Oliver Wise probably couldn’t have picked a worse time to work for a city. For years following Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans was a government on the brink. The city faced massive budget deficits, staff morale had cratered and its IT systems were collapsing. But Wise went ahead and joined newly elected Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration in 2010 with the goal of bringing innovation and success to a moribund performance management system.
Wise’s first task was huge: find a way for the city to deal with the enormous amount of blight. Nearly 30 percent of the city’s housing stock was thought to be impaired or abandoned. Wise created a strategy to address or remove 10,000 blighted homes by 2014 and launched a “blight stat” program to track results. He then spread the same data-driven, analytical approach to operations citywide.
Wise and his team coordinated a strategic framework organized around Landrieu’s goals of supporting public safety, sustainability, economic development, children and families, and open and effective government. Performance metrics align to these strategies. “We now have a high-touch stat program for cross-cutting issues in the city,” said Wise.
In 2014, New Orleans was recognized by the International City/County Management Association for its excellence in “superior performance management,” including performance analytics.
Technology is, of course, critical to the work done by Wise and his associates. But he makes sure the Office of Performance and Accountability figures out the questions it needs to answer and the metrics that must be measured before sitting down with the IT department to determine how technology will drive the process forward.
New Orleans still has its challenges, but Wise says he’s working in the most fascinating city in the world right now. “New Orleans came from a tragic low and in the wake of Katrina became a symbol of what happens when government doesn’t do its job. Now it’s a beacon of innovation and progress that the entire world can look to.”
With more than 20 years of experience covering state and local government, Tod previously was the editor of Public CIO, e.Republic’s award-winning publication for information technology executives in the public sector. He is now a senior editor for Government Technology.