Students from the Business Analytics/Information Analysis (SCMS 350) course at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln ended their spring semester project receiving feedback from not only their professor, but three Lincoln officials. An assignment created by Clyde Davis, lecturer in supply chain management and analytics, the College of Business students analyzed information from the Open Data and Performance Management website and presented their findings for Director of Public Safety Tom Casady, Assistant Chief of Lincoln Fire and Rescue Pat Borer, and Chief of Lincoln Fire and Rescue Michael Despain.
As an initiative to bring more transparency to Lincoln, Open Data launched in March 2017 and provides information ranging from time of fire and rescue calls to environmental and health data. After Davis served on the citizen’s task force for Lincoln Fire and Rescue operations in January, he learned about the upcoming resource and worked with Battalion Chief Eric Jones to obtain data earlier in the semester before the website went live.
“When I found out the data tracks calls on a minute-by-minute basis and contained numbers from the last several years, I thought it would be a great opportunity for students to study real-world numbers,” Davis said. “This was a unique opportunity for them to study data in similar ways that they will use in their careers someday and communicate their findings in a professional manner.”
The assignment, which included both a written report and presentation, tasked students to describe the historical performance and demand of the department using the data and present any changes or recommendations for the future. Davis also encouraged them to research other departments across the nation and compare information.
Casady served as a key member in creating the Open Data portal. He appreciated the implementation of the information in the assignment and looked forward to watching the student presentations.
“Every group did a great job making general observations from the data and raised questions that need further analysis. I believe a very important party of data analysis is how you present the information to people who you are trying to influence or inform. The ability to present in a way that is clear and understandable is critical,” Casady said. “That is the biggest piece of information I tried to relay to the students.”
Erin Bohling, a junior business administration major from Johnson, Nebraska, found working with the live data to be a positive challenge. She said the project allowed her to gain a greater understanding of business analytics.
“Learning how to break down data and decipher what needed to be analyzed allowed me to create a strategy and focus on the questions being asked. The project helped me improve on communicating my results and increased my presentation skills greatly.”
To view the Open Data and Performance Management website, visit: opendata.lincoln.ne.gov