Data warehousing enables sharing
Over the last 10 years, the concept of data warehousing has revolutionized business worldwide, boosted customer service and helped employees make better decisions. In fact, it is estimated that more than 90 percent of Fortune 2000 companies currently have a data warehouse. Yet so far, its use in local government is virtually untapped.
In a typical local government environment, many different departments maintain data on a variety of incompatible systems, making data sharing almost impossible. For example, a residential address might be stored in 10 unconnected computer systems. A data warehouse, on the other hand, is a complete collection of an organization’s data that is stored in one repository.
The technology offers many advantages. Data warehousing can: * enrich information sharing among departments; * save time by making tasks easier; * reduce duplicate record keeping; and * improve and expand service to a local government’s citizens. All the relevant data concerning any parcel, citizen or feature can be stored, queried, printed or even plotted in a GIS from the data warehouse. That allows for a clearer understanding of the whole organization and enables individuals to make better decisions more quickly.
One of the most valuable qualities of a data warehouse is its flexibility within existing environments. The data warehouse is designed to co-exist with current applications rather than to replace them. Programs are written to use current data, and the process does not require changes to hardware, software or databases.
Data warehousing can be used to complete a variety of tasks across many departments. The sharing capability allows for fast and easy fulfillment of requests.
For example, upon returning from a week’s vacation, a county administrator discovers that the state has requested a complete report of the county’s economic data before it will approve an upcoming economic development grant. Officials demand the information immediately, threatening to hold up the grant.
Using the county’s data warehouse, the administrator queries the census data for low-income areas. Then he zeroes in on the neighborhoods of greatest need by combining land valuation data from the assessor and public assistance data from other sources. He produces a detailed, accurate report within minutes and faxes it out before the deadline.
In a different scenario, a county planner meets with an area business owner who wants to obtain a liquor license for his restaurant. Before processing the license, she types the address of the restaurant into her computer.
The information-sharing capability of the data warehouse allows her to discover quickly that the owner has not paid property taxes on the restaurant for the last three years. She has no choice but to deny the license request until the back-taxes are paid.
“With the data warehouse, our employees are relieved of the drudgery of duplicating information other offices already have,” says Steven Wharton, county administrator for Clermont County, Ohio. “But the major benefit to citizens is our ability to review and compare data from several key sources almost instantly.”
Introducing a new concept such as data warehousing to Clermont employees presented a challenge to Wharton, but, he says, “Once they saw how useful it was, it wasn’t hard to get their participation. The data warehouse is such a powerful information management tool, every organization owes it to itself to look into it.”