Montgomery County: Serious about Online Transparency since 1992: Montgomery County explains the elements that contributed to the success of its online financial transparency platforms.

Author:Mack, Mark
 
FREE EXCERPT

Montgomery County, Maryland, has a lot of experience with online transparency, having gotten started back in 1992. (See the "Decades of Online Transparency" sidebar.) The county's latest strategy, spending Montgomery, was designed to better serve its residents, employees, and other partners. Spending Montgomery is housed within Data Montgomery, the county's centralized open data website. That platform provides interested users with a lot of information, and spending Montgomery is a guided view to complex financial information for stakeholders.

The finance department at Montgomery County attributes its success to the following:

* Having a leader to start the platform.

* Picking a platform that meets the county's needs and is cost effective.

* Standardizing and automating.

* Connecting to transparency beyond the finance office.

* Making the content usable for different kinds of users.

* Asking for feedback as you grow.

FIND A LEADER

Projects need a champion to help them succeed. For spending Montgomery, the Montgomery County Finance Department played that role. The department saw how valuable the platform could be, providing residents and local businesses with even more information than required and providing a better view of how the government spends public funds, including the programs the county invests in. In other words, the finance department saw the value of financial transparency.

The county appointed a dedicated leader to keep the project running smoothly while the platform was being built. This was the data service manager, who worked tirelessly to ensure that all participating parties were providing the data to the platform. Without a dedicated leader, a massive open data project can get lost in the weeds of everyday responsibilities. For many of the people involved, these open data projects are just one of many day-to-day tasks that need to be completed, so there must be a project leader to keep everyone on track, lest the entire project fall apart.

PICK THE RIGHT PLATFORM

At the beginning of this transparency initiative, county officials looked carefully at another implementation they hoped to emulate, but they realized that its scale and technology couldn't be reproduced and sustained in Montgomery County. They realized that they needed a different process, one that would be based on the rich data published on the county's open data portal and would feature a user interface that focused on the county's defined user personas...

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