The Future Of Open Data

Heather McIlvaine

How are mobile apps, Big Data, and civic hacking changing the nature of open data in government? The Center for Technology in Government took a look at this topic and presents its findings.

Picture this: You’re a tourist in New York City and after a long day of sightseeing you’re looking for a bite to eat. But before you simply head into the nearest sandwich shop, you look it up on “NYC Restaurant Scrutinizer.” This mobile app isn’t your average restaurant guide:  Photo: iStockphotoAlong with food reviews, you can also see the results from restaurant inspections conducted by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. After finding out that the sandwich shop doesn’t properly refrigerate its deli meats, you decide to go to the Chinese restaurant on the corner with an “A” grade. And delicious spring rolls to boot.

“NYC Restaurant Scrutinizer” was developed by a private app developer named Michael Boski in 2009. He beat the government agency to the punch by about three years: “ABCEats,” the health department’s own mobile app for checking restaurant grades, first appeared on iTunes in 2012.

Civic hacking and open data

Boski is a so-called civic hacker, a private citizen who taps into publicly available data to create useful apps for the general population. Since most governments endorse open data policies that disseminate such information, civic hacking is not illegal.

The New York City health department, for example, has been posting its inspection results online for anyone to see since the mid-1990s. It’s worth noting that without this policy, “NYC Restaurant Scrutinizer” would not be possible. On the other hand, it was Boski, not the government, who took the first step in making the information easier to consume, which increased its value to citizens.

That is often the case: In its current form, open government data is large and complex and usually lacks the context for everyday use. But not everyone thinks civic hacking is the answer to this problem. For one thing, apps from private developers, like “NYC Restaurant Scrutinizer,” can’t guarantee the accuracy of information they provide. And they usually don’t take into account any downstream consequences that might negatively affect businesses and government agencies.

“The Dynamics of Opening Government Data”

SAP’s Public Services Industry Business Solutions team wanted to find out more about the impact of these open data initiatives on the public and private sector, so it commissioned the Center for Technology and Government (CTG), an independent research organization at the State University at Albany (SUNY) to do further research in the area. The resulting whitepaper, “The Dynamics of Opening Government Data,”examines two case studies of open government initiatives and presents four recommendations based on CTG’s findings.

One of those case studies was the previously mentioned example with the New York City health department. The other case study involved the Department of Transportation for the city of Edmonton, Canada, and its release of data on planned road construction projects.

“In both cases, it was clear that simply opening government data – making it available to the public – is not the whole story,” says Anthony Cresswell, a senior fellow at CTG. “It has longer-term consequences that are difficult to predict. In our research, we sought to come up with strategies and policies that help government agencies understand ahead of time how opening data will affect all the stakeholders involved.”

The information polity

Identifying and understanding this collection of stakeholders, what Cresswell and his colleagues call an ‘information polity,’ is one of the key aspects of the whitepaper. “An information polity includes the government agencies that create the data, employees who use the data, citizens who want access to the data, app developers who modify the data, and other stakeholders,” explains CTG senior program associate Brian Burke.

In other words, Michael Boski is part of an information polity, as are the people using his app, as are the restaurants being inspected, as is – most importantly – the government agency conducting those inspections and providing the data. “The timeliness, format, and quality of data that the government provides all affect the usability of that data for developers,” says Burke. “And it is the relationship between these information sources that ultimately influences the value of that data for the public.”

Four recommendations from CTG

How should government agencies go about implementing open data initiatives that maximize value and minimize risk? Cresswell and Burke explain the four recommendations outlined in the whitepaper.

1. Release government data that are relevant to both agency performance and the public interest.

As part of the Open Government Initiative launched by the Obama administration in 2009, U.S. federal agencies published high-value datasets online at Any person can access the Web site and explore a vast amount of information, ranging from the location of every farmer’s market in the country to the average energy consumption by household to the U.S. trade volume in tomatoes.

But how many citizens really want to know what the current yield of the country’s tomato crop is? “As government agencies try to balance resources, time, and effort, they should choose to focus on those datasets that hold the most public value,” says Cresswell.

2. Invest in strategies to estimate how different stakeholders will use the data.

“Some datasets, like government budgets, don’t lend themselves to use on a smartphone. Others, like restaurant inspection results, make a lot more sense when you connect them to geospatial data so they can be used on the go. If you model how users are likely to interact with the data, you can choose the technology solution that will maximize value,” says Burke.

In addition, different stakeholders may want access to different kinds of data. In the road construction case study, for example, a commuter might want to know what the estimated delay on a particular route is, while a construction site foreman digging near a road block might want access to the location of the newly-laid sewer line. Government agencies will have to decide whether they can – or should – invest in collecting new data to suit these different needs.

3. Devise data management practices that improve context in order to “future-proof” data resources.

“Good meta data will help you ‘future-proof’ data resources. It’s a very simple thing, but very powerful,” says Burke. The developer who created the road construction app for the citizens of Edmonton reported that building the app was very straightforward, thanks to the high-quality meta data already provided by the city.

For example, the dataset already included geospatial data that was compliant with GIS standards, which made mapping the information easier and more accurate. Good data management practices are essential for government agencies looking to make their data more accessible and useful.

4. Think about sustainability.

Planning for the long-term sustainability of a given dataset is strongly linked to understanding the values and risks associated with releasing the data in the first place. Before restaurant grades were posted online by the New York City health department, restaurants had to display their rating on the premises, but they could easily hide a bad report in a less visible place. Once the agency began posting inspection reports online in the 1990s, restaurants felt the consequences of a bad rating much more severely.

As a result, they began demanding more frequent health inspections, so they would have the chance to improve their score. The health department responded to this demand by hiring more inspectors. “If you identify the value and risk of releasing information, you can better predict what additional resources you’ll need down the line,” recommends Burke.

What does this mean for SAP?

While government agencies reevaluate their open data policies in light of these four recommendations, SAP is also examining what this means for the software industry: “CTG’s research gives SAP a better understanding of the challenges that the public sector is facing today to support open data and open government mandates,” says Elizabeth McGowan, director of technology & innovation for business solutions in the public services industry at SAP. “To generate public value going forward, it will be crucial for governments – at all levels – to invest in strategies that open data for exploration by citizens, stakeholders, and other government agencies. We believe that solutions for big data management and analysis will be a critical part of these strategies.”

Follow @SAPOpenGov on Twitter to stay up-to-date on the latest open government news, events, insights.

Photo: iStockphoto




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13 Scary Statistics On Employee Engagement [INFOGRAPHIC]

Jacob Shriar

There is a serious problem with the way we work.

Most employees are disengaged and not passionate about the work they do. This is costing companies a ton of money in lost productivity, absenteeism, and turnover. It’s also harmful to employees, because they’re more stressed out than ever.

The thing that bothers me the most about it, is that it’s all so easy to fix. I can’t figure out why managers aren’t more proactive about this. Besides the human element of caring for our employees, it’s costing them money, so they should care more about fixing it. Something as simple as saying thank you to your employees can have a huge effect on their engagement, not to mention it’s good for your level of happiness.

The infographic that we put together has some pretty shocking statistics in it, but there are a few common themes. Employees feel overworked, overwhelmed, and they don’t like what they do. Companies are noticing it, with 75% of them saying they can’t attract the right talent, and 83% of them feeling that their employer brand isn’t compelling. Companies that want to fix this need to be smart, and patient. This doesn’t happen overnight, but like I mentioned, it’s easy to do. Being patient might be the hardest thing for companies, and I understand how frustrating it can be not to see results right away, but it’s important that you invest in this, because the ROI of employee engagement is huge.

Here are 4 simple (and free) things you can do to get that passion back into employees. These are all based on research from Deloitte.

1.  Encourage side projects

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload. Let them explore their own passions and interests, and work on side projects. Ideally, they wouldn’t have to be related to the company, but if you’re worried about them wasting time, you can set that boundary that it has to be related to the company. What this does, is give them autonomy, and let them improve on their skills (mastery), two of the biggest motivators for work.

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload.

2.  Encourage workers to engage with customers

At Wistia, a video hosting company, they make everyone in the company do customer support during their onboarding, and they often rotate people into customer support. When I asked Chris, their CEO, why they do this, he mentioned to me that it’s so every single person in the company understands how their customers are using their product. What pains they’re having, what they like about it, it gets everyone on the same page. It keeps all employees in the loop, and can really motivate you to work when you’re talking directly with customers.

3.  Encourage workers to work cross-functionally

Both Apple and Google have created common areas in their offices, specifically and strategically located, so that different workers that don’t normally interact with each other can have a chance to chat.

This isn’t a coincidence. It’s meant for that collaborative learning, and building those relationships with your colleagues.

4.  Encourage networking in their industry

This is similar to number 2 on the list, but it’s important for employees to grow and learn more about what they do. It helps them build that passion for their industry. It’s important to go to networking events, and encourage your employees to participate in these things. Websites like Eventbrite or Meetup have lots of great resources, and most of the events on there are free.

13 Disturbing Facts About Employee Engagement [Infographic]

What do you do to increase employee engagement? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Did you like today’s post? If so you’ll love our frequent newsletter! Sign up here and receive The Switch and Shift Change Playbook, by Shawn Murphy, as our thanks to you!

This infographic was crafted with love by Officevibe, the employee survey tool that helps companies improve their corporate wellness, and have a better organizational culture.


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Supply Chain Fraud: The Threat from Within

Lindsey LaManna

Supply chain fraud – whether perpetrated by suppliers, subcontractors, employees, or some combination of those – can take many forms. Among the most common are:

  • Falsified labor
  • Inflated bills or expense accounts
  • Bribery and corruption
  • Phantom vendor accounts or invoices
  • Bid rigging
  • Grey markets (counterfeit or knockoff products)
  • Failure to meet specifications (resulting in substandard or dangerous goods)
  • Unauthorized disbursements

LSAP_Smart Supply Chains_graphics_briefook inside

Perhaps the most damaging sources of supply chain fraud are internal, especially collusion between an employee and a supplier. Such partnerships help fraudsters evade independent checks and other controls, enabling them to steal larger amounts. The median loss from fraud committed
by a single thief was US$80,000, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).

Costs increase along with the number of perpetrators involved. Fraud involving two thieves had a median loss of US$200,000; fraud involving three people had a median loss of US$355,000; and fraud with four or more had a median loss of more than US$500,000, according to ACFE.

Build a culture to fight fraud

The most effective method to fight internal supply chain theft is to create a culture dedicated to fighting it. Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Make sure the board and C-level executives understand the critical nature of the supply chain and the risk of fraud throughout the procurement lifecycle.
  • Market the organization’s supply chain policies internally and among contractors.
  • Institute policies that prohibit conflicts of interest, and cross-check employee and supplier data to uncover potential conflicts.
  • Define the rules for accepting gifts from suppliers and insist that all gifts be documented.
  • Require two employees to sign off on any proposed changes to suppliers.
  • Watch for staff defections to suppliers, and pay close attention to any supplier that has recently poached an employee.

About Lindsey LaManna

Lindsey LaManna is Social and Reporting Manager for the Digitalist Magazine by SAP Global Marketing. Follow @LindseyLaManna on Twitter, on LinkedIn or Google+.


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What If Chelsea Manager Jose Mourinho Could Be Proved Right In Medical Staff Row?

Mark Goad

Big Data and the Internet of Things brings new level of insight to sports medicine

With the 2015-16 European football (soccer) season underway, we are already seeing the impact of the huge pressure to succeed. In some cases, it is boiling over even this early on, with Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho getting involved in a very public row with his medical staff over the treatment of Eden Hazard during a match. As the season builds momentum, all clubs know one of the most vital aspects of winning trophies is keeping the best players fit so they can play at the top of their game as often as possible.

Last season, just like in every season, we saw injuries that affected teams’ results and possibly their final standings at the end of the season, while other teams capitalized. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger blamed injuries for the team’s failed title bid, while Real Madrid suffered injuries to players like Gareth Bale and Luka Modric at a crucial stage of the season and lost the title to Barcelona.

There’s no doubt that football clubs, especially the bigger teams, employ first-rate medical staff – physiotherapists, doctors, sports scientists, and so on – but they can only do so much to keep players off the treatment table. Players are human, after all, and keeping them injury-free for such long and grueling campaigns is a big ask. This season again will see players on the end of crunching tackles, over-exerting their bodies, and over-stretching.

What’s less talked about than lost games and league titles when discussing injuries is the salaries paid to injured players. The estimated average cost of player injuries in the top four professional football leagues in 2015 was $12.4 million* per team. Remarkably, every year teams lose an equivalent of 15%-30%** of their player payroll to injuries.

As salaries continue to rise, injuries are becoming just as much of an off-the-pitch boardroom issue as they are an on-the-pitch issue. Consider that if Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, the world’s highest-paid player, spends just a week out injured, the club still has to pay his weekly salary of around $1 million. Not only that, but there’s the huge potential for lost revenue from missing out on UEFA Champions League progress or domestic success because key players are out.

Just as winning seems to mean more than ever, so does football as a business. So with the spotlight firmly on “sweating the assets” – extracting maximum value from the entire squad – clubs are looking to Big Data and Internet of Things technology to consider how player injuries can be prevented with new levels of insight.

Prevention is better than cure

In July this year we saw what could be a huge landmark in the potential of monitoring the risk of injuries, when football’s international governing body FIFA announced its approval of wearable electronic performance and tracking systems during matches. As well as collecting data on statistics like distance covered and heart rate to determine decisions like substitution timings, this also paves the way for wearable satellite devices that keep medical staff updated on the likelihood of a player picking up an injury from over-exertion.

Emerging injury-risk monitoring software uses the concepts of Big Data and wearable technology to pull in and apply mathematical formulas to an exhaustive range of relevant data about players: fitness levels, recent levels of exertion, opponents, age, technique, hydration, even weather. This could help medical staff predict the risk of future injuries with much greater accuracy, allowing them to run simulations and take corrective actions in real time. Imagine a seemingly non-injured key player being substituted during a tightly contested match, only to find out afterwards that monitoring software had indicated he was at a high risk of pulling a muscle. This could very much be a part of the future of professional football.

Going back to Jose Mourinho and his reaction to the Chelsea medical staff running onto the pitch to treat Eden Hazard, it’s interesting to consider how in the future this kind of technology could either support or discredit his position in the dispute. It could help managers work more closely with physiotherapists, as they can visualize the data that shows the risk of injury to players. Although the pressure to win will likely keep on rising, the risk of expensive players injuries could see a big reduction.

SAP’s own injury risk monitoring software is currently in the proof-of-concept phase and will be entering development in the near future. The goal is to build IRM on the SAP Sports One platform as an additional component, and to provide integration to the existing modules of SAP Sports One solution. SAP Sports One was launched earlier this year and is the first sports-specific cloud solution powered by the SAP HANA platform, providing a single, unified platform for team management and performance optimization.

*Statistic calulated using 2015 Global Sports Salaries Survey

**Bleacher Report “Inside the 2014 Numbers of Each MLB Team’s Regular-Season Injury Impact” and NBA Injury Analysis


Mark Goad

About Mark Goad

Mark Goad, Value Advisory Associate, SAP Canada, is an experienced business analyst with industry coverage spanning telecommunications & retail, with a focus on digital business models. He specializes in synthesizing industry trends with a detailed analysis of client-specific data to help customers build out high-impact business & IT strategies. Outside of work, Mark volunteers as a lead management consultant for Junior Achievement of Central Ontario and contributes to a range of thought leadership publications.


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Five Reasons Why Social Collaboration Should Be Part Of Your Digital Transformation

Daisy Hernandez

Digital collaboration technology has revolutionized how we communicate and live our lives. The digital network – powered by search, social, and gamification technologies – has enabled the easy and rapid sharing of knowledge globally. Now it is easy to communicate and collaborate with others no matter their location, time zone, or geography.

In a business context, these same technologies are powering benefits across an organization. By connecting business areas, vital information needed to make critical decisions is no longer siloed and disjointed. Add to this the ability to incorporate business data, and decisions are now not only made collaboratively, but are informed by the latest business-critical information and data, whether it is back-end customer or financial data. This is where the real business benefits start to emerge.

Gartner predicts that 50% of large organizations will use internal social networks resembling Facebook by 2016. Thirty percent of these technologies will be considered to be as essential as email and telephones. Digital transformation is underway, and by using collaboration technology with integrated business data, businesses are starting to see staggering benefits.

Social collaboration: Going beyond information sharing

One of the most well-known benefits of social collaboration in a corporate environment is faster and tighter alignment during a project or process. However, a recent study conducted by Forrester Consulting indicates that the advantages run deep, and run throughout the enterprise. The following are five business benefits collaboration can deliver to your business today.

  1. Boost win rates and accelerate the sales cycle. The average sales deal requires a team effort, with individuals and knowledge that live outside the sales department. A Web-based network, accessible through any device, helps win new business and generate more revenue. By pulling expertise, information, and customer data together in one place, sales reps are able to collaborate within and outside of their organization to respond more quickly and accurately to incoming customer questions and needs.
  1. Improve the quality of onboarding and speed new hires’ time to productivity. Social solutions bring together people from across the organization as they collaborate on projects or teams. When a new hire joins the company, this community enables quick ramp-up as the new hire is able to quickly locate and connect to the experts and information they need to complete their job responsibilities. Add to this the fact that this solution houses the collective genius and lessons learned of the organization, and the result is a dynamic, continuous learning culture.
  1. Deliver unparalleled customer experience – every time. Whenever you can provide anyone on the front lines with the full customer story, everyone wins. Knowledge networks ensure that no matter who is interacting with the customer, they have the complete picture. Integrating backend data with real-time collaboration ensures that they are prepared with the latest data at their fingertips to understand the status of a current or prospective customer. For the customer, this means a seamless experience that is always informed, relevant, and meets their needs.
  1. Support business processes that are truly efficient, transparent, and accessible 24×7. Whether you are involved in marketing, IT, finance, or supply chain operations, it is not uncommon for employees to get lost in email chains and outdated spreadsheets and reports. If the ability to collaborate resides in a central location, existing business processes can be improved and supported. More important, taking this network into the mobile world helps ensure that employees have the information they need any time and anywhere.
  1. Create a future of work that appeals to young talent. Knowledge networks can be a cultural tool that not only serves the business, but also answers the needs of our youngest talent. For Millennials, operating in a digitally connected world is a normal part of life – and they could not imagine anything different in their workplace. In the Forrester report, one hiring manager stated, “Millennials would not like to work at [a] company that doesn’t have a collaboration tool. It’s unimaginable — we can’t hire without it.” Could you? Most likely not.

Now you can be part of shaping how organizations adopt and find value in social collaboration technology. Tell us what obstacles you are facing and the benefits you are reaping by taking part in this survey to help SAP develop our future perspective on social collaboration and how it affects us all as employees, managers, and businesses.


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