- June 11, 2018
- Civic Data
This self-assessment tool can help city leaders determine the degree to which they are using data to drive better results for the public.
Cities are increasingly paying attention to data
Increasingly, cities are using data to better understand and serve their communities. Many mayors have appointed data experts to new positions to lead this effort, and while some cities have adopted the Chief Data Officer role, others have appointed data-savvy Innovation Directors or Performance Officers. Regardless of the title, the focus on data in cities is growing.
In the leading cities, advances are accelerating as they build on each others’ momentum
The group of Chief Data Officers who constitute the Civic Analytics Network (CAN), a peer network of data leaders from U.S. cities, are leaders who each contribute in distinct ways to the data-driven government conversation – some bring data analytics acumen, others bring technical infrastructure and data governance expertise, while others have experience in geographic information systems, predictive analytics, or organizational culture transformation. What they all have in common is that they are essential leaders in their respective cities, sought out to bring new approaches to the most vexing city challenges. They’re solving important problems using data visualization and sophisticated analytics tools to find more efficient ways to keep streets clean, make restaurant food safer, reduce lead paint exposure for children, combat rodents, increase the fairness of real estate taxes, improve traffic flow, and curb opioid addiction and homelessness. They’re data champions in their cities, offering new approaches like human-centered design and behavioral insights and nudges to help improve city life.
The volume, diversity, and sophistication of data efforts in the leading cities is growing
The rapid expansion of city-level data-driven decision making is apparent in the growing sophistication of the projects and capabilities of CAN cities over the past few years. When CAN began, only Chicago and New York City were engaged in predictive analytics. Today, the majority of network members either have a data scientist on staff or have engaged outside resources for advanced data services such as predictive analytics. Since the network launched two years ago, network conversations have evolved, too. Initial discussions focused on the basic blocking and tackling of a startup enterprise–staffing models and procurement challenges. Now, CDOs talk about emerging issues like technology-driven mobility, sensors and other smart city strategies, combatting algorithmic bias, and integrating city data with other sources. The CAN cities have individually and collectively advanced along a continuum of greater use of data to provide value to the public.
How can other cities assess where they stand in relation to the leaders?
What can a city do to see how it measures up to these leading examples of data-driven government from the Civic Analytics Network? The framework below provides the foundation for a self-assessment tool to help cities determine where they are now and what they can do in the future to become more data-driven. This framework follows a four-stage capability maturity model (see below) and was inspired by observations of the advances made by members of the Civic Analytics Network. For more detail on the maturity model see “Analytics Excellence Roadmap.”
What is common at the highest level of data-driven government is strong leadership that establishes the culture–a culture of valuing the use of data to set priorities and allocate resources via a variety of tools and methods ranging from performance measurement, to data visualization and geospatial maps, to advanced analytics.
The framework describes a generalized path showing that as cities mature in their capability to produce, share, and use high quality data, they provide the opportunity for both internal and external users to analyze and use data, which in turn enables improved government performance. This framework defines open data as a foundation and an accelerant of data-driven government. While not a necessary precursor to creating a data culture, the process of publishing open data provides ample opportunity to assess data availability and quality and allows cities to become more familiar with data previously unavailable or unknown because it was siloed in a different department or hidden in a file drawer. Opening and sharing data facilitates its use for analytics, management, and resource allocation.
The self-assessment tool
For each stage of the maturity model, there are a series of questions that can help a chief executive or data leader assess the degree to which their city government is already prepared to share and use data, and the areas in which they have room to grow. The questions in the self-assessment tool provided below are intended as a starting point for discussion and offer a way to help a leader interested in moving toward greater use of data get started–this is not a one-off self-diagnostic tool, but rather should initiate an ongoing discussion of how to continuously become more data-driven.
How to use the tool
Chief executives and data leaders alike can use these questions to guide their thinking as they develop strategies for becoming increasingly data-driven. For more on the key elements of a good data strategy, see, “Lessons from Leading CDOs.” Revisiting the questions below annually will help provide a way to measure progress toward achieving strategic goals. Today, no city, not even the top leaders in the field, can answer every question below in the affirmative. All cities can and should aspire to continually improve the degree to which they provide the public with transparent operations and services, hire and train analysts with the skills and tools to use data, and equip managers and leaders with the competency and confidence to make decisions based on data-driven insights.
Since the purpose of this tool is to help cities advance in their progress toward data-driven government, we’d like to hear from you about your experience using the tool. Send us your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In each of the sections below is a set of questions that can help cities assess their data-driven practices and identify places for improvement.