By Gerald Young, senior research associate, ICMA
Sports teams can instill great loyalty in their fans. But when it comes to the major leagues, it can seem like only the largest-media-market teams can ever make it to the playoffs. Those who manage smaller communities may believe the same thing applies to them when it comes to performance benchmarking. They think they’re too small to play.
That’s not the case, and here’s why.
Yes, some larger jurisdictions are rightly recognized for their robust performance management systems, and they may also have the resources to deploy bells and whistles on an interactive online dashboard. But that doesn’t mean that smaller jurisdictions or those with more limited funds available can’t be just as successful. In fact, 25% of the organizations receiving ICMA’s Certificates in Performance Management this year were under 50,000 population.
Resources vs. Organizational Agility
On the performance metrics themselves, smaller jurisdictions may actually be more nimble—able to respond quickly to challenges and opportunities as they arise. They may, in fact, perform much better on turnaround times for recruitments, purchasing, return to work following an injury, or permit processing. In emergency services, lower levels of traffic congestion may speed overall response time. In satisfaction surveys, a higher sense of community identification and engagement may contribute to higher ratings. And when performance is considered on a per capita basis, the cost per local resident may be more economical as well.
Which all sounds fine in concept, but how do you get the data to demonstrate that?
All Access, No Charge
Smaller jurisdictions, in particular, can benefit from the ICMA Open Access Benchmarking program. It allows all jurisdictions to access performance data from around the country without having to develop and define the measures themselves, invests in a new data analytics software package, dedicates scarce staff resources, or even pay a participation fee. The data and definitions are available free of charge.
While you certainly have the option to use your existing software systems or retain any vendor of your choice to assist, the benchmark data is all provided in a simplified database for Excel/CSV download.
The program contains just 80 key performance indicators on services like police, fire, public works, libraries, code enforcement, human resources, IT, and parks. You collect data just once a year—not so much that it overwhelms your staff, but enough to provide valuable context as you put together your budget or try to understand whether you’re performing as well as your peers, whether those are metropolitan communities, suburbs, or small towns.
If you happen to work for a county government, you’ll find 54 additional metrics to help compare such services as tax assessment, public health, jails, probation, and social services.
In return, we encourage you to share your own data. Just e-mail us a copy of the completed data response template and we’ll do the rest.
Check it out today, and you could start comparing to:
- Albany, Oregon
- Ardsley, New York
- Bettendorf, Iowa
- Decatur, Georgia
- Greer, South Carolina
And who knows, you may find you’re outperforming some of the larger cities and counties as well!