What Works City Feature: Olathe, KS

Using data to bring performance objectives into city departments


The Opportunity
Olathe, Kansas, is a growing, 160-year-old suburb of Kansas City working to balance city growth, infrastructure upkeep, and resident satisfaction. The City is known nationally for its customer-service-centered culture, driven by an emphasis on a quarterly resident satisfaction survey. Results of this survey drive the priorities of the City and keep officials accountable to residents and taxpayers in the community.

As the City has grown, so has its interest in using data to improve services provided to residents. To expand such efforts, Mayor Michael Copeland and City Manager Michael Wilkes asked What Works Cities (WWC) to work with Olathe to improve data transparency and the use of performance measures, specifically regarding transportation.

Our Work Together
WWC experts at the Center for Government Excellence (GovEx) at Johns Hopkins University, Results for America, and the Sunlight Foundation worked with City of Olathe staff to strengthen the City’s performance analytics system and make data more consumable and accessible for residents.

What Works Cities and the City of Olathe worked together to make data more consumable and accessible for residents by strengthening performance management and reporting practices.

Summary of Key Accomplishments
This work in open data and performance analytics laid the groundwork for the City to incorporate data in further aspects of its decision-making. Specifically, Olathe focused on advancing its use of data in its Public Works Department. During the engagement, WWC and the City of Olathe accomplished the following:

1. Made data more consumable and accessible for residents and departmental stakeholders
• WWC worked with Olathe to develop an open data policy that builds on the City’s existing foundation for measuring, tracking, and reporting performance measures. Specifically, the policy emphasized the importance of Olathe regularly updating its data practices.
• The City established its Open Data Champion Committee to set policies around Olathe’s open data initiative and manage the City’s data assets. This committee consists of data leads from each city department and will help set the open data strategy for the city overall.

2. Enhanced internal performance management processes
• Olathe determined a process to track key metrics and evaluate progress toward City goals, starting with a pilot program in the Public Works Department. The Department has begun to hold internal meetings to discuss transportation, water, streets, solid waste, recycling, and other concerns highlighted in the resident survey.
• The City launched its performance dashboard, “Olathe Performs.” The dashboard includes 33 total performance measures divided into six key focus areas identified by community members as most important: active lifestyle, economic vitality, financial, public safety, transportation, and utility services.
• Olathe Performs includes three new transportation-focused metrics to help residents better understand the state of the City’s transportation systems. These include a mobility index that looks at availability and movement within the overall transportation network; a transportation preservation and renewal index that looks at the current performance of the system vital to supporting current and future assets, and a transportation satisfaction index that looks at customer perception regarding transportation in the city.

What’s Next
With this work, Olathe is effectively leveraging data to continue to deliver high-quality services to its residents and is laying the groundwork for the City to incorporate data in further aspects of its decision-making. The City should build on its progress with WWC by further sharing data across departments and using data analysis in performance management processes. The City can also join with other local municipalities, including nearby fellow What Works cities, to share data that help advance priorities for the entire Kansas City metro area.