The Commissioners’ Dashboard is an excellent example of Government to Government collaboration.
Local Social Services Agency Commissioners, working in collaboration with the New York State Office
of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), New York State Office of Children and Family
Services (OCFS) and New York State Department of Health (DOH), have developed the Commissioners’
Dashboard in response to a need identified by county and state government executives to have simple
access to social services data, regardless of the data source, in one location.
What is it?
Working in partnership with local social services agency Commissioners, the Commissioners' Dashboard
is a web portal designed by a team from OTDA, OCFS and DOH to enable Commissioners and their
executive teams to examine key performance indicators (KPIs) and important business intelligence trends
in various report formats directly from their desktop or laptop. The Commissioners’ Dashboard provides
summary data needed to refine KPIs over time in support of business intelligence and knowledge
management, driven directly from one or more of the three human services agencies' data repositories
maintained by OTDA, OCFS and DOH. In addition to these reports, there are informational web links
and a reference library, which empower executives to measure, monitor and manage their businesses in a
proactive manner. The Commissioners' Dashboard saves significant research time and promotes cost
savings, cost avoidance and enhanced client service delivery by providing users with the business
intelligence tools to identify important leading and lagging events evidenced by current and historical
trending information, all displayed within a single interface.
Why build it?
Because local social services Commissioners asked for it! In response to a need stated by local social
services agency Commissioners, OTDA, OCFS and DOH are working with a group of volunteer
Commissioners to define and prioritize the information and data that would benefit them in making
informed decisions based upon key performance indicators and knowledge driven trend data. This effort
has culminated in the Commissioners’ Dashboard project, which has received priority standing as a sub-
component of the Statewide Welfare Management System (SWMS). The three state agencies are
working together with their local agency partners to provide a unified view of human services data in a
single, seamless, easy-to-use web interface.
What’s in it?
The Commissioners’ Dashboard is a composite of aggregate-level human services data, providing
information understood to be of use and interest to the broadest range of local social services agency
Commissioners. The primary data source systems are:
• WMS (Welfare Management System) and its downstream databases for temporary assistance
(cash, food stamps and medical) demographics and payment data
• CONNECTIONS (sourced through the OCFS Data Warehouse), NYS’ SACWIS (statewide
automated child welfare information system), for children and family services data
• DOH Data Warehouse for medical assistance demographics and provider data
A. CONCISE DESCRIPTION OF THE BUSINESS PROBLEM AND SOLUTION, INCLUDING
LENGTH OF TIME IN OPERATION.
Currently, social services agency Commissioners and their executive teams spend an inordinate amount of
time trying to access and interpret report data needed in their planning, monitoring and evaluation
There are several causes:
• Executive managers do not readily have access to data since reports are sent to and retrieved from many
access points in the agency. Not every computer or user has access to the necessary reporting
• There is so much data that it is difficult for executive managers to quickly respond to questions or be
proactive in instituting necessary actions when new trends first appear.
• Most of the available reports show point in time data, which may not meet information needs at the local
level. Important historical trending data may not be generated. Report creation timeframes are
determined by each data source. Report frequencies are also not standardized. The local district
executives must therefore create their own systems to track performance measures between state issued
reports and local data needs to be able to respond to the variety of focal points in agency life.
• A variety of complex reporting applications (e.g. Cognos, Hummingbird, Oracle, etc.) are used in
generating reports, which require specialized training and licenses.
The Commissioners’ Dashboard is a desktop web portal for Commissioners and their executive teams. The
Dashboard’s design allows an end user with limited PC skills to access management level reports on one site,
stored as an icon on their desktop or in their Favorites folder.
The Commissioners’ Dashboard focuses on the concepts of business intelligence and knowledge management
driven directly from various state human services agency data repositories managed by the OTDA, OCFS and
DOH. It unites data from these three diverse sources, so that local social services leaders have a complete picture
of key performance indicators (KPIs), as well as high level trending data that supports state and local mission-
critical strategic initiatives.
The Commissioners’ Dashboard provides a common look and feel for all reports, regardless of the data source, by
standardizing on a single report generation toolset provided by Cognos. This approach simplifies a user’s learning
curve and streamlines licensing costs. Within a few mouse clicks, users can either quickly view reports which
highlight KPI’s and historical trends or gain access to outside sources of data that help support internal reports,
such as the employment and unemployment statistics available through the New York State Department of Labor
website, since as one Commissioner stated, “It’s the economy….”.
The Commissioners’ Dashboard is a flexible tool that can support any management style or organizational
structure. The data and the report design on the Dashboard are driven by requests from executive users.
Consensus must be reached by a representative group of volunteer Commissioners who serve on an Advisory
Change Management Board to determine what reports will be on the Dashboard and how the data will be
displayed to the best advantage for users statewide.
As many Commissioners have shared during orientation training sessions, “…the Dashboard not only
provides me with current data from three state agencies, it also streamlines the data that I see and gives
me key performance indicators to help me quickly see what areas need my attention.”
A group of six local social services agency Commissioners volunteered to be part of the requirements and
pilot phase in July 2005. As of the 4th quarter of 2005, the Commissioners’ Dashboard was available in
the six pilot local social services agencies: Broome, Dutchess, Essex, Madison, Schenectady, and Wayne.
Refinements were made based upon the Commissioners’ input. Statewide implementation began in mid-
February 2006 and was completed in 59 of the 61 social services agencies by the end of May 2006.
B. SIGNIFICANCE TO THE IMPROVEMENT OF THE OPERATION OF GOVERNMENT
The Commissioners’ Dashboard project builds on Gartner's theory and definition of Corporate
Performance Management (CPM), to enhance social service agencies’ business practices through use of
methodologies, metrics, processes and systems. Gartner defines these CPM components as:
• Methodologies: Systematic and sustainable procedures for tracking, measuring and improving
Commissioners’ Dashboard Process Improvement
As part of their management routine, Commissioners use the Commissioners’ Dashboard
to plan, manage, monitor, and enhance their business activities with information that is
based on business intelligence and management driven data.
• Metrics: Real-time Key Performance Indicator (KPI) measures captured in a Web-based
Dashboard focused on key issues and critical data for dynamic decision-making.
Commissioners’ Dashboard Process Improvement
New KPI measures and reports continue to be developed through new report content
suggestions that are submitted by Commissioners’ Dashboard users. The
Commissioners’ Dashboard Advisory Change Management Board approves and
prioritizes the suggested change requests.
• Processes: Performance feedback loops link strategic, operational and activity levels with the
ability to respond to dynamic conditions within the local social services agencies (i.e., strategy
formulation, planning and budgeting, forecasting and business tracking).
Commissioners’ Dashboard Process Improvement
Some volunteer Commissioners are working with Cornell University, through the OTDA
Bureau of Training and Management Analysis, to document “best practice”
methodologies when using the Commissioners’ Dashboard. The documentation
developed will be shared with all users through the Commissioners’ Dashboard Project
Portal and at a special training session.
• Systems: Technology solutions (or information systems) that combine methodology, metrics and
processes in a single enterprise-wide reporting and analysis environment designed to track,
understand and manage information through use of the business intelligence application.
Commissioners’ Dashboard Process Improvement
OTDA, OCFS and DOH are supporting a single enterprise-wide reporting and analysis
environment with the Commissioners’ Dashboard through the use of Cognos reporting
tools and MS Share Point.
C. BENEFITS REALIZED BY SERVICE RECIPIENTS, TAXPAYERS, AGENCY OR STATE
There are various benefit recipients of the application:
• Local and State Social Services agencies’ executive managers
- Quicker access to valuable current and historical data from three state agencies which is
presented in a consolidated manner on one web site.
- Enhances proactive strategic, budgetary and operational decisions based upon current and
historical trend information.
• Various Departments within NYS government
- Improved collaboration between several state agency departments including OTDA,
OCFS, and DOH, in collaboration with the Office for Technology, to provide:
Consistent, standardized human service key performance indicator and strategic
Ability to exchange comparative data to enable sharing of best practices.
One web application easily accessible to users in either their office or at other
locations through SSL VPN.
• Human Services Customers of NYS
- Improved service delivery.
• Taxpayers of NYS
- Increased efficiencies and economies by local Commissioners and their executive teams
in the delivery of human services programs.
Centrally Shared Commissioners’ Dashboard Infrastructure
Software Web Tier
- Microsoft Share Point Portal Server 2.0 is the software that presents the Dashboard web
pages to the users. Microsoft Share Point Portal Server is also used for document
management. The Microsoft Share Point Portal Server 2.0 is running on a VM Ware
partition that resides on the Microsoft Windows 2003 Enterprise Server Operating System.
- Cognos ReportNet is the software that receives requests from Share Point Portal Server and
sends the request to the Middle Tier.
- The Cognos ReportNet Dispatchers are running on Microsoft Windows 2003 Enterprise
Server Operating System.
Software Middle Tier
- Three load-balanced Cognos ReportNet Application Servers running on Microsoft
Windows 2003 Enterprise Servers take requests from the Microsoft Share Point Portal
Server 2.0 in the Web Tier.
- The Cognos ReportNet Application Servers translate these requests into database scripts
that are passed to the Oracle Database servers in the Database Tier.
- When the results are sent back from the Oracle Database servers, Cognos ReportNet
Application Servers manage report generation.
- These reports are then passed back to Microsoft Share Point Portal Server 2.0 in the Web
Software Database Tier
- Microsoft SQL Server 2000 running on a Microsoft Windows 2003 Enterprise Server
manages the Microsoft Share Point Portal Server 2.0 information
- Oracle 9i Release 2 on HP-UX 11.1 UNIX software manages the user data.
- An FTP server running on a Microsoft Windows 2003 Enterprise Server Operating System
moves data from the DOH Data Warehouse to the OTDA database servers.
Hardware Web Tier
- Share Point Portal Server 2.0 is running on a dual processor IBM Netegrity Server.
- Cognos ReportNet Web Servers are running on two, four processor IBM rack mounted
- The two Cognos ReportNet Web Server machines are load balanced with a CISCO LD-416
Hardware Middle Tier
- Cognos ReportNet Application Servers are running on three IBM 8-processor rack mounted
- The three Cognos ReportNet Web Server machines are load balanced with Cisco CSS
11506 load balancer.
Hardware Database Tier
- Microsoft SQL Server is running on an 8-processor IBM machine.
- Oracle 9i is running on a 64bit 8 processor partition on the HP Superdome.
- The disk storage is managed with EMC Symmetrix disk cabinets
D. Realized Return on Investment, Short-term/Long-term Payback
The Commissioners’ Dashboard saves significant research time and promotes cost savings, cost
avoidance and enhanced client service delivery by providing users with the business intelligence tools to
identify important leading and lagging events evidenced by current and historical trending information, all
displayed within a single interface.
• Reports are available directly to the Commissioner as the data becomes available, which allows
the Commissioner to assess concerns without delay.
• The Commissioner has the entire report definition for each column heading, data source, and data
source refresh cycle in the same format on each report, regardless of the parent agency source.
• The performance measures are the most current in effect per the program area criteria.
• The report views default to displaying data for the most current complete month; many reports
also offer the ability to filter on different time periods.
• The data is immediately presented in usable formats – HTML, printer-friendly, converted to PDF
or exportable to Excel without complicated local manipulation.
• Standard graphics (graphs and charts) are provided and do not need to be developed locally,
assisting the Commissioner with presentation ability and trending analysis available within the
• Reports are defined consistently across counties, standardizing the information for collaboration
between counties and development of best practices. Report contact names are listed, if there is a
question about the report data or presentation.
• Report definition templates direct users to the next level of detail or client specific information by
providing the locations, navigation paths and predefined report names, if available.
• Web links bring in data from other sources, giving broader perspective to trend analysis and
• The users required no new hardware, new software licenses or skills to use the Dashboard.
• The Dashboard is very simple and easy to navigate thereby needing little training. Turnover
within the 61 social services agencies will have minimal impact on the use of the Commissioners’
Dashboard given the intuitive nature of the application.
The Commissioner clicks on their favorite website-Commissioners’
Dashboard-and then selects a report from one of the available
The Commissioner then views the generated report.