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For governments, the ROI in open data may be in benchmarking themselves against other governments: state, county and local. They can compare themselves against others and find ways to be more efficient. That's one reason Tyler Technologies, a fast-growing ERP public sector provider, bought Socrata.
By acquiring data-as-a-service firm Socrata, Tyler is filling a gap in its offerings and giving its users a new tool for open data analysis. Open data is public data. It could be anything generated by governments, including economic, justice-related, health or financial data. The deal was announced April 18.
ERP firms, such as Oracle, SAP and Workday, offer data-as-a-service platforms with analytics and access to third-party data sources. Tyler identified this as a need in its products. The Socrata and Tyler integration comes with a twist for the ERP public sector.
Socrata takes disparate government data sources and applies cloud-based analytics and visualization tools. The Socrata cloud will sit above Tyler's applications. It will improve a user's ability to take data from cities, counties and towns to draw comparisons. This may make it much easier for governments to assess their performance.
"The beautiful thing is [governments] are willing to work with each other because they're not competing, and so, we see real applicability there," said Bruce Graham, chief strategy officer at Tyler.
The price was not disclosed, and the acquisition will close April 30. Socrata employs 150 with $25 million in revenue. Tyler's revenue last year was $840 million, more than double its 2013 revenue. It has over 15,000 clients using its ERP public sector systems and other applications. Tyler, based in Plano, Texas, is solely focused on the public sector.
Along with ERP for public sector, Tyler verticals include justice, public safety and community development.
Socrata's senior leadership team is expected to join Tyler "along with substantially all of the company's employees." Socrata is based in Seattle.
Where the real ROI is in open data
Bruce GrahamChief strategy officer, Tyler
Graham said Socrata can pull data from across multiple government jurisdictions and pull it into one unified view. "This begins to pull that together into one view in a platform that's updated [in] real time," he said.
"What this will allow us to begin to provide out of the box [is] a capability into the Socrata cloud," Graham said, and it will allow its ERP public sector users to compare the operations and build predictive models.
Graham said it will take six months to a year to make its applications capable of connecting to the Socrata cloud. There are connectors in its Munis ERP software products, but the analytics will get "richer and deeper" as the company brings in more of its applications, he said.
Governments use Socrata's open data platform to provide access to open data. But this has been at a cost for government, said Rick Howard, an analyst at Gartner. What they want to do is also use their data to improve their operations, he said.
The Socrata acquisition rounds out Tyler's portfolio of products, Howard said. It gives core administrative systems the ability to get data into an open data format for better analysis of government performance, he said.
Open data's value is in the internal use of that data, Howard said, and Socrata's capabilities can be used to improve internal analytics.
Governments want to make more of this data available to their own departments. It is how they "gain new insights for performance management outcomes," Howard said. "That's where the real ROI is for government."