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CHAPTER 2 The Benefits of Better Transportation Cost and Service Data Program Management Improves Local program managers need detailed and accurate data to be better managers. High-quality data allows managers to more completely understand their own program's operations and to provide more cost-effective services with limited resources. Detailed cost and service information can do the following: Serve as a diagnostic tool that identifies specific areas of problems with performance, thus aid- ing in day-to-day management decision-making. Assist in long-term planning and decision-making, such as requests for future funding from state legislatures or local governments. Provide information to document transportation expenditures and meet other regulatory requirements of funding agencies and other supervisory bodies. In short, detailed information helps managers do a better job. There is a strong need to work smarter in human service programs, especially in light of current serious financial constraints in many states and communities. Techniques such as Management by Objectives, Continuous Quality Improvement, Total Quality Management, and others are tools that rely on intensive data collection efforts to assess and improve program performance. Accurate cost reporting leads to better management of scarce resources. Thus, fundamental reasons for collecting, analyzing, and reporting program data are to Assess your current performance (and to find ways to improve). Demonstrate to others that you're doing a good job (e.g., to assure funding sources that their funds have been spent appropriately). Accountability is a prime function of many data collection systems. However, to be truly use- ful to staff members collecting the information, data collection for transportation services needs to be focused on measurements of performance that provide information for operational deci- sions by program managers. Performance measures provide a means by which management may periodically assess performance, measure progress toward the achievement of goals and objectives, and consider actions that may change the course of future events. Such actions may result in the modification of policies, procedures, and processes. Other actions might lead to operational changes including service enhancement or service cessation. Performance measures are the key to answering the question, "What do I do now?"--particularly when it appears that a problem is at hand. Indicators of performance can suggest corrective actions such as increases or decreases in services, revenues, and staff, or modifications in procedures or other activities (e.g., marketing or public relations). 3