automatically-generated reports allow you to offer your stakeholders the transparency they need, in the way that they need it. Smart-regulation, right-touch regulation, evidence-based decision-making, performance management, strategic goals, annual reports: regulatory agencies have multiple ways to report their work to stakeholder groups, but the key is reports enable you to be transparent about what you are doing and how you are doing it.

Reports represent transparency, which of course is the first step to accountability. Analytics gets you the rest of the way there, by allowing you to dig deeper into what is happening.

Leveraging Analytics for Accountability

Beyond just reporting on data, regulators need to clearly ascribe meaning to the data. Without a story or narrative about what the data means and how stakeholders can interpret it, the data may be interesting but not necessarily useful. Reports detail what happened, while analytics investigates why things happened the way they did.

Consider the hypothetical multi-agency board referenced above. Board members and stakeholders may look at the data reported and wonder, is 500 investigations enough? Too many? What kinds of insights did the investigations provide? Were all 400 of them concerning the same issue? Is there a policy issue present that needs to be addressed? Is there an opportunity to provide license holders and/or the public with an education campaign around a particular issue?

Analytics help answer these questions by turning data from multiple sources into actionable information. Regulatory software that includes analytics functionality allows you to drill down into your reporting results or filter them for greater insights. Creating dashboards, data visualizations, grids, and key performance indicators allows you to share your plans and priorities in an accessible format to help stakeholders understand your work and how it impacts them.

Analytics also helps you to make future plans by showing you the patterns in your data. These patterns help you identify areas where your processes aren’t working. You may uncover issues like bias, recidivism, or competency gaps. In essence, analytics tells you what your data means, so you can make and justify your decisions — which is the definition of accountability.

The Value of Reporting and Analytics for Regulators

A regulatory software system that features both robust reporting and analytics functionality helps you educate your stakeholders on what you are doing to achieve your goals. Your system should also be flexible and easily updated, so you can quickly amend existing reports or create ad hoc reports to answer specific queries — again demonstrating both transparency and accountability. This can help you to:

  • Build trust
  • Increase engagement
  • Showcase reform
  • Understand your stakeholders' needs better
  • Demonstrate progress on public programs
  • Promote and track your key performance indicators
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of your programs
  • Publish goals to keep teams accountable and see trends over time

Reports and analytics are more than cool (or confusing) features of your regulatory software. These are key elements to help you achieve both transparency and accountability.

Caroline Miller is Tyler Technologies' business development executive, state government. Check back here for more from her on how common technology terms apply to the regulatory community.

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