Austin Resource Recovery: Data, Dashboards and Decision Making

"We're improving citizen services through metrics."

Austin Resource Recovery (ARR), a department within the City of Austin, TX, is committed to providing its citizens with the highest quality services.

As a front-line department, Austin Resource Recovery interacts with their constituents to the tune of more than 190,000 residential properties each week. The services they provide include everything from curbside collection to drop-off centers for reusable items. With so much customer interaction, ARR is motivated to ensure everything runs efficiently. To help meet that goal, they use performance measure data. The accuracy of this data is critical to the department’s success.

The old database process

ARR managed a significant amount of data using a relational styled database. The database was great for storage purposes, but presented several challenges. First, users had to export data to perform manual calculations and then load the information back into the database. This took up valuable staff time and left the door open to error. Additionally, the database did not provide a means to lock previous reporting periods.

Reporting on the measures to make decisions presented another set of problems. Information would be pulled from the database and transferred for calculations, then either returned to the database or displayed in a presentation report. Staff would need to repeat the process several times until all the necessary reports were created. While what they were doing worked, staff knew there had to be a better process that could be more standardized. ARR’s leadership wanted to provide their Executive Team with clear data and a dashboard to illustrate performance. It was time for a change.

The search for a better solution

ARR’s Quality Assurance team set out in search of a better solution. The goal of the search was to find a solution that:

  • allowed them to standardize performance measures and reports
  • was easy-to-use
  • provided more visibility
  • would increase data confidence

After evaluating several possible solutions, ARR chose ClearPoint. In addition to addressing these needs, ClearPoint offered a low price, flexibility, and incredible levels of customization.

Rolling out a new system

With rolling out ClearPoint, ARR’s goal was to implement an easy-to-use, standardized solution that limited user edit access to only their specific measures. Each of the nine divisions named a designated representative who would be the point of contact to ensure new measures were added in accordance with the standardized approach. Layouts of these measures were designed with the end user in mind, so basic data entry could be accomplished simply each month.

In addition to a standardized look and feel, a heavy focus was placed on user access to data. ARR’s old process involved several different individuals handling data to perform calculations and analysis. ClearPoint has granular user permission settings and ARR took full advantage when adding users to the system. To preserve visibility and organizational transparency, users can view everything, but to ensure security, users can only edit the measures they are required to update. Calculations were implemented within ClearPoint so raw data is input and then ClearPoint automatically does the heavy lifting and performs necessary calculations. Staff is saving time with an easier process that is less open to mistakes. Accountability, security, reliability, and visibility were back.

A continually improving process

With a newly improved solution in place, ARR is able to focus on executing on their strategy once again. The most important measures have real accountability and trustworthy data. Executive dashboards, which display this information, quickly communicate ARR’s status in every area of the organization and help to clearly identify any issues that need investigation. Leadership can view divisional dashboards to see summary scores and then drill-down to find out more information.

Functionalities such as restricted measure access have really helped increase user confidence in the data and have many excited to roll this out even further. What started as a cumbersome process, is now morphing into a process that promises constant improvement across the organization and doubles down on ARR’s commitment to the highest quality services.


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