Data Analytics Helps Salt Lake City Become More Transparent

Monday, February 22, 2016

Data Analytics Helps Salt Lake City Become More Transparent

In the last few years, perhaps no buzzword has received as much attention as ‘transparency,’ especially with regard to government agencies. What are these agencies up to? How are they spending taxpayer money? How efficiently are they working? Aaron Bentley, Software Support Manager for the City of Salt Lake, knows this better than most:

“We used to have only two people in the City who knew how to pull data requests on things like municipal finance. And whenever we got an incoming request, they had to stop whatever they were doing and spend a lot of time answering. It became almost a full-time job communicating to the public in this way.”

To get ahead of the deluge of transparency requests and engage with their citizens in a more meaningful way, Salt Lake City began using SunGard Public Sector Analytics. The solution aggregates data from any number of sources that a municipality designates, then processes and visualizes data in ways that are easy to digest and comprehend. The data also becomes available to the public in a new way.

“In the past, the burden was on citizens to request this kind of information through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or a more local request. With SunGard Public Sector Analytics, we can now provide an ongoing dialog with our constituents by proactively making data available,” added Bentley.

Salt Lake City primarily uses SunGard Public Sector Analytics for financial reporting, such as general ledger, payroll, and other budgeting. The dashboard function means anyone can easily learn how to generate financial reports with the click of a few buttons. And where Salt Lake City once had just two staff who knew how to generate financial reports, there are now dozens of trained professionals who can quickly call up reports from the financial data for any number of requests in the City.

“City administrators said that our old system was too complex and convoluted, and that the data that came out was too disparate. Now, we have one point of record that anyone can access and see the same, consistent data. Instead of being a black hole where we drop financial data, SunGard Public Sector Analytics has given us better understanding of the financial data at our disposal than we ever thought possible,” said Bentley.

Beyond financial reporting, Salt Lake City is now exploring other uses for the SunGard Public Sector Analytics, including in the fields of public safety and energy efficiency. Under Salt Lake City’s new greenhouse gas emissions plan, staff can collect data on the emissions from the City fleet and energy utilities, find the greatest drivers of pollution, and make adjustments that can save energy.

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