Hard hitting interview with city CIO reveals value of analytics, coercion


This is a dramatic interpretation of an actual conversation I recently had with the CIO of one of North Carolina’s leading cities. We discussed his experience using data quality, data integration, business intelligence and analytics in the daily operation of the city. I may have taken some...well, a lot of creative license with the flow of the conversation but his description of how his city uses the technology, and the specific examples, are real.

Me: So, anonymous CIO, tell me about your data analysis efforts.

CIO: Gladly. In addition to having…wait, this is just a casual conversation, right?

Me: Yes, of course. It’s not like it will end up as some silly, part-fiction blog interview.

CIO: Oh, good. That would be weird. Well, in addition to having internal departmental systems to create meaningful reports on any business problem, we have the added advantage of the whole organization being able to use the same software platform.

Me: Fascinating. What does that mean for you?

CIO: It means the Information Services staff only has to support one set of software, train users on one set of software and maintain one set of software.  And they avoid buying separate software for thirteen different departments. The cost savings over time are huge.

Me: Like…gross domestic product of Chile huge?

CIO: I’m not familiar with that aspect of the Chilean economy.

Me: [Pause] I’ll send you a link. So, how extensively is your organization using reporting and analytics?

CIO: Send it to my Gmail. Where was I? Oh, right. Currently, ten out of thirteen departments are using these capabilities daily: Police, Fire, Parks and Recreation, Budget, Finance, Permits and Inspections, Utilities, Public Works, Planning and Development and Administration. Many use…

Me: Hold on, I’m still writing. Permits…Inspections…

CIO: [Waiting patiently]  Done? OK. Many use these tools and capabilities to perform data analysis that was not possible previously. For example, the Police Department can now report on call activity and traffic calls by time of day, location, officer, beat and district, specific location…like an apartment complex, neighborhood or shopping area. They can analyze response times by call type and many other variables.

Me: Does it help with investigations? For example, would it help police catch a tagger?

CIO: A what?

Me: You know, a graffiti artist. I hear there are some out there that are like urban Michelangelos. Especially the one called Coal Man Billy.

CIO: [Puzzled] I have no idea. I can tell you the Police Department can now integrate data from its Records Management System with the Administrative Office of the Courts to track probationers residing in the town. So if Coal Man Bobby…

Me: Billy.

CIO: If Coal Many Billy has been busted and is on probation, then he’s in the system.

Me: Never been caught. Too stealthy.

CIO: Very well. Another good example is the Utilities Department analyzing water distribution system pressure zones to better manage peaks in demand and storage. Also, Parks and Recreation can now establish key performance metrics and track facility use, cost and performance. All of the user departments are continuing to identify business problems that have defied analysis prior to having access to these tools.

Me: That’s great stuff. Thank you for this completely voluntary and private conversation.

CIO: No problem. Can I have my car keys back now?



About Author

Bill Coleman

Advisory Industry Consultant

Bill Coleman works with SAS local government customers across the US to understand best practices and solutions. Coleman applies his more than 30 years of experience as a senior leader in city and local government to guide SAS product and marketing management. From 1994 to 2008, he served as Town Manager of Cary, NC, the seventh-largest municipality in the state with a population exceeding 130,000. Coleman was responsible for planning, organizing and directing municipal operations, which included more than 1,000 employees and 11 departments providing a full range of municipal services. Under his leadership, Cary was the first municipality in North Carolina to work on performance enhancement system. The system was designed to help the town maintain its high quality of life by improving resource allocation and operational efficiencies throughout town government, beginning with the areas of public safety and development services.

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  1. Pingback: How can local governments add clarity and confidence to budgeting? - State and Local Connection

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