Improving Accountability & Making Data Driven Decisions – Analytics in 2012

Throughout the month of December, GovLoop has been reviewing the year in government technology – everything from BYOD to social media, I’ve been working to highlight some case studies, best practices and try and condense the year down into one post, while looking forward to the year 2013. Follow along here by viewing GovLoop’s Year in Review Guide, our related blog series, and podcasts.

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In 2012, the boom in data led to deeper awareness by agencies on how to best make smarter decisions using information. The goal of analytics is that by taking the time to understand the complexity of data, agencies can improve accountability and make improved data driven decisions.

The IBM Institute for Business Value released a great report The Power of Analytics for the Public Sector: building analytics competency to accelerate outcomes, the report states, “Governments are increasingly using analytics to consume, unlock and apply new insights from information, despite challenges with data. Executives told us the “data paradox” – the dilemma presented by too much data, too little insight – is the biggest barrier to analytics adoption and use. They also expressed concerns about data reliability. The more qualitative the information, the less confident they are in the dependability of their data.”

The report also identifies four competencies that are needed to be developed to capitalize on the available data to organizations, the report states:

“To capitalize on its potential power in the public sector, analytics must become a core management competency. Building competency will require organizations to focus on four strategic imperatives:

  1. Focus on outcomes to move beyond issues
  2. Orient the management of information around its use
  3. Use analytics-enabled insights to meet specific objectives
  4. Model and embed analytics discipline in management practices.”

I recently interviewed Nathan Greenhut of IBM who shared some insights on predictive analytics in GovLoop’s Report, A Path to Insights and Improved Decision Making: Predictive Analytics, Nathan states, “There is a larger burden placed on organizations, as the volume and variety of information grows. This makes a larger inertia to go from data rich and information poor to information rich. Also, planning for the size and shape of data is growing in importance to ensure the pipelines are built for the flow of data, information and action.”

Undoubtedly, analytics will continue to play an important role in transforming how government delivers services. One of the best ways to start is to identify case studies and sharing information and resources to help push analytics forward, which all will help agencies capitalize on the promise of analytics for government.

2012 Case Studies

Frank Stein shared two great case studies about analytics in a recent post, Two Big Wins for Big Data. The first was NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, when they correctly predicted Hurricane Sandy’s path in 2012. Frank states, “NOAA’s National Hurricane Center had a huge win last week when it correctly predicted Hurricane Sandy almost 1 week in advance. Sandy was not an easy storm to predict but the use of higher resolution models (NOAA moved from 9 km to 3 km resolution in June), improved extrapolation between real-world data points, and improved modeling allowed this impressive result. In addition, last year for the first time, the National Weather Service developed the capability to input real time measurements from its Hurricane Hunter airplanes into its hurricane simulations.”

The second case study that Frank identifies is the incredible use of data during President Obama’s election campaign. Frank stated in his post, “The second big data win was Barack Obama’s data driven presidential campaign. As disclosed by Time Magazine the day after the election, Jim Messina created an analytics department 5x as large as the 2008 operation and used techniques similar to that used by sophisticated retail chains. Through their data collection and analysis they were able to predict who in their database to hit up for donations and just how to do it. And they were able to simulate the election results on a state-by-state basis and try out various strategies to bring out the voters.”

Both examples are quick, and we could easily do a deep dive and explore how the analytics have shaped 2012. As this is a year end post, I thought I’d wrap up quickly with some ideas of what to expect in 2013 for analytics, and would love to hear your insights of what you expect to see. Here are 5 predictions for 2013:

1 – Closing the talent gap

I’d anticipate that we will start to see more statistics/data/math skills based positions enter into government and more broadly the public sector. With the boom in data and information, there is a pressing need for this skill set, and above all, proper data analysis is needed to fully capitalize on big data initiatives. I’d say that more people enter the public sector to take up big data programs, and work to drive insights from information.

2 – Increasing Examples of Turning Data into Knowledge

Maybe I was just paying close attention – but the second half of the year felt like there were an unbelievable amount of case studies/big data examples. I think a natural progression is for more and more case studies to be developed, and more examples of how data can transform government.

3 – Crime

In 2012 there were many examples of using analytics to improve the safety of our neighborhoods. In 2013, look for further adoption by crime authorities and increasing examples of innovative ways to use analytics to fight crimes. Here are some more GovLoop resources to check out:

4 – Education, Health, Social Services Data

All three of these sectors are ripe for disruption through data. I feel like any sector could ultimately end up being a big trend at the end of next year. There is dire need in all three sectors to make sense of the enormous amount of data collected. I grouped these three together because another trend I’d anticipate to see is sharing and collaboration across agency, across sector and improved decisions based from a variety of different data sources.

5 – Continuing Challenges of data explosion of data

We are just going to keep on creating more and more data, at an exponential rate. I’ve read some reviews online cautioning that the big data movement will likely end in 2013. I think what will occur is that big data will become more mainstream and common as there is wider adoption, which is a good thing. So, we will continue to create unbelievable amounts of data, and the challenges will continue to be how to manage, store, and derive insights and value.

With big data, the challenges seem to be three fold – technology, education, and staffing. For all three factors, look for deeper exploration of data, and how to deliver value from the vast amounts of data we create. Here are some related links about analytics in government in 2012:

The IBM Analytics Solution Center (ASC) is part of a network of global analytics centers that provides clients with the analytics expertise to help them solve their toughest business problems. Check out their Analytics to Outcomes group on GovLoop.

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