This blog post is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent guide “Analytics in Action: How Government Tackles Critical Issues With Data.” In this guide, we share firsthand accounts from government employees at all levels who are using analytics to identify critical issues and find solutions. Download the full guide here.
The ability to access vast amounts of data can be helpful, especially when projecting future trends or trying to understand historical events. But the important question is how to make sense of that data and put it to good use.
For many government agencies, the issue isn’t a lack of data but rather the inability to quickly analyze it and turn those insights into actions. One area where agencies are working to change that paradigm is in their digital communications with the public.
“Actionable data will help you to understand where you should be investing your money, what’s going to be worthwhile and what’s going to make it as easy as possible for citizens to receive your information,” said Matt Macy, Federal Account Executive at Granicus, a leading company in the public-sector digital software space.
When agencies can easily analyze a variety of metrics, including social media stats and email open rates, it empowers them to be more strategic with their investments. The data helps them better understand how citizens respond to their digital content. Not only that but they can quickly determine which channels are most effective for communicating with the public and make adjustments accordingly.
“This gives agencies and their communications teams more power in decision-making when it comes to figuring out where to allocate time, money and resources,” Macy said.
They can also compare their efforts and results to those of other agencies using Granicus benchmarking data. “Not only do we give you data, we give you action with the data [by] providing a game plan or insight into what other agencies have done,” Macy said, noting that customers include federal, state and local governments in North America and the United Kingdom.
Several agencies — including the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments — are reaping the benefits of actionable data. Take the International Monetary Fund (IMF), for example. The agency recently had issues informing citizens in the United States and Western Europe about IMF efforts in developing nations. With Granicus’ help, IMF used analytics and performance data from other organizations, including the European Parliament, to learn how they communicate with citizens through blogs and other digital platforms.
Macy noted the importance of using analytics to help agencies understand the effectiveness of their digital communications programs and areas for improvement.
“In a lot of ways, analyzing data is like stepping on the scale,” he said. “You have to face the music, whether that’s good, bad, or otherwise because there’s no way to get better without understanding where you’re at now.”
When seeing negative results, agencies must learn how to digest the information, understand what isn’t working and respond. But it’s common when agencies begin an initiative that the results are less than ideal.
Macy warned against ending an effort before allowing it to fully mature or responding too hastily to data reports. “Data is not always going to give you the perfect answer, but it’s going to give you an educated guess,” he said. He offered several tips for analyzing data. First, it is important to have a third-party perspective that can guide agencies and their teams. The reason? It can be hard to view your data objectively.
Second, agencies should look at their communications data — at most — on a weekly basis. Looking at data daily can be counter-productive and cause agencies to chase after the latest findings. Macy also noted the benefits of using automation for reporting. Even if agencies have experienced communicators, there’s still a lot to ingest. Automation helps target the points that are important and delivers them to agencies quickly and effectively.
More than 3,000 government agencies use Granicus’ communications suite to grow their digital audience, build communities around data and better connect with citizens. The GovDelivery Communications Cloud in particular enables agencies to better manage their digital communications across multiple channels, including email and social media.
Finally, it is important to build action plans around your data. “Data without action is pointless,” Macy said. Having a plan tied in with data helps agencies look at how they did in the past and plan for the future. They can better see the results of engagement reports and develop an action plan surrounding those numbers that will ultimately help them successfully reach their customers.