Promote Transparency is one of the three Ethical Governance Principles in the Federal Data Strategy. This 10-year vision statement drives agencies across the government to build better tools to bring valuable insights to decision makers and citizens. Nowhere is this clearer than in government dashboards and data visualizations which must clearly communicate complex information in a meaningful manner for their users.
Modernizing Legacy Dashboards
Leveraging its business intelligence and visualization expertise, Karsun recently engaged in such a dashboard modernization project with one of its government customers. This customer was charged with delivering a dashboard that provides insights to both internal stakeholders and key decision-makers outside the organization. The goal was to allow users to access the dashboard for data-driven decision-making while enhancing transparency and adhering to the Conscious Design principles outlined in the Federal Data Strategy.
An on-premise legacy application added complexity to the modernization project. Moreover, the previous dashboard was built by different vendors with a mix of features and functionality. As a result, Karsun’s customer needed to provide a new, user-friendly dashboard. It also strove to limit human error with the data submission and ingestion process while seeing a decrease in operations and maintenance costs. Using a modularized approach, the customer wanted one, coherent dashboard. The customer envisioned a streamlined data submission process while reducing the time required for making new data sets available and improving speed-to-insight.
Combining Design and Data Expertise
The Karsun Data Practice uses DataOps to bring together data platform and engineering with business intelligence and visualization expertise. In doing so, it worked with its customer to deliver a solution that not only used DataOps principles but also incorporated best practices for usability, accessibility, and visualization within the dashboard.
Working with the on-premise application and within the requirements set by another project partner, Karsun built the data objects. Backend microservices utilizing RESTful API fetched data from an API service call and prepared the visualization using the Python Plotly visualization library. Those visualizations are then delivered as a JSON object.
An additional component to dashboard modernization is user experience. The President’s Executive Order on Customer Experience compels the government to design and deliver services “with a focus on the actual experience of the people whom it is meant to serve.” As practitioners, this order draws the spotlight to a range of design methodologies intended to enhance accessibility, transparency, and equity for all users.
This project used human centered design (HCD), putting user needs, desires, and abilities at the center of the process. This also uses iterative feedback from each step to inform the analysis. Seeking clarity at each step, it transitions the dashboard away from a mixed experience that’s difficult for users to navigate and hard for the customer to maintain.
It uses a three step process. The first step is Demand Side Analysis. This engages users at the earliest opportunity through interviews and surveys. The team also conducts a Prior Usage Analysis. Next, they design a User Centered Service Delivery Model. This incorporates Design Thinking, Service Design, and Detailed Design. Finally, they again Engage Product Users by introducing Mock-Ups, Prototypes, and Wireframes. After iterating through these three steps, the team identified and built an application layer on a PHP/Drupal framework allowing for easy content manipulation without requiring technical knowledge.
User Friendly, Data Driven Insights at Lower Cost
This modernization project sunsetted legacy infrastructure and reduced high-cost maintenance. The new dashboard application further streamlined data collection, introduced omnichannel distribution of IT data, and improved the overall user experience. Moreover, by improving the process through human centered design, the customer improved the user’s ability to make evidence based decisions.
This project not only enhanced user experience it also supported requests for better data-driven decision making in government. While modernization projects frequently address high maintenance costs, human centered design adds an additional element. Improved user experience not only saves money, it enhances both accessibility and transparency, delivering better government to all.
About Karsun Solutions
Karsun Solutions is a fast-growing, innovative enterprise modernization firm. Recently awarded Best Company Culture by Comparably.com, its teams deliver modern software development, cloud, and data solutions to customers at government agencies including the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Aviation Administration and General Services Administration. Leveraging GoLean, Karsun teams drive digital transformation and help its government customers Do Extraordinary. Learn more at Karsun-LLC.com.