Indiana Management and Performance Hub Takes Transparency to the Next Level

The hub is connected to and builds on the data-rich Indiana Transparency Portal by increasing the accessibility and usability of key information.

by / September 11, 2014

Indiana's transparency portal topped all other state government sites as most transparent, according to a U.S. Public Interest Research report released in the spring.

Then why did the state release a second transparency site in July? 

"We wanted to take it to the next level," said Indiana CIO Paul Baltzell. "We felt like we needed to add something that was more interactive for the user." 

The Management and Performance Hub is connected to and builds on the data-rich Indiana Transparency Portal by increasing the accessibility and usability of key information -- the state's financial health, the status of executive agencies' key performance indicators and Gov. Mike Pence's six road map goals and their progress.

In March, Pence signed the executive order creating the MPH initiative, and the new site is the first public result of it. The initiative, which uses data analytics tools to both encourage data sharing within state government and ensure that Indiana is performing to key measures, has as its motto: "Government moving at the speed of business."

"Our goal is to literally put as much open data as possible out there and be as transparent to the public as possible," Baltzell said. 

The MPH site also brings data together in one place, Baltzell said, rather than linking to individual agency websites or requiring the user to open a PDF document, as can be the case with the transparency portal. The eventual goal, he said, is to merge the two sites.   

Once on the MPH site, the landing page showcases the state's financial data in one spot, with links to places like the state budget and appropriations that open up colorful charts, graphs and numbers explaining Indiana's current financial status. Baltzell likened this area to "a one-stop shop for all fiscal data."

"It's important that constituents understand how their tax dollars are being spent and that they're being spent wisely," he said. For instance, within the "Financial Health" subhead, a user can quickly see, via a green bar graph, that Indiana has had a general-fund surplus for four years running and now has more than $200 million in surplus funds. 

On the site, Indiana has added key performance indicators (KPI) for 60 agencies, categorized into groups for easier browsing, and plans to continue to add more agencies, said Graig Lubsen, communication and marketing director for the Indiana Office of Technology. 

Most of the KPI data are fed into the MPH site in real time, while in the past, communicating those same KPIs required human interaction, with someone having to calculate them for the Office of Management and Budget and the governor's office, Baltzell said. 

This rich KPI information means that Baltzell, like other agency heads, opens up the site first thing, and no longer needs to solely rely on his "number's guy" for updates. "Now I just go to this page every morning and I get a live update -- I can see exactly where we are," he said.

And, as a site catering to its users, it also offers customization opportunities, allowing users to change its look and layout. A dropdown menu above each visual display offers the user more view options and the ability to access data sets programmatically using Socrata's Open Data API, create a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel using OData or download the information in various formats. 

Saf Rabah, vice president of product at Socrata, said that increasingly, one of the main customers of open data are government employees themselves. Not only do open data initiatives create operational efficiencies and increase citizen quality of life, he said they also improve the public sector by holding government accountable, improving performance and aiding in problem solving. The MPH site is a great example, he said, of reporting on the progress of performance measurements, as seen by charts and graphs showcasing the governor's progress on six of his goals.  

"We're talking about holding ourselves, if I'm a government organization, accountable for results," Rabah said. "We have goals, we have publicly communicated these goals. Well, how well are we doing against those goals? Let's measure our progress. Let's communicate what we're doing."

While Socrata provided assistance in the site's development and has its data infrastructure embedded in the site, Indiana paid NIC, the parent company to Indiana Interactive, $40,000 to create the MPH site, which was up after six months of development. 

According to the transparency report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PDF), creating or improving online transparency typically requires little upfront cost and can save money by preventing misspending and pay-to-play contracts.

"[The MPH site is] kind of a big, open opportunity to use data in any way, shape or form that the constituent wants to," Baltzell said, noting that the new site's data can be used for data analytics or to create new applications.   

As such, the Indiana Office of Technology participated in the Indy Civic Hackathon -- Indiana's own event on the National Day of Civic Hacking on May 31. Although the event preceded the site's launch, the state offered hackers data from the unlaunched site along with other data sets, which they used to develop two applications identifying high-density accident and ticket zones. 

"As a part of the hackathon, we had fantastic feedback that [hackers] loved the open data and capability," Baltzell said. 

Lubsen noted that the state is hopeful more civic hacking events and applications will be developed directly from the site's open data sets, which anyone can access. And although the site just launched, the state is always tweaking it, Lubsen said, and is planning the next major iteration next summer. 

The state also has plans to dig deeper with its KPIs and showcase program measures -- the pieces of data that make up the KPIs -- on the site too. That way, government employees and citizens can see the explanations behind the data.  

"We want to be able to get down to as granular a level as possible," Baltzell said, "so we can identify programs that are performing and ones that aren't."

Jessica Hughes Contributing Writer

Jessica Hughes is a regular contributor to Government Technology and Emergency Management magazines.

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