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The Idaho Transportation Department looks to data quality for the long haul

When it comes to data management practices, government agencies today have their work cut out for them. As the breadth and volume of data entering organizations continue to grow, harnessing this information for strategic initiatives becomes increasingly elusive—even for the most advanced agencies. One such area where data is heavily relied upon is in the transportation sector, which is typically responsible for maintaining roadways and airways in addition to issuing permits for both residents and companies. As you can imagine, transportation departments have a lot of information that requires strong data management practices.

While transportation departments around the U.S. undoubtedly face similar challenges, the Idaho Transportation Department stands out as a model by which organizations can become proactive in their data management and data quality approaches. The Idaho Transportation Department is a statewide agency that is tasked with providing the state’s 1.6 million residents with safe, efficient transportation and economic opportunities that come from this improve connectivity. While its customer-centric mission is admirable, the department soon learned that underlying data quality issues would prevent them from being successful.

Caution: Unmatched records make work difficult to navigate

Specifically, the department of motor vehicles (DMV) maintains a customer database that is non-relational. This means that every record in the database represents one transaction. So, for example, if one customer happens to own three vehicles, he or she will have three separate records in the DMV’s system. In order to deliver high-quality services to its residents, the department needs to have a better understanding of its customers by consolidating these records into one.

What’s the scope of the issue? Well, in a state with a population of 1.6 million, the DMV database had over 20 million unique records. Clearly, some consolidation will be needed.

Understanding something as simple as the number of cars a customer owns sounds straight-forward right? Not so fast. The challenge the department discovered is that a lack of unique identifying information makes it virtually impossible to link the records together. That’s why the department lobbied the Idaho state legislature to pass a mandate requiring residents to provide unique identifying information (like a driver’s license number) to the department. When the mandate was approved, it gave the department what it needs to begin the process of consolidating their records.

Road work ahead: Experian Data Quality's trusted solution

The Idaho Transportation department’s goal of reducing the number of records in its database depended on two areas. First, they needed accurate and consistent information that they can use to match up records. This means validating the addresses they already have on file. Second, they needed a solution that would enable them to match the records together before consolidating them. It was for these purposes that the department began conversations with Experian Data Quality. After seeing the capabilities of the address verification solution in tandem with Experian Pandora, the department felt that they had finally found the solution they’ve needed for so long.

In the fast lane: A new proactive, transparent data management approach

With Experian Data Quality’s solutions in place, the Idaho Transportation Department is well on its way of achieving one record per DMV customer. Through prior efforts, the department was able to bring those 20 million records down to 8 million. Using Experian Pandora, they are hoping to get that number down to fewer than 3 million records. With greater visibility into their data thanks to Experian Pandora’s full-volume profiling capabilities, the department is confident that they will be able to match together customer records confidently, bringing them one step closer to achieving their ambitious goal.

In addition to reducing the number of records the department maintained, the Idaho Transportation Department is using Experian Pandora to improve data processes and the transparency around them. Experian Pandora’s business-centric interface bridges the gap between the people who know how to look at the data and the people who know how to write the SQL queries—providing a direct path for the people who understand the data to actually get in and extract the output. In addition, the solution’s visual dashboards have enabled the team to communicate their progress with executives, keeping them interested in the program.

The Idaho Transportation Department is using Experian’s tools not only to identify data quality issues but also to implement preemptive policies and rules. For example, by using Experian Pandora to look at the uniqueness of suffix fields, they were able to analyze the distribution of all the various suffixes to recommend a consistent method to standardize them. The department is taking learnings like this and implementing permanent fixes in their system to prevent the data quality issues from reoccurring.

Next stop: Being the best transportation department in the nation

The road to proactive data quality is long and arduous, but the Idaho Transportation Department is picking up speed. With an ambitious goal of providing the best possible services to the state’s 1.6 million residents, in addition to the countless vehicles that pass through the state, the department needs top-notch data. By taking the data-quality-first approach, they have already made great strides toward achieving their goal and becoming the best transportation department in the nation.

Want to learn how the Idaho Transportation Department takes a proactive approach to data quality? Read the full case study!

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