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Transforming Your Agency With Big Data

Avatar of Patrick Fiorenza
Patrick Fiorenza

The ways agencies store, manage and collect data is changing. In the past, agencies analyzed data from stable enterprise services. Data was created from customer relationship management services, enterprise resource planning systems or from the variety of financial instruments agencies used to process transactions. Agencies could then run common reports, store data in warehouses or databases, and easily extract knowledge to inform their decision-making. With the explosion of data from social media, the Internet and growing examples of online transactions, government has more opportunities than ever before to transform agencies through big data analysis.

Through qualitative and quantitative analysis, this report will highlight the common challenges, best practices and pertinent issues surrounding big data. Transforming Your Agency Through Big Data includes a survey from 215 public sector professionals, and interviews with government and industry thought leaders. Expert interviews include:

  • Nikki Clowers, Director of Financial Markets and Community Investment Issues at GAO
  • Mark Headd, Chief Data Officer, City of Philadelphia
  • Audie Hittle, Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Federal Market at EMC Isilon
  • Jennifer Kerber, President of the TechAmerica Foundation
  • Shawn Kingsberry, Chief Information Officer, Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board (RATB)
  • Pat Herbert, Principal Solutions Architect, SAS

This report finds that government agencies are still at the early stages of adopting big data initiatives. To fully leverage big data analysis, agencies are in need of guidance and best practices to fully capitalize on the data that they are collecting. In our survey, GovLoop found that education (19%), acquiring infrastructure (18%), and confidentiality and access control (16%) were some of the challenges facing government.

Additional findings highlight the ways government has leveraged big data. The survey finds that budget/finance (14%), communications/public affairs (14%) and health and human services (11%) were the leading mission areas in which organizations have leveraged big data analysis. The survey finds that the majority of organizations have yet to hire data scientist, as 61% of respondents do not have data scientist on staff. In our estimation, to begin to craft big data strategies, GovLoop believes that agencies should:

  1. Consider parallels and lessons learned from existing open data initiatives.
  2. Identify resource needs and staffing.
  3. Be strategic and develop clear vision statement and goals.
  4. Work diligently to extract knowledge from legacy systems and unstructured data.
  5. Government to government collaboration is essential, agencies need to focus on standardizing data and developing shared infrastructures.

This report concludes with a big data cheat sheet, as a means to quickly get the ‘need to know’ facts on big data and a brief outline of the key findings in this report. As budgets continue to plague the public sector, agencies are searching for new efficiencies and innovative ways to find actionable insights from big data analysis. This report can serve as the first step for your agency to harness the power of data, and improve decision-making, information sharing and service delivery of the agency through data analysis.