Establishing a Data Culture

In the last few years, there’s been a lot of chatter about the importance of building data cultures and how data can transform public safety. But what exactly is a data culture, and what does it mean for agencies?

Let’s explore in more detail.

What is a data culture?

Data cultures are organizations that go beyond simply using analytics for crime patterns or data-driven policing. Leveraging evidence-based insights to drive efficiency, optimization, and safety, they harness data to inform and enhance all aspects of operation, from strategic planning to everyday workflows.

For example, agency leaders establishing a data culture must answer questions such as:

  • How can I increase situational awareness for call-takers, dispatchers, and first responders?
  • What actions can I take to lower response time?
  • What is the best way to deploy my resources?
  • How well do politicians and the public understand the competing demand for our services?

For agencies to successfully create a data culture, information analysis can’t be limited only to data analysts. Instead, it must be accessible and usable by members across the entire organization, in conventional ways such as reporting, but also within the software tools they use for their jobs. By making data readily available to all team members, agencies can become outcome-based organizations, delivering the analytics and insights needed to address any objective or task.

How to establish a data culture

To begin, agencies must be able to use the data they own. We often hear from leaders that they are rich in data, but poor in information. What public safety agencies need is a way to efficiently translate their data into meaningful reports.

Take, for example, agency analysts. The traditional management of data causes difficulties for them because they typically do not possess a unified warehouse of report-ready data. In the worst-case scenario, it can take weeks for an analyst to compile and organize information to help leaders make more informed decisions and improve response.

Another important example involves agency heads. To ensure effective operations, leaders must be able to pull reports themselves on an as-needed basis to monitor internal and external agency processes. If they lack timely insights, officials can’t take necessary, informed actions to address problems as they arise, which often has a cascading effect.

To effectively analyze data, agencies need tools and technologies that offer ready access to all user types – from supervisors to patrols to analysts. These technologies, which offer prebuilt templates and out-of-the-box analytics, provide great starting points, but they must also be simple for users to adapt and extend.

What do the right tools look like?

Although there are many tools to help your agency build the foundation of its data culture, some are better at enabling your agency to make this organizational shift. One great example is HxGN OnCall Analytics. Working in tandem with Hexagon’s computer-aided dispatch (CAD) and records management solutions, HxGN OnCall Analytics gives staff the information and tools they need for evidence-based reporting, analysis, and decision-making.

It starts with making source information easier to access and use. First, HxGN OnCall Analytics transforms siloed, complex, and unintelligible databases into a unified catalog of easy-to-understand business themes. It then provides business-ready interactive reports and dashboards that all agency staff can run or adapt to their own needs. As well as informing internal decisions and operations, it also supports external communication of crime, incident, and operational data to better inform the public, politicians, and community leaders.

The most important step

A data culture is only possible if your agency possesses the right mindset – and that mindset starts at the top. Leaders must commit to an agency wide approach that prioritizes objective, data-informed decisions over inconsistent or subjective methods. Simply put – it’s up to agency leaders to champion a data culture mindset within their organizations, because if they don’t commit, no one will.

Recap: unlocking your data culture

Once you’ve decided to build a data culture, there are three steps you must focus on:

  1. The democratization of data – Your agency must possess a single, unified place that provides understandable, analysis-ready data whenever your people need it.
  2. The right tools and technology – Employees of every stripe must be given flexible, easy-to-use tools that support their data analysis and visualization needs. Ultimately, analytics should extend beyond conventional reporting to a universal capability that can be leveraged wherever needed, such as embedded decision support within operational tools like call-taking and dispatch.
  3. Executive support – Before all else, there must be a commitment to making decisions based on objective, data-driven evidence that comes from the top-down.

Next steps

For more information on how your public safety agency can build its own data culture and the benefits that come with it, check out this Public Safety Now podcast with John Whitehead, vice president of sales for U.S. Public Safety with Hexagon’s Safety & Infrastructure division.

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