Like most local government organizations, San Joaquin County in central California found itself awash in data but with no way of making that information actionable. And like most public sector leaders, Jerry Becker, assistant county administrator, knew that in not making that information actionable the county was missing out on important opportunities to make improvements not only in business operations but also in how the county was able to serve their citizens.
What stood between Becker and the insight that he and his team needed was the ability to access the data and then put it to work. “We couldn’t tap our data to collect meaningful metrics and insights that would help us be better at what we do,” he shared. “We wanted to mine our data and pull out key facts that could help us make better business decisions, but we didn’t have the tools to do so.”
The primary reason that San Joaquin County didn’t have access to the tools they needed to embark on a deep dive into their data and analysis was the cost of the tools. Buying not only the tools needed to perform the analysis but also the storage and compute capacity would typically price out most local government agencies. However, with the advent of cloud-based subscription services the financial obstacles were suddenly removed for Becker.
By using a data lake and Oracle’s Analytics Cloud (OAC) the costs of applying analytics across vast repositories of data – whether cloud-based or stored in legacy systems fell dramatically and fell into OPEX, rather than CAPEX budget. With this opportunity at hand, Becker’s team worked quickly to identify a test case for their proof of concept trial. With a goal to improve business operations both in terms of efficiency and cost-savings. Noted Becker, “personnel are our most valuable resource and also our most costly resource.”
Further narrowing down the use case for the proof of concept led Becker to analyze sick leave use for the county’s employees because unused sick leave creates a sizable future liability for the county since employees can accrue sick leave and cash out the balance at retirement. Using the data lake and OAC enabled the San Joaquin team to structure the data and build dashboards and heat maps to visualize and display the results and reveal valuable insight about sick leave use that could be used to save the county money both now and in the future.
“It was a tremendous eye-opener for us,” shared Becker. What his team found was that some employees were using other types of leave when they were sick, thus creating the large amounts of accrued sick leave and adding to the county’s future liability. With this information in hand Becker could propose an education campaign that explained the different leave types to employees and when they should be used. “We knew some of these things before, but until we implemented OAC we didn’t have an all-inclusive look,” he added. “The fact that we can bring large quantities of disparate data into OAC and turn it into structured, intelligible data we can use is extremely valuable.”
With this tangible success behind them Becker felt confident in rolling out a more comprehensive data-driven initiative across various parts of the county government, including one at San Joaquin County Hospital that will reduce the data collection burden required to receive state funding and another to help address the county’s homelessness situation and help homeless residents access transformative services.
In the final analysis Becker identified three things that are imperative to success:
- Work with a trusted partner. “It was helpful that we had such a powerful initial start…We saw how quickly they were able to bring the data in and create meaningful results.”
- Invest in a proof of concept (PoC) to demonstrate value.: “Just that little bit of analysis through OAC can help us more accurately project future costs.”
- Leverage the success of the PoC to expand the program.: “It’s exciting to see how OAC can help us analyze how we’re delivering services and determine where there are opportunities for improvement.”
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