Coquitlam uses BI for performance management

VANCOUVER — The municipality of Coquitlam, British Columbia, a city of about 113,000 people just outside of Vancouver, is using performance management tools to help manage and improve its public services.

Rick Adams, the city’s

manager of infrastructure and communications, said the goal is to start managing outcomes based on the city’s strategic goals and objectives.

“”In order to do that, you need to be able to use the information you have for decision support and for monitoring your progress in achieving those objectives,”” he said.

To that end, Coquitlam has purchased a number of products from Cognos, including Enterprise BI Series 7, Enterprise Planning Series, Analytics Applications and Metrics Manager. Adams will also be working with Cognos to develop its City Performance Management Project.

Adams said Coquitlam wants to start measuring achievements using a broad range of metrics, not just financial ones. While financial measurements are useful, Adams said they don’t tell you anything until after the job is done — and by then it’s too late to fix it.

“”We wanted to improve our ability to do analytics, to actually go through and farm the data, analyze it, and look at relationships,”” said Adams. “”We really wanted to move to dashboard reporting with real-time drill-down capabilities, that was the ultimate deliverable.””

The dashboard will be available on the desktops of city employees to monitor in near real-time the status the deliverables they’re responsible for. For example, the city believes that by spending more on road repair they may be able to reduce accident rates. If the dashboard display is green, that means they are meeting or exceeding expectations. If it’s yellow there’s a potential concern, and if the display turns red then that deliverable is off-track. At that point, the person responsible can drill down into all the details associated with that indicator to find out what’s going wrong.

“”It might just be one element of that whole scenario that’s gone off-track, and you can hopefully adjust that and get it back on track,”” said Adams. “”It’s proactive monitoring.””

A likely scenario will see one staff person responsible for each deliverable. Adams said he wants to give the tools to their staff and let them be as independent as possible. Many city staffers already have Cognos report writing training, and the analytics tools from Cognos will allow them to go in and look at the data and analyze relationships.

Adams said Coquitlam was already making extensive use of technology, and existing data sources will be fed into the new software to create the dashboard monitors as part of the city’s balanced scorecard project.

Currently, Coquitlam is working with Cognos and Deloitte and Touche to define what they want to measure and how, and Adams said they hope to have the project up and running for January.

Terence Atkinson, director of public sector solutions for Cognos, agreed Coquitlam is ahead of the curve.

“”They’re aggressively adopting a performance strategy spanning across their organization,”” said Atkinson.

Atkinson said with the products they’ve purchased from Cognos, Coquitlam will be able to integrate all budget planning, performance management, and analysis reporting requirements across the city into one system.

“”They’re pulling data from HR systems, from finance systems and taxation systems, integrating that together and getting a view across the entire organization,”” said Atkinson. “”Frankly, I think it’s very profound, at the front of the curve for municipalities and I’d wager most commercial organizations as well.””

What this degree of integration and the information it creates gives Coquitlam city staffers is transparency into critical business processes, and a global view of any discrete functions they would perform in a department. They can begin to ask complex questions and get quick answers to them.

“”Organizations tend to operate on guts and bold assumptions, this lets them operate on real data and results,”” said Atkinson. “”They’ll get the relevant information at the right time so they can act on it immediately, without having to dig through inconsequential data.””

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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