In order to truly benefit from data collection and analysis, you need to make strategic decisions about where to apply your new insights. Cities and large organizations can benefit from taking an intelligent operations center (IOC) approach to managing information flow in which users are given customized dashboards presenting critical data measurements.

The key to know where to focus efforts in order to prioritize the insights presented. Before moving toward a highly customized and targeted solution, understand your standard data sets.

The technology world is quickly moving toward open standards to allow for interoperability and increased access to information and resources. The foundation for open standards is, of course, determining and defining resources. Any time you have incoming data that needs to be analyzed and organized, ask an important question: What is the standard here? If there isn’t a standard, or it’s vague, ask how do we define it to move toward an IOC-style approach?

The first step is to normalize data and establish baseline conditions in your system that will consistently be measured against. If you fail to take this step, you’ll likely pay a lot of money to develop a customized dashboard that the majority of your team will be unable to interpret and understand in time to make important decisions. Recently, companies like Element Blue that specialize in data analysis systems for the infrastructure and utility industries have partnered with data-integration experts in order to create high-performance, cost-effective systems for mapping data.

The million (or maybe multi-million) dollar question is, of course, how do cities get value from investing the resources in defining and implementing these standards? Ultimately, the most value can be found when standards are created that align with top city officials’ or top executives’ priorities. At the end of the day, town leaders and CEOs are the ones who can make big decisions about how and where IT budgets will be invested, so it makes sense to figure out if the systems and standards you’re creating are on course with their goals and objectives.

For instance, when a water utilities project manager wants to develop an IOC-style dashboard for his team, he should really be talking to the city manager about project requirements from the very beginning. Start by providing a detailed accounting of prioritized needs and investments for the IOC so top officials can have a long view of where the project will be heading, and how it will ultimately add value to the organization.

Remember that these top officials and executives are the ones who can really help evolve your system beyond the status quo, and if they’re going to champion your cause, they really need to understand what they’re advocating for in the first place. Once you have these key leaders on board, you can begin developing and implementing the system that will align with their priorities, and save your team from spending a majority of its time on redundant manual data-entry tasks.

The saying “you’ll never know how to get there if you don’t know where you’re going” may be a cliché, but it fits the process of streamlining priorities for information flow perfectly. Before you start investing in a customized IOC dashboard with all the bells and whistles, know exactly why you’re building it in the first place.


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