The City of Las Vegas has embarked on a major Oracle business intelligence project over the last three years, a move that has pushed key data not only to employees but to citizens as well.
Government transparency is one of the city’s primary strategic goals, and the IT department has been able to help by pushing out Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition Plus (OBIEE+) throughout the organization. One example is our various public safety departments, which previously were never able to report data in a consolidated manner. Each entity had different definitions for similar data fields. But through the Oracle BI project and proper data governance, all data is now displayed consistently and in real time. This provides improved reporting to senior management, and also to the public.
Develop a smart BI strategy
A major part of why our BI project succeeded was that we established a strategy ahead of time and adjusted it as needed along the way. In fact, that was the very first step in our BI project roadmap.
Part of our strategy, for example, was establishing a foundation and infrastructure for successive phases. That foundation included acquiring Oracle’s SOA suite, moving to an Oracle RAC Linux environment and focusing on exposing services on the Oracle Service Bus. These phases were budgeted and implemented over a three-year period and are now in place to support our BI strategy.
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We also needed to clarify the value and benefits expected from the project. Some of those benefits included getting data in a more timely manner. For example, various city departments used to have to wait until the end of the quarter to gather purchasing-related statistics. Thanks to our BI project, we can monitor purchasing trends in real-time, so the purchasing department can make decisions and prepare purchase orders more quickly.
Another example: A fire dashboard now helps the chiefs monitor battalion and station critical call responses in real-time, which directly impacts public safety. They can address changes in response times and quickly make adjustments.
Our BI strategy also included managing cross-functional and cross-organizational priorities, which required a pre-determined process for incorporating new data and revising existing data. Through the BI project we have developed dashboards that actually go outside the city network to pull data from county emergency response systems. This allows city public safety officials to monitor emergency responses from the initial call through completion of the response.
Other parts of our BI strategy include:
- Develop a data governance infrastructure as well as support and maintenance to reinforce it.
- Be ready for changing strategic data needs, as well as rapidly evolving BI tools and technology.
- Make sure that data governance assists with the transition to those new technologies and tools.
In concert with developing a strategy is creating a BI roadmap. The city’s roadmap included:
- Adopting the enterprise BI strategy.
- Establishing a data governance foundation.
- Identifying a focus for the initial use of BI. At the City, the focus was on performance management metrics.
- Completing key performance indicator (KPI) identification and definition.
- Releasing initial metrics.
- Refining management process and measures as necessary.
- Implementing additional metrics.
- Rolling out dashboards, reports and analytics.
- Establishing a Business Intelligence Competency Center.
Best practices and our pilot program
Success relies on learning best practices from others who have gone down the road before. Selecting the right project team, focusing on the most streamlined processes and establishing solid policy management are essential. Other best practices included getting executive commitment, developing a common language for consistent definitions, and working to achieve a balance between the usefulness of performance data and the cost of gathering and maintaining the data.
We also wanted to provide greater self-sufficiency at each level, allowing employees to be part of the process. So for business users, that meant being able to identify the frequency of data retrieval as well as prioritizing dashboards based on KPIs. For business analysts and operations, it meant identifying electronic sources of data and assisting business users with testing and setup. And for IT it meant building metadata layers, training users on dashboard changes, and supporting the users through the expanding use of BI.
For the city of Las Vegas, the success of our BI project was achieved through the completion of a pilot at our Water Pollution Control Facility. This allowed us to test out something small and then expand to other city departments if all went well.
A variety of systems at the facility were tapped into, and data was merged with various dashboards. We were able to save as much as four weeks of manual effort by pulling in data for performance measurement reports. Up-to-the-minute data is now available for monitoring flow rates and chemical analysis for certification with the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). And the plant no longer tends to over-treat water, which has resulted in saving money on chemicals.
With success at the water treatment plant, we were able to roll out BI to other departments within the city. The ability to collect and analyze data in real time has resulted in significant resource savings and improved decision making ability. The project has been successful in that we have not only saved time and resources, but have been able to extract and merge data never before reported on.
Dr. Patricia Dues is IT manager for the City of Las Vegas. She is a member of the Oracle Applications Users Group (OAUG) board of directors, chairs the Global Support Committee for the International Oracle Users Council (IOUC), and is an Oracle ACE.