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Data to Support Transportation Agency Business Needs: A Self-Assessment Guide (2015)

Chapter: Chapter 2 - The Assessment Process

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 2 - The Assessment Process." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Data to Support Transportation Agency Business Needs: A Self-Assessment Guide. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23463.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 2 - The Assessment Process." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Data to Support Transportation Agency Business Needs: A Self-Assessment Guide. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23463.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 2 - The Assessment Process." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Data to Support Transportation Agency Business Needs: A Self-Assessment Guide. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23463.
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7 Overview The assessment process has three phases as shown in Figure 1: • Prepare—mobilization and scoping for the assessment process • Assess—conduct of the assessment using the available tools • Improve and Monitor—development of an action plan based on the assessment findings, and monitoring the implementation of this plan Each of these phases is important: • The Prepare phase ensures that the entire assessment process will be productive and manage- able, scoped appropriately, and with involvement of the right people. • The Assess phase is when various groups in the agency meet to conduct the assessments and agree on ratings and potential actions. This phase produces valuable information on the agency’s current data capabilities and gaps. • The Improve and Monitor phase is where the agency decides how to act to get more value from data. This phase also involves monitoring activities to ensure that the identified improve- ments are implemented. Without the Improve and Monitor phase, the assessment process will have educational value, but will produce no lasting impacts. Agencies need not create new monitoring processes—they can use existing management reporting processes already in place. Figure 1 illustrates a cyclical process. The data assessment will not be a one-time activity, but repeated annually or bi-annually to track progress and update action plans. Because some parts of the assessment are geared toward application at the level of a particular business unit or func- tion (as opposed to agency-wide), agencies may take a phased approach to the assessment. For example, agencies might spread the assessment of data within six key business areas over a 2-year period—tackling three areas each year. The following three concepts are reinforced throughout the entire assessment process: • One size does not fit all—Transportation agencies differ in goals, issues, business needs, and the ways they manage data. The scope of the assessment can be tailored to fit with agency priorities, data issues, or other current agency data-related initiatives. These activities can also be scaled to match resource availability and time constraints. • Sometimes less is more—Limiting the number of areas selected for the assessment can help ensure that the process is manageable and sustainable, given competing work activities and agency priorities. Focusing improvements on achievable actions minimizes risk and produces clear value and benefit so as to ensure that the results of the process are not diminished by trying to take on too much. C H A P T E R 2 The Assessment Process

8 Data to Support Transportation Agency Business Needs: A Self-Assessment Guide • The process can be as valuable as the results—The relationship building, discussions, and increased understanding that occur among data users, data providers, and information tech- nology (IT) personnel can often be as valuable as the assessment results. Key Elements of the Assessment The Assess phase is designed to help agencies investigate both data user and manager perspec- tives. The data value assessment emphasizes the user perspective and considers three distinct ele- ments that together determine whether data is adding value for an agency’s business processes: • Data Availability addresses whether or not the agency has the right kinds of data in place, at the right level of detail, and with sufficient coverage to meet its business information needs. Example: if a project manager needs to understand how much of the budget has been expended, but there are no tracking systems in place for this, one would say that expenditure data is not available. • Data Quality addresses whether or not the available data is good enough to meet the agency’s information needs. The assessment looks at three aspects of data quality of particular con- cern to data users: currency, accuracy, and completeness. Example: if a project manager gets budget status reports, but the reports are 1-month old or only include internal staff charges but not contractor costs, one would say that expenditure data is not of sufficient quality. Additional aspects of data quality are considered under the data management assessment. • Data Usability addresses whether or not the agency’s data can be easily accessed, integrated, analyzed, and presented in a convenient form for analysis and interpretation. Example: if a project manager gets two sets of monthly reports (one for internal charges and one for con- tractor charges) and the manager must manually combine the reports to get the full picture, one would say that the expenditure data have poor usability. Each of these elements must be evaluated within the context of particular business needs. A given data set may be of sufficient quality to meet one need, but not another. For example, a maintenance level of service data set based on a 10% sample of road segments might be sufficient for developing an annual statewide budget, but would not provide a basis for developing work orders or planning equipment needs for a given maintenance area. Figure 1. Data assessment process. Prepare •Assemble Team •Establish Goals • Set Scope and Timeline Assess •Data value • Business area assessments •Data management •Agency wide assessment •Data-specific assessments Improve and Monitor •Consolidate list of iniaves and recommendaons •Priorize improvements •Update acon plan •Track progress

The Assessment Process 9 To provide meaningful results, separate data value assessments should be applied for specific agency business functions (e.g., planning, maintenance, project scoping, or traffic operations). The data management assessment considers the following five elements: • Data Strategy and Governance is concerned with how the agency and individual business units make decisions about what data to collect and how best to manage and deliver it. This element includes establishing, enforcing, and sustaining data management strategies, roles, accountability, policies, and processes. • Data Architecture and Integration is concerned with practices to standardize and integrate data. This element includes standardizing spatial referencing and other key linkages across data sets and minimizing data duplication and inconsistencies. • Life Cycle Data Management is concerned with the operational aspects of managing data to ensure that it is adequately maintained, preserved, protected, documented, and delivered to users. • Data Collaboration is concerned with achieving efficiencies through processes to coordinate data collection and management within the agency and partner with external organizations to share data. • Data Quality Management is concerned with practices to define required levels of quality, measure and report data quality, ensure quality as new data is acquired, and improve the quality of existing data. The data management assessment can be applied to assess agency-wide data management capa- bilities and an individual data management area or program to examine how one or more specific categories of data (e.g., roadway data, traffic data, and project data) are being managed. In this Guide, “data management area” and “data program” are used interchangeably to refer to an orga- nizational function that is responsible for scoping, collecting, managing, and delivering a particular category or form of data. Sometimes this function resides in a single organizational unit; at other times it is split across business units and IT units. Examples of DOT data programs include GIS, Road Inventory, HPMS, Traffic Monitoring, Crash Records, and Construction Project Data. Options for the Assessment Process The assessment was designed to be flexible to meet agency needs. For example, agencies can • Conduct the data management assessment for the agency as a whole to get a quick read on their data management capability level; • Conduct the data management assessment for one or more target data management areas (e.g., traffic data or maintenance data); • Conduct the data value assessment to understand user perceptions of data value in one or more business areas; • Conduct a combination of data value and data management assessments for a logical clus- ter of business functions and data types to obtain a balanced perspective (e.g., a data value assessment for preservation program development and a data management assessment for pavement and bridge data); • Pursue a comprehensive approach covering agency-wide data management and combined data value and data management assessments for priority business areas or data categories. Further details of these options are included in the following two chapters. This Guide and accompanying data self-assessment tools can be used to complement and/or supplement any work that agencies have done as part of safety, asset management, operations management or performance management assessments or other data-related self-assessment activities or efforts. These efforts may have produced lists of strategies that can be factored into the Improve and Monitor phase.

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TRB’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Report 814: Data to Support Transportation Agency Business Needs: A Self-Assessment Guide provides methods to evaluate and improve the value of their data for decision making and their data-management practices.

NCHRP Web-Only Document 214: Transportation Agency Self-Assessment of Data to Support Business Needs: Final Research Report describes the research process and methods used to develop NCHRP Report 814.

The following documents supplement the project and are available online:

This supplemental information is offered as is, without warranty or promise of support of any kind either expressed or implied. Under no circumstance will the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine or the Transportation Research Board (collectively "TRB") be liable for any loss or damage caused by the installation or operation of this product. TRB makes no representation or warranty of any kind, expressed or implied, in fact or in law, including without limitation, the warranty of merchantability or the warranty of fitness for a particular purpose, and shall not in any case be liable for any consequential or special damages.

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