Back in December, I wrote about the Butler Group's contention that public-sector agencies should follow the lead of private-sector businesses and invest in business intelligence to improve their decision-making capabilities.
A recent GCN article describes an agency that has done just that, the South Carolina Office of Research and Statistics (ORS), part of the state's Budget and Control Board. It helps make government more efficient by using BI tools to analyze data from about 20 state agencies, Medicaid, Medicare, hospitals and other organizations. Says Pete Bailey, chief of the 45-person health and demographics group at ORS:
We can tie funding to programs, agencies, the private sector and nonprofits. We can monitor [funding], evaluate the outcomes and tie them back to continued funding. If a program isn't successful, the legislature can see that, see where the problem is and fix it.
So, for instance, it was able to show that seniors who received meals paid for with federal funds issued to the state through the Older Americans Act were healthier than those who did not, leading the state legislature to earmark $2.9 million for the program in 2007. Those funds paid for 5,476 meals and other home- and community-based services. The ORS is now receiving data that will help it objectively evaluate the results of the funding increases.
The article only hints at the challenges, noting that the ORS had to negotiate with the entities that owned the data for several years to get it, and then spend more time actually building databases. But it seems worth it to achieve the goal of a more transparent political process.
The ORS made a smart move in expanding its BI capabilities with a geographic information system that can break out results according to county, ZIP code and congressional district. Says Bailey:
When a politician wants to be re-elected, he can show how things have changed while [he was] in office. If there haven't been sufficient improvements, he and agencies can work together. Politicians haven't previously had specifics of these problems for the people they represent.