3 ways Data as a Service (DaaS) helps cities run better

17 March 2014 | Joel Cherkis, General Manager, Worldwide Government

In city government, everything is data driven. Gartner recently highlighted a couple of telling trends: Increasingly, governments are bringing chief data officers on board and shifting their priorities to data analysis and business intelligence. Even so, within individual cities, direct access to data often is limited to technical experts working in administrative offices. Data as a Service (DaaS)—the natural extension of Software as a Service—is poised to change that by enabling city workers to access data from any device. Mayors, your leadership will be important in driving the DaaS model in your cities. As you advance the conversation, here are the three ways DaaS can help your city run better.

More informed decision making  

We now have business intelligence tools, like Microsoft’s Power BI for Office 365, that anyone can use. These tools enable you to query data and interpret results in natural, non-technical language, opening up data analysis capabilities to anyone—even those who don’t have specialized SQL or Excel knowledge. Once a DaaS platform is in place, you simply type your questions using normal language (eventually you’ll speak them) and get instant answers, sometimes to questions you didn’t even know to ask. This broadens internal self-service capabilities, providing new data-driven insights—and a new level of internal transparency—that transforms decisions about budgeting, staffing, and just about everything else.

Better cross-departmental collaboration

Now that so much government data has been opened up, leaders are moving to the next challenge: How to better share data internally. DaaS takes collaboration off the white boards of a select few and puts it on the touch screen, where anyone in government operations can see the data, ask questions of it, and compare results against other departments and agencies. In Norway, employees of Helse Vest, a regional health authority, use Power BI to visualize data from all 50 of their hospitals. And in the U.S., police departments like the one in Richland, Washington, now share information across internal silos, and with external agencies and community groups, for faster crime investigations and resolutions.

Mobile access to business intelligence

What good is technology if I can only use it in my office? I hear versions of this question all the time. DaaS delivers a common dashboard view of your data, so you have everything you care about in one place. And you can pivot on pieces of data to analyze them from different angles. What’s most remarkable, though, is that you can do all of that on any device. In Barcelona, city leaders gave field workers Windows 8 devices with bigov dashboards so they can analyze data wherever they are, producing huge efficiency gains. 

It’s time for city leaders to get more involved in the DaaS conversation. Push your IT teams toward adding self-service through DaaS. Many cities have the prerequisite data mining and analysis capabilities in place. The next logical step is DaaS. How to afford it? With severe budget constraints in place, it’s tempting to look only at cutting costs. But I encourage you also to look at adding services that will reduce costs down the road. With its potential to improve decision making, collaboration, and efficiency, DaaS is just such an opportunity.

Have a comment or opinion on this post? Let me know @Microsoft_Gov. Or e-mail us at ongovernment@microsoft.com.

Joel Cherkis
General Manager, Worldwide Government

About the Author

Joel Cherkis | General Manager, Worldwide Government

Joel leads a team of business development and technology professionals supporting policy decisions and the delivery of relevant and scalable technology solutions into public sector markets around the world. Read more