With dynamically changing revenue streams, critical infrastructure needs and current higher-than-average gas prices and inflation concerns, transportation agencies around the country are using data to enable analytically driven decisions while navigating complex business challenges.
Today's transportation industry is ripe with opportunities for innovation and growth. And this is especially true when it comes to using data and analytics to improve processes, cut costs and implement new technologies.
Moreover, the transportation industry is one of the world's fastest-growing and most dynamic sectors. The demand for cost-effective and efficient transport solutions has led to further innovation across all areas of this vast global sector, with new technologies emerging constantly. Many exciting developments are taking place in the transportation industry, which continues to be transformed by data analytics. Companies must also analyze data regularly to identify and rectify any problems that may be present.
The N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) is one example of an organization using data to lead the way for others to follow. Stephanie King is the chief financial officer at NCDOT. She sees data as a vital tool in governmental financial practices with many applications.
"We set strategic performance goals within the organization and each unit is responsible for empowering our staff to track performance and deliver on these goals. For me, that includes current revenue streams while looking ahead to the future. Data helps drive success in all aspects of what we do."
Data for more intelligent decision making
Data and analytics enable decision-makers in transportation to focus on the critical issues at hand. Furthermore, King believes better data is key to making better decisions. She said gathering, integrating, and assessing data is an ever-evolving effort. Utilizing data analytics has been vital for the NCDOT to measure performance and make informed decisions for transportation.
"When we merge financial information with key performance measures, we can see the areas that may need additional focus."
Pulling all NCDOT operational and financial data together in one place gives the Department clear insights for making informed decisions. King said having the correct data and forecasting further into the future is the most crucial element for her.
"We need analytics to support a longer-term vision of what NCDOT will look like in five years or more – for talent, transportation infrastructure, Department of Motor Vehicle services and so much more in a growing state. We must optimize where we spend limited transportation dollars to meet the state's needs."
Using data to show project progress
NCDOT is responsible for managing billions of dollars in critical infrastructure and mobility projects to serve the public. NCDOT uses dashboards to show the up-to-date status of projects and how well it delivers them.
"For our internal performance measures, we have dashboards showing the status of projects from start to completion. This gives us insights into if we are achieving safety goals and delivering on time. We must ensure the safety of the traveling public and our employees on the roadside. We also need to look at our assets, how we are maintaining our infrastructure and if we are getting people from Murphy, North Carolina to Manteo, North Carolina in the most efficient way."
King said NCDOT's use of analytics is becoming more sophisticated as the staff considers what transportation will look like – not just in the next five years, but in the next 10-20 years. This has provoked questions of "how will we pay for future projects when the primary source of revenue today, gas taxes, will be dramatically impacted in the years to come?"
Using data to monitor workforce dynamics
In addition to managing NCDOT operations, King said the change in workforce dynamics is another critical area for analytical insight. Understanding what the talent pool looks like and where NCDOT is headed is crucial to managing the organization's future.
"We used to talk about a potential "talent tsunami" because of the number of people leaving the workforce in the next few years. We also focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion within our workforce. We have over 9,000 employees at NCDOT and a wide range of skill sets. We need to measure that and ensure we can attract and retain the right talent in the future."
The transportation industry is a prime example of how data can drive innovation and transform businesses through its increased adoption of data analytics, the development of data platforms and the rise of IoT devices. These developments are helping to make businesses more efficient, productive, and sustainable.
It is encouraging to see leaders within government agencies advocate for the use of data analytics in ways that can improve the lives of the people they serve.