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Author's profile photo John Ward

The City of Boston is Stronger and Smarter with the Help of Analytics

Last spring, the world learned the meaning of “Boston Strong” when these two words became the city’s rallying cry in the aftermath of the unthinkable tragedy at the Boston Marathon.BostonStrong.png

Bostonians are rightfully proud of their city and its spirit. Boston encompasses nearly two dozen distinct neighborhoods, and as the gateway to New England, more than 4.5 million people live in the city’s metropolitan area. These days a stronger and smarter city government serves them all.

Information: The New City Service

Boston’s city government does everything it can to deliver for the folks in the neighborhoods and beyond. Increasingly, this includes empowering city decision makers and citizens with the information they need to make Boston an even better place to live.

City leaders can cite some compelling examples.

“Our Problem Properties initiative is really about using big data to improve city services,” says Devin Quirk, the director of operations at Boston’s department of neighborhood development. The project utilizes SAP HANA software to gather and analyze information to identify and address properties where there is persistent criminal activity or building code violations.

In a matter of seconds, city officials can look across an entire spectrum of property-based data – such as 911 calls, constituent requests for services, and tax records – to develop a comprehensive picture of a single property or the entire city. This insight lets city officials serve local constituents by taking the most appropriate action.

“A huge success of Problem Properties is that we have brought crime rates down 55% at those properties we’ve designated,” reports Quirk.

Boston About Results

Boston is also using its analytic capabilities to provide citizens instant insight into the city’s performance.

Boston has a long-standing performance management program called Boston About Results or BAR. BAR now provides an interactive, Web-based platform that lets city officials and Bostonians alike know what city agencies are doing, how well they are doing it, and where the city can improve. The City of Boston also teamed up with SAP Labs in Cambridge to develop a mobile app that any citizen can download for free. The CitizenInsight app lets you interact with the city’s performance data on your mobile device just as easily as on a desktop computer.

Not long ago, city leaders decided to make the BAR program even more robust. To do that, they tapped the SAP Strategy Management application to make it possible for city departments to set objectives and measure key performance indicators (KPIs) in a consistent way.

Boston now tracks more than 2,000 KPIs on a monthly or quarterly basis. And the city relies on data analysis to make sure that performance is tied directly to strategic goals.

From Charlestown to Hyde Park

Across the city’s many neighborhoods, Bostonians can see measurable results in return for their tax dollars. And with the help of SAP HANA and analytics, the city remains a recognized leader in its innovative use of technology.

“The most important benefit we get from SAP HANA is that it helps us become a smarter city,” says Quirk, “even a predictive city in how we deliver services and make sure our neighborhoods are cleaner, safer, and our workforce more productive.”

Strong and smart. That sounds a lot like Boston.

Be sure to check out this SAP Business Transformation Study on Boston’s use of SAP Strategy Management and analytics, and you can what stronger and smarter means in the neighborhood streets in this video.

Join me on Twitter at @JohnGWard3.

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