What You Should Know About Data Analytics


In the world of work, it is important to measure things. Data analytics is a large area of practice. There are data related to large query searches; data related to marketing efforts; and data related to agency and financial usefulness in making decisions. All of these are an integral part of what we do on a regular basis in our work lives.

The central idea of data analytics is taking data sets or groups of information and analyzing them in a meaningful way to determine something useful in government. Measurements are taken related to the economy, the census and so on. A general understanding about how data is used to create meaningful information for decision-making is important.

Analytics: Aside from meaning “to analyze,” analytics is the process of examining, comparing and learning from information.

Data: It may seem obvious that data is information. When people talk about data, they are referring to sets or groups of numbers. Sets of numbers themselves or numbers connected to other information certainly comprise a great deal of what is referred to as data.

Quantity vs. Quality

The amount of something measured is a good definition of quantity. I realize that this is an elementary explanation. However, consider something like the number of times an employee completes something satisfactorily or poorly. How about the number of days of good weather needed per month to complete a project. Qualitative questions arise such as,” How is the term ‘good’ defined?” Other questions are, “What types of tasks and how many in a day are considered important to the stated goal?”


A percentage is basically comparing one thing to another. An example is the number 1/3 which is the number 1 compared to the number 3. This is simply stated, but let me expand on this concept and consider something like productivity. You could compare the number of people in your department to the funding available. This would yield a percentage, dollar or number result as you determine which is most useful. You could then  compare this result to your department’s output which could be projects completed, customers served, etc.

Same Period Last Year (SPLY)

This is a measurement of a current amount versus the same amount at this time last year. It is a basic and direct way to see how you are doing with your budget. Comparing current year and prior year provides useful information as you make plans to move forward.

Budget vs. Actual

Budget versus actual is an indicator of how well a department’s actual expenses perform compared to their budget. The importance of this measure is to make adjustments in either the budget for the next period or in adjusting actual expenditures to more closely reflect the budget.


Variance is the difference in the budget versus an actual amount expressed as a percentage. Remember that a percentage is comparing one thing to another. So here, we are comparing the budget amount versus actual amount and then making a qualitative determination as to whether that amount is significant to make adjustments for the next period.

In government, measurements are taken about the economy, citizens and so on. The central idea of data analytics is taking datasets or groups of information and analyzing them in a meaningful way to determine something useful. In today’s world, it is important to be able to analyze sets of information. Data analytics encompasses various types of information. The key is to determine the best tool or method to measure the data that is integral to your needs.


Tim Dendy 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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Alexa McKenna

Tim, thanks for sharing this blog. I think it’s very important to measure ROI of projects and initiatives, and what you’ve laid out in your post is a good frame of reference for doing so.