Dashboard Confessionals: 6 Principles for Choosing Economic Development Technology

February 17, 2020 – Jeremy Mann

Economic Development is the engine that helps drive improvements in quality of life for residents of a community. With the right economic development strategy, jurisdictions can attract high-quality jobs and harness economic growth, increasing incomes, proliferating new housing and retail opportunities, and improving educational retention. A growing economy creates a virtuous cycle, attracting new businesses and residents, widening the tax base, and enabling either increased revenues that translate to more robust services (e.g. better schools and improved public safety) or decreased tax rates that can further incentivize business investment and population growth.

But despite the pressing importance of fostering economic development, many governments report difficulty transitioning their economic development strategy from theory to practice. Data can often be hard to track down, with relevant metrics tracked across a number of unwieldy data sources, and even harder to visualize. Plans can be difficult to communicate out to the public in a manner that is both informative and understandable. And soliciting citizen feedback on key initiatives can sound appealing but prove difficult to manage and scale.

But recently, a new generation of government technology software has been developed to help modernize tracking, planning, and communicating about economic development for the 21st-century government. Next-generation technology solutions for government will reduce the amount of time spent searching and compiling data, transform reports from static exercises into dynamic, interactive visualizations, enable two-way conversations with the public over key initiatives, streamline permitting, licensing, and code enforcement by bringing the process online and making it self-service, and allow KPIs and goals to be tracked across the organization on powerful, interactive dashboards.

Sorting through technology options can be difficult and confusing, so we’ve outlined the six principles to keep in mind as you search for the right technology to help you manage economic development:

  1. Find One Platform with All Relevant Capabilities

    You know what’s harder than training your organization to utilize a new technology? Training your organization to utilize three! The success of your technology package in centralizing and easing performance monitoring, planning, permitting, licencing, code enforcement, and reporting relies on your organization’s willingness to actually adopt and commit to the technology you choose. For this reason, the technology you choose to help manage economic development should be comprehensive and easy-to-use.
  2. Robust Data Aggregation

    To that end, the platform you choose should be able to aggregate data from a broad array of sources and combine them into reports and dashboards that organize by function or team rather than data stream. Look for technology that can aggregate financial, non-financial, and mapping data. And, the best economic development tools allow you to aggregate not only data from your ERP and non-financial data sources, but also allow you to access and report on Census data and data from nearby jurisdiction for powerful comparative insights. Even better, look for technology companies willing to integrate with your data sources to help decrease latency and bolster trust that the reports and visualizations reflect the reality of the underlying data. (For an example of a powerful economic development dashboard, please see section 9. Economic Development Dashboards.)

  3. Set, Monitor, and Report on Objectives

    Technology to help you manage Economic Development should offer a robust and flexible solution for setting, monitoring, and reporting on objectives. Look for software that enables objective-tracking on both financial and non-financial data, can run individual reports on objectives or aggregate them into interactive dashboards, and allows easy sharing while retaining privacy options. Best-in-class technology enables the automation of reports, so that when the underlying data updates, the associated report updates without needing extra effort or attention.
  4. Provide Streamlined, Self-Service Options for Constituents

    Governments are starting to view constituents as consumers, aiming to provide the same self-service technology that helps them get access to exactly what they need--online and instantly. The thinking goes that if consumers can order takeout, call a taxi, and deposit money from their smartphones at home, why should government services be any different? Everything is now expected to be handled online and with minimal inconvenience. As residents and businesses decide where to settle and invest, they are looking for government to offer a similar self-service model to what they expect from their apps. That’s why software assisting with economic development should help you provide more information upfront, streamline and simplify permit and license applications, and allow for convenient 24/7 portals to submit and pay for required fees.

  5. Interactive and Customizable

    Today’s technology consumers are accustomed to quick, interactive technology that allows the self-exploration of answers to their questions. Software serving government should be no different. The best software for managing Economic Development will be interactive, allowing staff, electeds, and citizens to explore data to better understand progress-to-goals. Buyers should also look for software suites that are flexible enough to customize to the particular data structure and needs of the organization while still providing enough structure to enable quick, on-demand reporting without having to reinvent the wheel for every report.
  6. Clear & Transparent Communication

    Data is powerful, but can often be misinterpreted or misunderstood. Rather than simply visualizing data and leaving the public and electeds to interpret it as they see fit, it’s important to surround data with the proper context so viewers can understand what they’re seeing and why certain trends are occurring. The right technology package will allow your organization to surround data and reports with compelling narratives and visuals to help frame reports and progress-to-goals with educational information.

Learn more

Economic Development is not just an abstract issue. At OpenGov, we understand that your ability to foster economic development impacts every resident in your community, affecting their job, housing, and retail opportunities, their income and tax rates, and the quality of government services they receive, including education, public safety, and public health. That’s why we’ve put together a comprehensive eBook to walk you through everything you need to know about managing economic development in the 21st century. Topics include:

  • What is Economic Development?
  • Why an Economic Development Strategy is More Important Than Ever
  • Best Practices for Managing Economic Development
  • How to Effectively Set and Monitor Objectives
  • How to Choose the Right Technology for your Economic Development Needs