This blog post is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent guide “Analytics in Action: How Government Tackles Critical Issues With Data.” In this guide, we share firsthand accounts from government employees at all levels who are using analytics to identify critical issues and find solutions. Download the full guide here.
Data analytics is no longer a nice-to-have for agencies that rely on timely information to make decisions. They aren’t looking for lengthy analyses but rather the ability to get actionable data to the right people at the right time.
What they need is a way to operationalize data analytics. “It’s the ability to use the analytics of a business holistically, to be able to pull together data from different places, different sources — including legacy systems — and get an overall view of whatever you’re looking to analyze,” said Danielle Ruppel, Senior Director of Federal Sales at business intelligence firm MicroStrategy.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is one example. During the spring of 2016, TSA was bombarded with long wait times at security checkpoints. Mounting pressure to reduce wait times led to the agency creating an operations command center.
They used MicroStrategy’s analytics solution to view and analyze various metrics, such as wait times and workforce assignments at airport checkpoints. In the initial years of the deployment of this performance management application, TSA was able to recognize over $100M in cost avoidance through efficiency gains and performance optimizations.
“The MicroStrategy approach is that analytics covers a broad spectrum of things, and it’s not just a dashboard,” Ruppel said. “For some people it’s a grid report, for others it’s the ability to do predictive analytics. The key is having the ability to alert the proper decision-makers about a particular anomaly.”
Ideally, they shouldn’t have to dig through reports if they need information. For example, the best solution may be a pop-up alert on their phone or an email that says a particular threshold has been met and action is required — both of which are capabilities that MicroStrategy provides.
“In other words, this is not analytics purely for the sake of doing analysis,” said Chris Sotudeh, Client Executive at MicroStrategy. The goal is being able to act on timely data by operationalizing data analytics as part of their business processes in solutions ranging from command and control to threat monitoring and fraud detection.
Another way that analytics is being used to increase productivity is in data-driven mobile solutions, Sotudeh said.
Federal agencies are exploring new and innovative ways of enhancing field applications such as inspections and audits. These were jobs routinely completed using pen and paper, but now employees can easily access analytics tools, incorporate geospatial data and telemetry, and view past inspections all on their mobile devices. In addition, the data capture capabilities in MicroStrategy extend the traditional data analytics paradigm. This allows agencies to easily deploy innovative applications on MicroStrategy’s “build once, deploy everywhere” platform.
Part of the challenge for agencies is that they are trying to collect as much data as they can about their operations, but not all that data is easily accessible for analytics. Data resides in legacy systems, third party data sources and big data repositories. “We offer native connectivity to many legacy systems, at files, screen scraping, and all the different distributions of Hadoop,” Ruppel said.
To take full advantage of this large, diverse and growing data, agencies must connect to disparate systems and build a unified view of the data. That’s where MicroStrategy has been a game-changer for numerous agencies by providing a platform that supports a metadata model architecture with re-usable objects. Benefits include reduced complexity and lower total cost of ownership with data governance, security, and scalability to support analytics needs ranging from self-service data discovery to predictive algorithms.
Data analytics can also play a strategic role in the path to IT modernization. “All agencies want to do more with data analytics, yet many face challenges due to the high costs and risks of the IT modernization journey,” Sotudeh said. Some federal agencies have launched high-impact initiatives to demonstrate the value of modern analytics by using MicroStrategy to get the most out of existing investments. “MicroStrategy has provided these agencies with the ability to take an incremental approach to modernization by connecting to and blending data from legacy assets.”
“It’s not a rip and replace where you’re starting over again with MicroStrategy,” Sotudeh said. “We have ways of connecting existing analytics tools and ingesting some of the data from those tools to get you up and running quickly so that there’s really no downtime.”