What does it mean to be data driven?

All too often, municipalities are trying to do more with less. Software solutions, like those BMSI offers, have helped streamline the process of collecting and aggregating data.

It important for communities to function efficiently, but they must know how to use the information available to them to make better decisions. It is okay to follow your instinct, however, most of your organization’s decisions should be backed by metrics, facts, or figures related to its aims, goals, and initiatives.

When beginning your journey towards making data driven decisions, use what tools and information you have readily available. To start making the kinds of decisions that will save your community time and money consider the following:

Define your objective

What problems are you looking to solve? What do you want to learn?

Determine the precise questions you need answered to inform your strategy. From there you can streamline the data collection process and avoid wasting precious resources.

Don’t mix all the data together just to see what you’ll find.

Before you expend significant effort connecting data, make sure that there’s a clear statement of purpose and that there is a consensus from the people who understand that data.

Identify and review your data sources

Connecting data starts with understanding what’s there and how it’s stored. One of your keys to success is to work with those who are familiar with and understand this data. They are an invaluable resource to understanding how the data has been tracked and organized.

Make sure the data is relevant to your outlined mission.

Not all systems are built to track information in a way that is suited to help your mission. The challenge is finding commonality. Create a query on your own and experience how data is stored for reporting.

Different data sets usually have different transaction formats, reference codes, and even inconsistent codes meant to represent the same information.

Not all data sources have the same level of quality. Data may be entered in different formats (e.g., “W Main” versus “W. Main” versus “West Main”).

It’s possible you may not find common reference points. This is why you define your objective and review the data prior to spending the effort on building anything.

You may learn that there is a better way to track data. With a focused effort to track quality data, standardizing code structures across systems, or incorporating new data fields you can still meet your defined objective when enough data has been captured.

Analyze and verify the results

Verify the data before sharing it publicly. Once the data is “out there,” it is difficult to retract.

If you happen to find some surprising results, it may be a good time to review the data. Keep in mind that data analysis can be abused, manipulated, and even incorrect. The goal is to encourage the informed use of accurate data.

Once you have reviewed and verified the data, focus on the presentation. How can the data be presented in a meaningful way to your administration or, more importantly, your constituents? Digging for and gleaning insights is nice but supporting your discoveries with your message is better.

Conclusion

By collecting data, extracting patterns, and utilizing those to make inferences you will begin to influence your decision-making.

Following these steps will put you on the right track to help your organization capture clean information, streamline daily processes and use data to make a positive impact.