Data Dashboards

Frequently, those of us who work on the Citizens and Performance section of Governing.com receive emails from project directors around the country telling us about projects relevant to the topic of citizen involvement in performance management.
January 16, 2008
 

Frequently, those of us who work on the Citizens and Performance section of Governing.com receive emails from project directors around the country telling us about projects relevant to the topic of citizen involvement in performance management.

Recently, we were contacted by Steve Gorcester, director of the Washington Transportation Improvement Board. After reading Jonathan Walter's October 2007 article, "Visual Effects," which describes the use of data dashboards by some public agencies, Gorcester told us more about that subject and how WTIB uses them.

Here is what we learned:

The Washington Transportation Improvement Board is a special-purpose government agency, not part of the state department of transportation, that gives grants to local governments to fund transportation projects. It serves all cities from Seattle to the smallest towns. The board's revenue is derived from the state gasoline tax.

The WTIB's data dashboard is a critical aspect of program management for the agency, used for all of its ongoing programs. It has enabled the agency to turn around its performance since the day, seven years ago, that WTIB was told by the legislature that it would receive no further funding until its management was improved and its backlog cleared up.

Taking its cue from the private sector, WTIB developed and built its dashboard project completely in house at a cost of $40,000. It came on line in 2004, and has since been expanded through the use of Google maps, which give employees aerial and street-level views of ongoing projects. It is used to monitor road conditions, allowing the color coding of roads or projects, so staff are alerted to those most in need of help.

More after the jump.

Know of a program that we oughta know about? Email Heather Kleba and tell her about it!

The system is updated immediately from field reports. Each dashboard page has indicator lights -- red, yellow, green -- that denote the state of the entire system at a given time. If, for example, a project goes over budget, a red light goes on to alert WTIB staff to the problem -- all in real time.

Thanks to the dashboard, legislators, WTIB managers and employees, and officials in the towns and cities with WTIB programs are well informed. Not surprisingly, the state auditor has described WTIB's dashboard as the best example of performance measurement in state government.

And yes, since instituting the dashboard system, the backlog is gone, projects are managed better and completed as planned. Since 2005, WTIB has been funded by the legislature on an ongoing basis. Soon the public will be able to avail itself of this information as well: WTIB is currently working on a public interface, which they expect to be available in one or two months.

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