Using Data Analytics To Improve Local Government in Massachusetts

With all of the technology available today, it would seem that data-driven government would be the norm rather than the exception. However, it doesn’t appear that local governments are taking advantage of massive amounts of data they collect to operate as efficiently and as effectively as possible–at least not in Massachusetts, according to Michael Ward, director of municipal services at the Collins Center for Public Management at UMass Boston.

Ward points to public works agencies in the state to prove his point. “Elected officials and the public want to know about the effectiveness and efficiency of their public works operations,” he says. “How well are they performing?” The problem is that in many public works departments in Massachusetts, the question is fundamentally unanswerable.

A public works department has to know how much work it’s completing to determine how well it’s operating. Yet, the majority of public works departments in the state don’t comprehensively track the work they do, he says.

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Part of the reason is that many departments don’t even have automated work order systems, relying instead on Post-It notes and printed-out emails to assign work. Others agencies have work order systems that aren’t being used properly, he says. The result is that they don’t have the information that’s useful for reporting or to make the best business decisions.;

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