Tips for Turning Data Into Insights

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.

Government agencies have begun collecting and analyzing more and more data, with a goal of improving decision-making and ultimately bettering the lives of citizens. Although many agencies are making great strides in data analytics, others are finding themselves with mountains of data, unsure how to find meaning in it all.

To gain a better understanding of how government organizations can improve how they analyze data, GovLoop sat down with Rado Kotorov, Vice President of Marketing Strategy and Chief Innovation Officer at Information Builders, a leader in enterprise business intelligence, integration and data integrity software.

Kotorov said that one of the bigger data problems government faces is that leaders are unsure how to make the massive and ever-increasing amount of data useful. Kotorov explained that the life cycle of data starts from the raw data, which turns into insight, which drives action. That’s not what many agencies are doing, though. “What you mainly see in government is that a lot of the data sources are being put out just as a raw material,” he explained.

Compared to the private sector, few government agencies are working on turning raw data into insights. This is problematic as employees then must spend a good amount of time mining the data and making it usable.

Additionally, end users are often analyzing data that is not connected to a server or cloud platform. This creates a problem with analytics because the end user will be able to analyze only the data that they have on hand or on premise. The server disconnect often leads to incomplete analysis because of the partial availability of the data.

Mobile solutions are one way to overcome these challenges. “Mobile is facilitating the switch from gut-based decision- making to fact-based decision making, so making analysis easy and consumable will drive the adoption of data and analytics for decision-making,” Kotorov said.

Moving to a mobile solution where frontline employees can get accurate information quickly is critical for making good decisions in the field. Operational employees need an analytics solution that allows them to engage iteratively with the data systems to get the answers they need. They also need a solution that allows them to properly analyze the information they are receiving.

Performing in-document analytics is one way end users can quickly interact with data systems. PDF documents are the largest vehicle for distributing information and reports among agencies, Kotorov said. Unfortunately, these documents are not interactive in a way that fosters quick analysis.

To overcome this challenge, Information Builders has created technology called analytic document format (ADF). ADF essentially embeds analytics directly in a PDF document so the end user can sort, lter and make calculations directly into the document.

In-document analytics also solves the issues associated with data disconnected from the server. The analytic component of the software is bound to the document so analytics can be done within the report and without having to be connected to the server or cloud platform. As a result, anyone can analyze data on any device, in any location.

Although having the ability to access and analyze data anywhere any time provides unparalleled value to government agencies, it also illuminates some inherent security concerns. The government is a large workforce with very different levels of security depending on what information is involved.

As technology scales across departments, it becomes open to more users and access points. “As a result, it is very important to take a platform approach so you can make sure that all access points and their combinations are equally protected,” Kotorov said. Additionally, the document respects the security of the application with the ability to encrypt the documents.

Technology has evolved to a point where information is widely accessible, Kotorov said, and now it becomes a question of approach and methodology to make information distribution more pervasive. By implementing a more interactive approach to data analytics, government employees will be able to quickly make data-driven decisions to better citizens’ lives.

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