5 Secrets to Measuring What Matters from an Award-Winning CTO

November 21, 2022 – OpenGov

For more than 25 years, Russell Haupert, Chief Technology Officer and Director of Technology and Innovation at the City of Tampa, FL,  has helped governments improve operations using technology. In his more recent years serving Florida’s Tech capital, Haupert led the City in implementing technology for improved data automation and reporting for multiple departments. 

“We have become brokers of technology for our users. What we are doing now is looking for solutions, helping find the ones our users need, understanding their business, and being the kind of folks that look out a year, or two years and say what are we going to need then? We try to get a handle on what we will need to be that strategic partner,” said Haupert. 

With Haupert in charge, Tampa has implemented and upgraded more systems in the past five years than the 15 before. 

Haupert worked with performance measures for most of his professional tenure and won multiple awards while doing so. Prior to his career at Tampa, Haupert trained in performance management with a past Florida Governor’s Sterling Award winner and worked as an examiner for an organization that assists businesses like hospitals and manufacturers in implementing the continuous improvement management model using the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence.

“We always try to focus: How do we measure what matters, how do we get that program started, and how do we eliminate barriers to getting started,” said Haupert. 

After a recent GFOA push for governments to include performance metrics in the budget, municipalities across the country are rethinking how and what they’re measuring, but many don’t know where to start. 

To solve this problem, Haupert developed a list of best practices when it comes to showing progress on priorities in the public sector. Below, we outlined his five secrets to measuring what matters.

Tell the Story with Statistics

Let’s back up. Before getting into the nitty-gritty of percentages and KPIs, Haupert begins with a question: What story do we want to tell? 

According to Russ, this should be something your organization prides itself on. For example, the speed you respond to a FOIA request, the efficiency of your procurement process, or the quality of your newly paved roads. Once you’ve got the narrative down, it’s easier to identify what statistics support the progress of this narrative. 

“Knowing what story you want to tell is very important for how you pick effective measures,” said Haupert.

Make the Data Directional

Once you have a statistic selected that provides a narrative, Haupert asks a follow-up question: Will this tell me what I should do next to support the narrative? 

To enforce direction, Haupert suggests placing a timeframe around the statistic so you can measure it against historical statistics to track progress. This informs the department as to whether they are on target or if they need to allocate more resources or time to the project. 

For example, in this public-facing portal, the City of Tampa measures total building permits issued against certain time frames: month, fiscal year, etc. 

“We always want to compare to last month or last year. We always want to see the trend or the direction we are moving in…that’s part of having a really good stat that means something. Not only to your citizens but to your internal folks who need to know what this means to your operations,” said Haupert. 

Look to Professional Associations

It can be easy for governments new to collecting performance measures to fall into the trap of solely measuring productivity because it is the easiest and most up-front data to capture. However, this isn’t always what is more relevant to a municipality’s strategic goals or current projects. 

To combat this, Haupert suggests looking to professional organizations for ideas on where to start and what to compare to. 

For example, as an IT professional, Haupert often focuses on things like call center and help desk volume. To inspire these metrics, Haupert looks to associations like the National Institute of Help Desk Managers Association. 

However, all departments can look to professional associations to decide what to measure, said Haupert: “The Purchasing Associations, Budgeting Associations, Water Associations, all of these have the same kind of information, and they can form the basis for having some metrics that really matter for you.”

Separate Internal Vs. External

It’s important to segregate what kind of data is important to the internal processes of a department and what kind is relevant and informative to citizens of the community, advised Haupert. A statistic can be crucial to a municipality’s internal operations without it being published on a public-facing portal. 

For example, a City’s water department may have hundreds of metrics it tracks to ensure drinking water is of quality and safe for civilians. However, not all of these metrics mean everything to a concerned citizen. They are not looking for how many milligrams of chlorine is in the water (which is important to internal stakeholders) but rather, for example, how many times the City’s water department has passed its state qualifications or if the department has won any drinking water awards, said Haupert. 

“What will really drive your customer satisfaction is what you want to track.  And you want them to have meaning to the general public. And those are the things we tend to put on the outside and viewable for our citizens.” 

For example, Tampa’s water department displayed performance measures they believe are important to citizens on this interactive, public-facing portal. 

Combat Anxiety with the “Stepping Stone” Method

It is normal to feel overwhelmed when initiating performance measure collection. In Haupert’s experience of putting metrics programs together for departments, he often encounters hesitancy when it comes to publishing certain data points to the public. This is another reason why it is crucial to segregate internal and external data, with the internal portal acting as a “stepping stone” before the data is ready to be made available to the public.  

To make the process seem less intimidating when it comes to publishing metrics, Haupert asks departments a series of questions: 

  1. What is something you’re good at? This should be displayed on the public-facing portal. 
  2. What is something you’re passable at? This can be displayed on either portal according to the department’s preference. 
  3. What is something you would like to improve on? This should start on the internal portal, with the goal of eventually moving to the public-facing portal. 

“We think this is a good way to have a non-threatening method to bring your departments online… Reducing that resistance, that fear of measurement and what measurement means, putting a program in place that helps introduce what they’re good at and shows what, perhaps, they could improve on, and putting that in an area that doesn’t make them feel ashamed but gives them something that they need to work on,” said Haupert. 

Performance metrics empower municipalities to make strategic decisions based on priorities. Are you ready to measure what matters? Check out this Ebook to learn more. 

To learn more about OpenGov’s budgeting and reporting solutions, request your personal demo here.