Success in the City of Irving – A Q&A

Daniel Cohen's picture
 By | maart 17, 2016
in Government S/L, data management, state and local government, City of Irving
maart 17, 2016

Photo of Irving, Texas attributed to La Citta Vita.

Transparency and accountability are hallmarks of good government. Taxpayers are generally happy when they know what their elected representatives are up to, and if necessary, they can easily interface with various departments for services. Sometimes, however, taxpayers ask themselves, “What am I getting for my tax dollar?” A government can very rarely provide an answer to that question without multiple Freedom of Information (FOIL) requests, telephone calls, or visits to City Hall. Even if a jurisdiction does have a system that allows citizens to track how much their local government is spending on particular things, there is no system that tracks the results of all those dollars and all that effort.

A system like that would bring real transparency.

At Information Builders, I get to see a lot of jurisdictions implementing our “3i’s”: business intelligence, integrity, and integration. Frequently, governmental organizations use our tools for transparency initiatives. The State of Florida and the State of Colorado, for instance, use WebFOCUS to enable visitors to track operating budgets and fund balances and expenditures by fund and program area.

The City of Irving goes several steps further. It can track the results of all those dollars and efforts. The City has created a system that can track how well it is doing relative to key performance metrics, achieving real transparency. For citizens, the City Report Card - shown below - provides measures and goals according to major service areas including public safety, infrastructure, code enforcement, economic development, recreation, governance, communications and customer service, cultural, recreational and educational opportunities.

Since 2007, Irving has documented $38 million in cost savings and avoidance and has gained over 48,000 hours in productivity through the elimination of redundant work and the implementation of streamlined business practices. In a process of continued improvement, city workers continually review citizen input, work processes, and measure scorecards to identify opportunities for organizational improvements. Department and employee metrics are linked to citywide strategic goals, strategies, actions, and KPIs, which are all reported in internal report cards.

I am proud to say that the City of Irving, Texas – the poster-child for improving transparency, accountability, financial, and operational performance – has just won the Public Technology Institute’s award for Data and Performance Metrics.

Let’s all tip our hats to Aimee Kaslik, Chief Innovation and Performance Officer at the City of Irving, Texas on yet another well-earned accolade.

Q&A with City of Irving

I had the opportunity to ask Aimee a few questions about all the successes the City of Irving has seen, as well as how they got there.

Q: Correct me if I am wrong but, in your case, the path to implementing performance management was smooth. You had executive sponsorship that provided vision and funding, and you have able-bodied staff to implement. That said, what were your biggest challenges and how did you over-come them?

AK: Our biggest challenge to implementation was in migrating data from our former system. This was not a technical challenge but rather a challenge in moving to an entire new structure that allowed us greater flexibility in organizing our data and aligning it across the organization.

To overcome this, we worked with Information Builders Professional Services, who worked with us to first understand how our organization is structured and what the needs were for our end users. From there they helped us to establish a hierarchy and dimensions in which to align data in a way that would meet our needs for years to come.

Q: Were there any unexpected benefits or unintended consequences that you realized since implementing the system?

AK: We learned that people don’t like the color red. We’ve really had to work to convince staff that red indicators are not necessarily a bad thing. It is merely a way to show us where more attention and resources are needed. Likewise, if departments are consistently exceeding their target than perhaps they are not aiming high enough.

We also worked closely with departments to develop meaningful measures that align with key processes and have realistic targets so as to avoid “gaming the numbers” to ensure a green indicator.

Q: Do you have any plans to modify or augment system? And what benefits do you expect from them?

AK:  Just this fiscal year we took a major step forward in how we use the system. We went through a complete review process with departments to identify key processes – not just functional areas within a department – and used these processes to create new “objectives” in our Performance Management Framework (PMF). From there, we worked to create a family of measures with a focus on efficiency and effectiveness. Our next step was to develop initiatives that support both the department business plans and Council’s strategic plan. These became “projects” in PMF. We had never used this feature before.

What it has allowed us to do is the make PMF a one stop shop for all we do. Measures are reported, projects are managed, and reports are generated all through one resource. In prior years, all of this information would have been “managed” across multiple platforms. For us, having all of this together and properly aligned is a huge advantage. Now more than ever, departments truly see PMF as a tool for them, not just a repository for data requested by my team. They are seeing how the system can be used to support their operations and are more engaged in its use.

For more on Aimee and the PTI Awards, read our most recent press release.

To hear the City of Irving’s story in more detail, register for this upcoming webcast on June 9.