My name is Jesse Llop, and I am enthusiastically joining the Office of Innovation as a Senior Data Analyst. I come to OISI fresh from a consulting contract with the City of Rochester's IT Department in data strategy, and before that, several years of data work in functional genomics. My career in science focused on statistics development for experimental data, and on analysis and prioritization of experimental data.
My primary focus in this role will be coordinating a City-wide data strategy and building a culture of analytics for data-driven decision-making. I'll summarize here what "data strategy" and "analytics" mean to me and what these ideas can deliver to our city. Data strategy means having focus on data coordination, particularly among City leadership. Analytics means deriving value from data by making better, more efficient decisions.
Data Strategy is Focus
For many organizations, data strategy gets conflated with data management. There is, however, an important distinction to make: data management is all about where data is stored and transported, i.e. databases and computers. Data strategy, on the other hand, is all about creating a focused vision for how we use data to get where we want to go as an organization. A clear, focused vision tells you where to develop resources, which programs to prioritize, and what projects to take on. Having focus enables you to make big decisions confidently and to succinctly justify them. It also lets you gracefully say no to opportunities that look attractive but would pull you in the wrong direction.
City Leadership’s Role in Coordination
There are many potential directions to place our strategic focus. For City leaders, the focus must be on coordination. We have more than a dozen City departments and bureaus that each provide very different services to citizens. They all rely on City leadership for a unified direction, allowing each department to make the most of not only their own data, but also each other’s data. By coordinating the flows of data, we create value through two types of synergies: cost and service. Cost synergies come from eliminating duplicated effort, an important achievement when local governments are expected to deliver more with less. Service synergy comes from multiple departments coordinating to provide better services to our citizens. Identifying and delivering opportunities for these synergies will require more analytics based decision making across the City.
Analytics for a Stronger, Smarter City
There are two categories of data use: operational and analytical. Operational uses answer questions about a single event, person or transaction, such as "where do we need to dispatch a crew to service this 311 call?" Analytical uses ask broader questions about populations and patterns, "Where do people like to park on Wednesday evenings?" or "Which citizens are hardest hit by poverty, and why?" As a city government, we have room to grow our analytical capabilities. With good analysis, we will make better decisions, provide higher quality services, and reduce the cost of operations. I'd like to acknowledge here the advanced analysis and crime reporting of the Rochester Police Department, which can be pointed to as a leading example for others.
Organizations that lag in analytics capability often face an interesting hurdle. Before they can justify and choose investments in data analytics, they need to see the value analytics can create. Meanwhile, before they can see the value analytics can create, they need to perform the analytics! This chicken and egg scenario, if left alone, can stall the progress we need. Here, the Office of Innovation can help foster an appreciation for analytics in the City, by making our skills available for pilot projects and ad-hoc analyses and eventually empowering our colleagues with the tools to sustain this work. From the seeds planted by these collaborations, we can build strength in our analytics across the City.
My first month on the team has been engaging and productive, and I can't wait to see what we accomplish next!