|It’s late morning, and the sunrise’s orange light peels around the Joshua trees and rounded boulders dotting the desert landscape of Joshua Tree National Park. All across Riverside County, residents are waking up, preparing children for school, heading to work, and greeting the morning sun from their homes in the fourth-most populous county in the state of California. Most likely, very few residents think about Riverside County’s Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder office on a regular basis, but that doesn’t lessen the organization’s commitment to its community.
Peter Aldana, the current Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder, was elected to the office in June of 2014. The longtime Riverside resident oversees a staff of 375 employees based in offices throughout the county. The office is responsible for a wide range of duties, including valuing taxable property, maintaining custody of permanent records, and issuing marriage licenses. As a government organization, their mission is to promote and prioritize public trust through excellent customer support, effective stewardship of public funds, transparency, empowerment, innovation, and more. With this vision in mind, Aldana wanted to explore how data optimization could transform the way his office serves and supports the Riverside community.
Developing a more citizen-focused vision for Riverside County
In 2016, the office began to redefine their vision. In order to strengthen their commitment to citizens and empower their hundreds of employees, the office wanted to establish itself as a forward-thinking organization dedicated to transparency and trust. Aldana knew the latest cloud innovations would enable his teams to increase productivity and inspire fresh ideas across the organization. First though, Kan Wang, Assistant Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder for Riverside County, worked alongside Aldana to find a solution that would drive data-driven decisions and make relevant information easily available to employees.
“We recognized that to enable employees to make these decisions, we owed them information,” explained Wang. “To ask our employees to be self-sufficient and come up with ideas, we needed to first give them the tools to measure their ideas against. They need to have data to assess the current state of the organization before they can decide where the opportunities are.”
The Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder office’s main goals for the digital transformation were to:
More specifically, Aldana’s office needed a digital solution that would improve their ability to leverage data, optimize meaningful insights, and enable them to show proof points to management regarding efficiency and worker output. With data integrated into multiple aspects of the office, Aldana also hoped the insights would help drive better transparency in government—one of his top priorities.
“When I can present to taxpayers with information in ways they can easily understand, that gives them a sense of trust and shows we are being good stewards of their funds,” says Aldana. “We are not just transparent, but we are also reliable.”
Pushing the envelope of data capabilities with Power BI
Before adopting Power BI, the office had to compile all reports manually, which was a time-consuming and inefficient process. They couldn’t effectively monitor short- or long-term changes over time or identify trends with Excel. In comparison, Power BI’s reporting capabilities provided a much more robust and comprehensive assessment, fueling more data-driven decisions and enabling a more dynamic understanding of relevant metrics. These new insights enabled them to make smarter hiring choices and informed their fiscal decision-making with access to crucial metrics.
“Our top priority is to be a really good steward of public funds,” Aldana adds. “I’m always worried about how we spend tax payer dollars. How do we prove that we are spending their money wisely? Through data.”
Revealing workplace productivity insights with data
While it’s common for businesses to use data to understand workplace productivity, it’s still relatively rare in the public sector. However, Wang’s IT team had created several Power BI prototypes to gather useful metrics and had been using them for several months. When Aldana saw the technology team’s prototypes and the data they were able to monitor, he wanted to duplicate that success among his non-IT employees as well. Power BI’s clear layout and visual tools now make the data especially easy to understand, regardless of an employee’s role or background with data analytics. With these accessible metrics, employees can increase their digital knowledge and familiarity with cutting edge tools, improve their cloud-based workloads, and better keep up with team expectations.
“When you understand your performance, it’s going to make that work more meaningful to you and hopefully get your team more connected and more engaged,” Aldana explains. “And immediately, when I saw the dashboard interface, it was fantastic for me at an executive level.”
Looking to the future of local government innovation
The Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder office’s focus on adopting progressive strategies and modern technologies is a long-term one. In the future, the office hopes to develop and implement more cloud-powered tools and citizen-facing assets, such as providing public datasets that detail relevant information and working to build greater transparency. In the meantime, the office continues to take a data-driven approach to their decision making. Aldana also hopes that his approach will influence other agencies across the county to adopt similar technology, ensuring that all government organizations are delivering the best citizen services possible.