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3 Keys to Big Data: Quick Wins, Clear Scope, Communicate

For centuries, government organizations have been collecting data from a variety of sources, and using the collected data to inform their decision-making. With the boom in non-traditional forms of data such as social media, video, digital photographs and email, government agencies are now challenged how to best collect, manage, and drive decisions from data. Today, government leaders are increasingly exploring innovative ways to use big data to glean insights to improve efficiency within their agency.

Further, as more kinds of data on the web become transactional, government agencies are pressed to develop a multidimensional view of their customers and citizens. For instance, a government agency that provides permits online can track dozens of statistics about visitors. The agency can see how customers arrive, page views, collect comments, exit paths and nearly any type of interaction on the website. Armed with this kind of knowledge and a long history of user behavior, organizations can have a full view of the customer. This information can then be used to improve services for the end user, driving improved productivity and efficiency for the agency.

GovLoop and Oracle recently collaborated to produce the Big Data Industry Perspective, which you can view online below or download as a PDF. The brief talks with Big Data experts Peter Doolan, Group Vice President, Chief Technologist, Oracle Public Sector and Izzy Sobkowski, CIO, New York City Department of Health and Human Services. Peter and Izzy share their experiences using Big Data and identify common challenges and provide some best practices for government agencies. I’ve include the best practices below to view, but encourage you to view the report in full, as Peter and Izzy provided some really interesting insights on Big Data in government.

Best Practices

One of the hardest parts about a big data initiative is figuring out where to start. Peter Doolan provides some insights on how to jump-start a big data project “To get a project off the ground, find a business owner, find a problem that’s highly sensitive, ensure that you have the ability to source the data, and to fix the problem. In many cases you’ll find there are resources available to achieve the mission, they’re just not getting done through IT today. They’re getting done through some other way.”

Quick Wins

Izzy mentioned the importance of having quick wins while running your big data program. Izzy states, “Like everything in the government, just really showing the value of what you’re doing. This is the quick win. Show the impact that it’s having on the agency.” By pointing to quick wins and being able to quickly identify ways the big data initiative is enabling the agency to become more productive and efficient, the team will be energized and will be able to gain support across the organization.

Have a Clear Scope

Izzy advises to start with a clear scope of the project, “Don’t start with an open-ended project. Try and solve one problem and answer one question. You can expect some kind of iterative approach as you go forward. Big data is a data discovery exercise and it almost becomes like a habit.” Having a clear scope and knowing what problem is trying to be solved is critical for big data. With so much data and information that agencies collect, having a clear scope and project goals is essential to success.


Izzy identified numerous best practices related to clear communications. Izzy suggests to set reasonable goals, meet deadlines, control cost and value of the project, deliver on budget, and to build the project with confidence. Izzy states, “Setting reasonable goals, not over promising in terms both of time and cost and value, but getting consensus that these are items which are valuable and then delivering them on time and on budget, built a lot of confidence and have allowed this program to thrive.”

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Oracle offers an optimized and fully integrated stack of business hardware and software systems that helps organizations overcome complexity and unleash innovation.. Check out their Optimize with Oracle group on GovLoop as well as the Technology Sub-Community of which they are a council member.