Get Fired up About Data

It’s often said that data is the rocket fuel that drives agencies, but how many people are being left behind as agencies launch their data initiatives?

Data scientists obviously are key players, but what they often lack is domain expertise, said Andy MacIsaac, Solutions Marketing Director for Public Sector at Alteryx, which provides an analytics platform designed for non-data experts.

“That’s why you need to expand the culture of analytics to include everybody — what we at Alteryx call ‘analytics for all.’”

MacIsaac discussed steps that agencies can take to make that happen.

Stop relying on spreadsheets. Desktop-based spreadsheets might be a convenient way for individuals to track information that’s of interest to them, but spreadsheet technology has limited analytic capabilities. “There are still a lot of organizations that do their analytics based on 30-year-old desktop technology, and that’s sometimes hard to overcome,” MacIsaac said.

Focus on data governance. Governance sounds like a heady term, but the gist of it is that data should be managed in a way that enables people to access the information they need when they need it and in accordance with agency policies. The federal government has come a long way in this area in just a few years, MacIsaac said, both in terms of laying out the Federal Data Strategy and in embedding chief data officers in agencies.

Develop data talent. A data strategy won’t go anywhere unless agencies cultivate data skills across their organizations. Frontline workers don’t need to become data scientists, but they should have enough analytics skills to question, understand and solve problems with data. Alteryx has launched a program called SparkED that provides free training and education programs through universities, colleges and other organizations, MacIsaac said.

Make sure the technology is easy to use. The first generation of data platforms that emerged with the big data market was designed for data scientists. The platforms worked great, but they were expensive, required specialized training and were not intuitive. To expand data initiatives beyond the experts, agencies need to invest in a data platform that is accessible to people with different levels of expertise, providing capabilities appropriate to those skill levels.

This article is an excerpt from GovLoop’s virtual summit e-book, “Four Ways to Help Your Workforce Embrace New Tech.”

Photo by pixabay on pexels.com

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