Data is not new. In fact, it’s been around since the beginning of time. But what is new is the volume, velocity, and veracity of data. There is more data collected every minute than was available 30 years ago. So how can government harness the power of this data? Analytics provides the answer.
In GovLoop’s event on March 8, 2016, “How to Understand Gov Data Analytics,” leaders from various government agencies gathered to hear how government is using analytics to transform their data decisions.
Experts in data analysis like Mark E. Krzysko, Deputy Director for Enterprise Information at the Department of Defense (DoD), discussed how DoD relies on data analytics to support the foundation of the agency itself and shared how other agencies can prioritize, manage, and analyze their data.
Data is the Hook
Whether your role is in technology or is more functional, data is at the crux of how your agency carries out its mission. “Data is the hook and is the foundation of what we do,” Krzysko said. “That means it’s critical to understand the authoritative location of your data and the meaning of that data.”
For DoD, knowing where that data is and how it functions is integral to the 150 programs the agency carries out. Krzysko emphasized that this is why data needs to be understood and managed across the board, regardless of your role or title in the agency. “Understanding the behavior of data gives you insight into how your organization works as a whole,” he said.
As a manager of enterprise information, Krzysko has to make sure that the data is organized, given proper context, and that the data supports the role of his agency’s leaders. For example, the Undersecretary of DoD carries out the following duties: 1) Reports to Congress; 2) Makes decisions with the Defense Acquisition Board of advisors; 3) Ensures the provisions of the Defense Acquisition Executive Summary (DAES) are carried out; and 4) Supports the overall acquisition process.
It’s up to data enterprise managers, like Krzysko, to make sure that the data of DoD supports the duties of his superiors like the Undersecretary. “When I put things side by side in our data management, they better work,” he said.
While it’s important to make sure everyone within an organization has a basic understanding of how data works to support the mission of the organization, it’s also important to ensure that roles are clearly defined.
“The big dilemma is everyone wants to be the data analyst,” Krzysko said. “Even the Undersecretary wants to be the analyst. But you have to own that you have strong stewardship above you and don’t confuse the roles.”
Data is also the primary connector of an organization. Krzysko stressed the importance of always asking, “What is your data’s context?” One context has a very different meaning from another. For example, managing an individual’s personal data for casework is very different from managing an entire collection of data on your agency’s different programs. Thinking about data individually is just as important as thinking about it in aggregation.
Analysis is No Simple Chore
We understand the importance of data being the hook and the connector of functions, roles, and duties within an organization. But another challenge that government agencies face is how to manage and analyze their data. How do you protect national security, industry, and secrets as data continues to grow in size and sophistication? Krzysko was quick to point out that locking your data up and throwing away the key does the institutions no good.
“The problem is there’s no push button answer in analysis,” Krzysko said. “There’s a lot of complex topics that range from various administrations, which makes dialogue and deliberation in this space especially important.”
What can be particularly harmful for an agency is confusion over data regarding what the data is and its context. “The worst thing we could do is spend time fighting about the data we’re talking about,” Krzysko said. “If you can’t articulate the value of the data you’re using, then you’re doomed.”
In other words, defining the data for your agency is critical to the lifeline of your agency. You want your data to be clearly defined and understood within your organization and to stakeholders outside of your organization. It’s important to keep current on data analysis trends so that you can continue to be cutting edge.
Krzysko suggests keeping the following in mind for data analysis and management overall: “What are you trying to achieve? What would you like to see? What data do you think you need?”
The message is clear: data is powerful. It upholds the mission of an organization, supports the functions and roles within an agency, and is vital to solving government’s urgent challenges. But data is only as powerful when coupled with its integral partner: analytics. Together, data and analytics can help you tackle your agency’s primary challenges while providing innovative solutions for the nation.