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Pro Tips for Using Data Analytics

This blog post is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent guide Embracing Data Analytics: Common Challenges & How to Overcome Them. Download the full guide here.

Agencies can no longer afford to relegate analytics projects to their IT departments alone. Employees at all levels should be a part of the larger conversation around data and analytics, and how these valuable resources can help them boost efficiencies, reduce costs and even save lives.

Here are some tips from our GovLoop community about incorporating data analytics into your agency operations:

1. Be specific about what you want to know and why. Be creative in your thinking about how analytics can achieve and advance the mission.

2. Be sure to fully understand what the data is implying. Data can sing, just be sure you’re in tune with it.

3. Collect wide, report tight.

4. Data can be overwhelming. It is critical to narrow your focus and look at what matters most. Look at your organization’s mission statement and strategy. Pair data that measures those goals. Keeping this in mind will help you pay attention to what really matters. The rest is just noise.

5. Don’t do analysis for the sake of doing analysis. It should assist in resolving an issue, improving performance, monitoring the budget or meeting other very focused goals.

6. Don’t use analytics as the only tool to set policy or determine funding.

7. Find at least one senior leader to champion analytics.

8. Good analytics takes time. Figure out the process, validate the data and be careful that you do not cherry-pick, but rather get accurate, unbiased results.

9. Governance is key. For example, criminal justice data belongs to various agencies and it’s important that all agencies participate, have a solid understanding of the common goal and provide consistent, meaningful data.

10. Keep it simple and sell it to your employees by showing quick wins.

11. Know your hypothesis, and develop a clear research question.

12. Let the data tell you the story. Don’t try to fit the data into your preconceived story.

13. There is no point in using advanced analytics if you do not have a culture that is willing to foster, cultivate and expand a commitment to continuous improvement.

14. Analytics are most effective when used to empower the team. Done well, they can tap into people’s intrinsic motivations and make things fun and highly satisfying for team members.

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