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Hawaii Centralizes data into ‘single source of truth’ to build trust between department branches

Department of Transportation

Hawaii

Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) wanted to improve their ability to leverage data from internal and external source systems to make data-driven decisions. To foster trust and communication across districts, the department needed to aggregate data into a single source of truth.

Topics Covered

Transparency

Cost

Initial: 5 Million USD

Funding

General Fund/Existing Public Funds

Project Status

Operational since 2018

Gov Champion

Transportation Department

Problem Addressed

HDOT was using precious staff time to gather data, crucial to the state's transportation infrastructure.

The Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) is responsible for maintaining, planning, designing, constructing, and operating state facilities and infrastructure across all modes of transportation. To maintain the highest safety standard, communication with other state, county and federal programs is essential. However, collaboration between department sections creates mounds of data.

For HDOT, this data was decentralized, and key decision makers were left without a single source of truth. For example, one department branch might see revenue at $5 million, while another sees $4 million. This left employees unclear on what number to trust. Responsible for completing the ACT 100 report, the department relies on credible data for reporting. Unclear data not only hindered department-wide reporting, but also decision-making processes and communication between teams.

The team also spent a large part of the workday manually compiling data. When manually entering information, employees had to provide explanations and often more data than necessary because expectations around important data were unclear. Some employees had to go through up to 12 revisions before the final data aggregation met standards. Staff spent time creating valuable data rather than acting on it.

In one instance, staff had to repeatedly reach out to stakeholders to obtain the data necessary for creating a dataset with how much money was spent on pavement and bridges. This information was critical to meeting federal regulations, as well as communicating with other districts working towards similar goals. Information was disjointed and spread across systems, adding time to project implementation and decreasing collaboration between department branches.

Solutions Used

To streamline data management, HDOT collaborated with Grant Thornton who implemented an open data and BI platform.

To create a thorough plan for data changes, HDOT worked with Grant Thornton. The team helped implement an open data and BI platform for the department in order to deliver actionable insights to stakeholders throughout the agency using up-to-date, accurate data through a series of dashboards on the cloud-based data portal.

The new platform aggregates data, and utilizes visualizations to give staff clear insights on data points. With an emphasis on creating a user-friendly application, the visualizations are intended to empower stakeholders that are not accustomed to consuming information on a web-based platform. Additionally, platform automation kept project managers informed on deadlines by sending out reminders. The new platform facilitated communication between districts and increased data credibility, while also presenting the data in a user-friendly manner. Now, staff spends less time waiting for data from other districts and more time making informed decisions.

Now that staff has consistent access to dynamic data, they are more prepared to communicate during neighborhood board meetings where they interface with important stakeholders on transportation issues. Because the data can be easily filtered, HDOT staff can provide board members only with the information relevant to their jurisdictions.

The collaboration with HDOT is ongoing and relies on the Agile methodology for software development and analytics. The team operates in two-week sprint cycles and take an iterative approach to development as many of the work products rely on feedback from HDOT stakeholders. This gives HDOT the opportunity to express their needs in regular meetings, allowing Grant Thornton to shift project objectives to meet the department's dynamic demands.

Outcomes

1

Project managers have a greater understanding of whether or not their projects are on track and can now identify potential project bottlenecks

2

The department can now easily provide reports, like the ACT 100, to management and other federal departments, facilitating cross-functional collaboration

3

With more streamlined financial reporting HDOT has decreased time spent manually entering data and increased time spent planning and implementing projects

4

Because of data centralization and automation, data updates on a daily basis provide staff with actionable insights without requiring manual reporting

5

Clear, streamlined data leaves HDOT staff more prepared to interact with local leaders, ensuring their needs are taken into consideration

Lessons Learned

1

Meeting with different district leaders from across the state early on in the process can help secure buy-in and a greater understanding of pressing needs.

2

Rapport building was quintessential in this collaboration. Becoming a trusted advisor in a place that is generally skeptical of outsiders played a large role in the project's success.

Who Should Consider

Departments spending too much time on manual data entry, struggling to unify their internal and external stakeholders on using a single source of truth for data decisions.

Last Updated

Mar 21st, 2022

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