Data Analytics Helps Agencies Transform Government


Written in collaboration with Sandy Fitzpatrick, Director, Data Analytics Strategic Program at Oracle Public Sector

It is a fact of life that for many years the public sector has been asked to do more with less, deliver better and more timely services, provide transparency, give citizens  better access to government and improve customer service.  At the same time commissioners, managers and business users within public sector agencies have been relying on the same reports they’ve been looking at for years, dealing with an IT queue that prioritizes work requests, and trying to match and make sense of multiple spreadsheets many of which are laid out differently.  Business users know that if they had better access to the mounds of data available to them they could make more informed and better business decisions and they could be looking ahead not backwards. We finally have modern user-friendly data analytics tools available to do just that.  Let us tell you how.

Modern Data Analytics

Data Analytics tools have finally caught up with workplace demands and the public sector has figured out that data analytics can help.  Agency leaders no longer need to review reports and just observe trends; they now have real-time insight into their business and can predict what is likely to occur and make decisions based on forward looking information, not on what already happened.  Measurements can be put in place to quantify program effectiveness – not after the fact – but as a program or a fiscal year progresses.   We can now truly measure the effectiveness of our programs, by getting answers to questions such as:

  • Are expenditures in line with the budget or projected to exceed the budget?  If there are project over-runs what are they, what are they projected to be and where can those costs be recouped?
  • Are we serving as many citizens as promised?  Are wait times decreasing?
  • Do citizens have access to the information they need?  Are those most ‘at risk’ receiving the services they are entitled to?
  • And the list goes on and on

Modern data analytics tools are built with the business users in mind.  Although IT still has a role to set up the data connections, and data scientists help build the predictive models, business users can now ask their own questions and create their own ad-hoc queries.  Users can now explore the data without a predetermined  list of questions.  As an example, a query about the cost of a particular government program per individual served could lead to the discovery of one or more clients abusing the system by receiving multiple prescriptions for drugs and then having them filled by ‘preferred pharmacies’ and selling them on the street for profit.  In this example the query was cost per patient served – but when that question was answered and it was clear that one program was way out of line with the others – further discovery led to why it was so skewed.  But that was not where the questioning had started.  This one example illustrates how access to data and the ability to interrogate that data is very powerful.  This simple line of questioning highlights abuse, fraud and ultimately program savings.

Data Analytics in Action

Examples of how data analytics can impact positively your mission:

Public Sector Segment Use Case Benefits
Government Administration Back Office ( Finance, Human Resources, Procurement) Data analytics helps agencies identify:

  • least cost vendor with highest rating,
  • sick leave taken by an individual,
  • departments that are not in normal range,
  • areas where retirement will impact operation,
  • types of skills that will be needed,
  • query the data to find encumbrances,
  • where spending at current rates will exceed budget and why.
Health & Human Services Child Welfare Predictive data analytics uses all data available to identify most at-risk children, those least likely to be re-unified and the best services for each child.
Health and Human Services / Departments of Revenue Fraud Detection/Prevention Fraud, waste and abuse is something all government agencies keep a watchful eye on.  But the use of predictive data analytics can help agencies stay ahead of fraudsters and allow machine learning to identify schemes and the big business behind fraud.
Public Works Fleet Management Data analytics can take all of the information about a vehicle, maintenance requirements, warranty dates, known issues from that or similar vehicles and times of least use so vehicle downtime has minimal impact.
Transportation Airports – enhance customer experience and reduce costs Predictive data analytics helps identify terminals not in use to save on maintenance and heating/AC costs, best locations for retail, where long lines are anticipated to assign TSA staff, route expansions to maximize  airport revenue

This is merely a sample of how data analytics can help government agencies measure and enhance effectiveness by having access to insight to make better decisions.   We encourage you to check out the ‘How You Can Use Data Analytics to Change Government’ guide that GovLoop has published earlier this year.  It offers an in-depth view of what is data analytics and how it can help government.


Traditionally, the ‘techies’ have looked for the next silver bullet, focusing on the tool but not on the business problem. It is no longer about the tools but all about the business decision that needs to be made and the data that drives that decision.  Business users do not want just a report, they want access to all of their data, they want to explore their business from every angle and gain insights.  They don’t care what tool they use, they just want to be able to do it themselves without relying on IT for every question they want answered.  Today the cliché of a picture is worth a thousand words could not be more relevant.  Data analytics helps people understand the data by viewing it in charts, graphs, and an almost limitless set of visualizations.  The focus is now on making data analytics user-friendly.

Franco Amalfi is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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