How to Build a Culture of Data Analytics

This blog post is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent guide, “Putting Data Analytics at the Forefront of Your Agency.”

In 2016, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed an executive order to enhance the state’s efficiency and transparency. To meet that call to action, the administration began a statewide push to use more and better data to measure the state’s performance.

First, the state had to establish a platform that made reliable, standardized data available at an enterprise level. That was accomplished through an enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementation in 2016, which replaced 140 disparate administrative systems across dozens of agencies with one efficient system. The ERP has made it much easier to leverage available operational data. Currently the focus is on procurement activities, so that any department’s managers can access enterprise-wide information to inform purchasing decisions. But soon the analysis will expand to financial and human resources data.

While that ERP project serves as the springboard for the new data analytics emphasis in Wisconsin, it’s only the beginning. The state’s executive branch is also working to collect and publish departmental data on a variety of topics outside procurement, in order to increase transparency and expand the use of data in decision-making.

In an interview with GovLoop, Dana Burmaster, Director of Planning and Performance & Department of Administration and Kelli Kaalele, Policy Director at the Department of Administration’s Division of Enterprise Technology, said there is a noticeable uptick in the use of data to drive discussions and decisions in government.

While the emphasis on data analytics is still in its early stages in Wisconsin, they have noticed that some tactics seem to be helping government agencies embrace the change. Specifically, they highlighted three strategies that have emerged from agencies’ experiences in encouraging the use of data analysis:

Strategy 1: Recognize that analytics requires change.

Incorporating data analytics into government operations requires a significant cultural change. Therefore, recognizing and confronting the fact that some employees will be nervous to delve into data analysis is a necessary first step to changing organizational culture.

The Administration emphasized in its messaging that the data is best used to identify areas of improvement or to build on program successes.

This framing of the initiative helped promote a positive connotation of data analytics that focused on progress and understanding.

Strategy 2: Encourage sharing (in any form).

While messaging is important, the best way to make people comfortable with data is to get them started using it. In Wisconsin, users were acclimated to data analytics by first being allowed to publish datasets of their choosing.

Rather than requiring specific data sets or formats, the administration encouraged individual teams to start their data analytics journeys with any data they had available to share. That allowed users to become comfortable with the process and understand how others would use data, before they released more high-impact information.

Strategy 3: Ensure executive engagement.

Wisconsin is also tackling the challenge of cultural transformation from the top tiers of leadership. It’s a commonly held belief that executive support is necessary to launching new initiatives in government. You need budget and time to practice new projects, after all. However, early exercises in Wisconsin found that you need more than just support to really get data initiatives off the ground.

Teams need leaders engaged in data in order to engrain analytics into processes. Executive engagement emphasizes that analytics are a core part of agency goals and holds individual departments more accountable to their data collection and results.

Following Governor Walker’s lead in the Executive Order, in Wisconsin, state leaders from the executive branch review quarterly performance data and operational scorecards at monthly status meetings. By engaging with this data, executives show their dedication to leveraging data while simultaneously making data-driven discussions a norm at agencies.

The Next Stage

Data analysis is becoming a central component of many discussions and decisions in Wisconsin, but there is still much more to do. While the administration has seen early success in their efforts, they want to fine-tune the process of collecting and sharing data.

To that end, the administration created a working group to examine current data. The group will work to develop guidance for agencies, giving them more direction regarding the type and format of data to collect in order to assist decision makers. Additionally, they’ll be working to add large datasets – specifically HR and finance data – to the state’s ERP analytics program.

These steps of examination, consolidation, and organization represent the logical next iteration of a statewide data analytics program. However, it can’t be the starting point for organizations unaccustomed to data sharing and analysis. Data analytics starts with a cultural shift, encouraged by leadership and practiced in small steps. That’s the secret to Wisconsin’s early success and the foundation for future analytics in government.

For more information about creating a culture of data analytics, you can find the full guide here.

Leave a Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply