“What gets measured, gets managed,” is one of Peter Drucker’s most cited quotes. So if there’s little or no data available, how can you effectively manage your public works organization? For that matter, how can you manage any organization, especially in this challenging economy? Here are nine benefits of using operational data in the public works setting (or anywhere) especially when using a software system, like PubWorks.
1) Provides A Baseline – Baseline data is a key piece of the foundation for any assessment or improvement effort. Data needs to be complete, accurate, and consistently input. This is not about “busy work” or looking over someone’s shoulder. It’s about laying the groundwork for managing for excellence.
2) Promotes Better Reporting & Analysis – You can analyze data over time, such as by project, season, or year. You can also sort the data by segment – task, worker, vehicle, equipment, street, bridge, sign, vendor, etc. Exporting data into Excel can take the analysis even farther. Creating key performance indicators (KPIs) for your key processes and services is a natural next step for tracking progress.
3) Spotlights Improvement Opportunities – Once you’ve analyzed the data and you’re able to detect trend changes, questions will naturally surface. Team discussion and data drill downs could provide some immediate answers. A quick, Kaizen improvement effort using lean principles, could increase process efficiency and remove waste. Longer term solutions can be incorporated into your strategic plan and financial forecast. You should be aiming for improved staffing models and scheduling, as well as inventory and asset management.
4) Identifies Potential Training Needs And Best Practices – Improvement opportunities include the investment in your workforce. Additional training may be required for new hires to be fully productive or to take senior staff to a higher level. Best practices should be documented and shared across the organization. Good data and analysis often points to training needs that can reduce service delays and rework.
5) Allows Benchmarking With Other Jurisdictions – When you have the data and insights, you’re much more prepared to reach out to other public works organizations and compare notes. Benchmarking on common data and processes can yield break-through performance not possible from internal analysis. Without data – you can only guess.
6) Enhances Economic Development Discussions And Proposals – Public Works isn’t always included in these discussions as often or as early as they should be. Real data and financial models can be important talking points for maintenance contracts, pricing proposals, or public private partnerships. Disregarding these insights can lead to additional costs and staff burden with no corresponding revenue streams.
7) Provides Transparency – Your organization will be more transparent to senior leadership, elected officials, and citizens. Getting and keeping these stakeholders on the same page about your services and results is another critical component of achieving excellence. You want advocates – not critics.
8) Increases Levy Support – With transparency and understanding comes a more airtight business case. This is important if and when you need to ask citizens for more financial support. Our experience is that the public is usually supportive when they feel they’ve been told the truth and other options have been exhausted. Detailed data provides the compelling story that can make the difference.
9) Boosts Efficiency & Maximizes Cash Flow – It all comes down to time and money – and better service. You’ll probably notice a reduction in complaint calls and inquiries from all stakeholders – yet another form of waste in a public works organization.
When you have a better story to tell, it’s easier to communicate and be transparent. Centralizing your data into a system like PubWorks really does makes it easier to measure and manage your way to operational excellence.