Your Fancy New Analytics Platform Doesn't Matter If No One Uses It

This is not who you are building a platform for.

This is not who you are building a platform for. Nyrok555 / Shutterstock.com

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

COMMENTARY | Tools should empower employees, not send them running back to spreadsheets.

Data analytics has the potential to revolutionize the services state and local governments provide to their citizens, with some agency representatives calling it “the most disruptive thing that we have going on.” Clearly the technology has the power and potential to greatly improve agencies’ ability to connect with their constituents and improve people’s lives. But that power and potential may go unrealized if agency employees are not using the data analytics tools at their disposal.

Even with the most visually appealing data analytics tools on the market, if the end user applications and use cases are not designed with the user’s perspective in mind, there is a good chance state and local employees will fall back to using time-consuming spreadsheets. That effectively negates the software’s powerful potential and greatly lowers an agency’s return on investment.

Instead of IT building analytical applications that users may not like or understand, agencies should adopt an employee-centric approach to designing and developing their data analytics solutions. By employing the concept of “design thinking” in building their data analysis applications, agencies can create solutions that their employees will actually want to use.

Putting the User First

Design thinking is based on the idea that the best and most effective solutions are designed with the users’ needs in mind. Think of objects that people use all the time without hesitation—a comfortable pair of shoes, an ergonomically correct chair, or even a toothbrush. These objects are the result of design thinking that put the needs of human beings front and center.

The one thing they have in common is they were created based on an understanding and empathy of users. Their creators researched how their customers acted and felt and what they wanted, and designed solutions around their needs.

Agencies can do the same as they begin developing their data analytics solutions. They can start by talking to the workers who will actually use the programs and understanding what kind of solution they would like to use. Then, they can brainstorm new and creative concepts to address those users’ needs. Ultimately they can choose a few of the best ideas, prototype them, and test them and request user feedback. Eventually, they will be able to build and implement the best data analytics solution for the agency and its users—one that will be readily adopted and used on a consistent basis.

Involving Employees Who Actually Use The Tool

The challenge is breaking down cultural barriers and making user-centric design thinking an institutionalized part of the agency. Like all organizations, many state and local agencies have their own ways of doing things. Often, those ways have been the same for many years. Traditionally, that means software solutions are developed by the agency’s IT department and rolled out to the team with very little to no input from users.

This is the antithesis of user-centric design thinking, and it can be extraordinarily counterproductive. I’ve seen IT developers present analytics solutions showcasing decades of data laid out in visually impressive manner, but without any real practical use for end users the solution goes nowhere.  IT thinks it made something great, and can’t understand why it is not being adopted; meanwhile, agency workers roll their eyes at and go back to their old ways of doing their jobs.

Instead of this top-down approach, agencies should involve users at the outset of development. Start by asking some simple questions:

  • What information do you need to do your job that you don’t have today?
  • If you had that, how would you use it?
  • What can be improved?

Bring together users for several hours and truly get to know their challenges. Developing this understanding and connection can help agencies better design data analytics solutions that can directly meet those challenges head-on.

This approach helps users become invested in the solution. If they helped to create it, they are more likely to understand and use it. Then, they are more likely to evangelize and teach it to others within the agency. This can be particularly beneficial to new employees who may not have had the opportunity to be involved in the development process.

Measuring Usefulness

Getting users on board is only the beginning. Just as agencies should use data analysis to improve citizen services, they should also create action plans for continuously analyzing the user engagement and adoption of their software applications. Soliciting user feedback and monitoring usage rates and patterns on a consistent basis can help agencies determine if any adjustments need to be made to ensure that the applications continue to meet employees’ needs.

User-centric design thinking has been around for a long time, but it remains a relatively nascent concept in the public sector. Its benefits, however, are very real for state and local agencies. Those organizations have a great opportunity to adopt design thinking and use it to get the most out of their data analytics programs—and their employees.

Jake Bittner is CEO of Qlarion.

NEXT STORY: Verizon Names Indianapolis Its Final 5G Pilot City

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.