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Blogs / Performance Management / What’s Your Data Challenge?

What’s Your Data Challenge?

Every jurisdiction has data that’s easy to measure. And that’s what typically ends up in budget documents as evidence of performance. But easy-to-measure indicators may be limited to the outputs of the various local government departments.

For example, they might indicate how many building permits were issued, how many arrests were made, how many oil changes were performed, and so on. These are workload measures, and they fill up the budget pages quite nicely, but when it comes to improving performance, they don’t help much.

What these output or workload measures tend to miss are the value judgments that can help you make decisions about resource allocation and management priorities:

  • How do the measures relate to a strategic goal to be accomplished?
  • How do they help assess progress toward a target to be achieved?
  • How do they reflect on a quality standard you want to meet?

In other words, is the number of permits itself the important factor, or is it the type of permits issued, the timeliness of their processing, or the assessed valuation added to the tax base?

The number of arrests is not likely go away as a measure, but when it comes to community goals, is it only the number that’s important—or is it also such related measures as the percentage of crimes cleared and the public’s perception of safety?

In this blog and elsewhere, ICMA has provided examples of indicators that help managers delve beneath the outputs and quantify those difficult-to-measure goals and targets:

ICMA has also provided hands-on assistance to jurisdictions that want to explore potential performance indicators and consider how to craft measures for services that might otherwise seem unmeasurable, such as the office of the administrator, clerk, or attorney.

If you have examples to share, let us hear from you. And if you’re interested in revisiting your existing performance metrics or putting them to better use in data-driven decision-making, contact me at I’d be happy to open a discussion.

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