The fourth and final post in the series about a state government center of analytics concentrates on the big question – what value does analytics bring to business? (Links to previous entries are at the conclusion of this post.)
While this “show me the money” question can be answered in many different ways, there is always interest in tallying the value of an analytic solution versus the cost to develop and implement that solution. Strong return on investment can help ensure continued support and funding to sustain current solutions and to generate support for future analytic development efforts.
So what is a successful analytic outcome?
Is it saving dollars by reducing the number of participants in a government program, or is it better matching of programs to the needs of those participants? Is it reducing juvenile recidivism by 10%, or demonstrating that outreach programs led to 5% fewer juveniles entering the justice system in the first place?
Is it greater efficiencies in application processing, improved public safety, better use of public facilities, or the ability to analyze and address disease outbreaks more quickly?
Analytics can address so many different problems – but the value depends on how the business community defines success.
Tangible Business Benefits
To ensure tangible benefits can be measured, a project must be able to document baseline metrics and demonstrate changes over time. Tangible benefits may result in actual dollar savings, or other efficiencies that can be converted to dollar savings.
Care should be used when estimating and reporting tangible benefits as they do not always result in dollars that can be returned to the budget and spent on other government initiatives. Dollars identified, in fraud detection for example, may require time consuming investigative activities and litigation to recoup. In other cases, the recouped money is designated to return to a federal program rather than being retained by the state. In the case of time efficiencies, the dollars saved may not represent positions to be eliminated, but instead allow critical resources to shift to more meaningful activities. While the monetary value of the benefit may not result in hard dollars – the impact on the business is still positive.
Intangible Business Benefits
Intangible, or soft benefits, are more subjective and difficult to quantify. Soft benefits may include things like improved public safety, timely compliance with federal regulations, enhanced reputation, or more engaging customer interaction.
What is the value of meeting federal reporting guidelines on time? How do you determine that a criminal event was prevented or a life was saved? And what is the value of that life? How do we calculate the benefit of a citizen having a positive interaction with a government website?
While these benefits can be harder to measure, intangible benefits have value and should be documented as part of any analytics project reporting.
Enterprise Program Benefits
In addition to the benefits from each analytic solution, an enterprise program can provide value to government as well. Enterprise data governance ensures quality, reliable and timely data is available to support a variety of business decisions. Common technologies build analytics knowledge and expertise across the enterprise. Repeatable and reusable data sources and analytic components, along with project management best practices enable more efficient development cycles and time to value for new analytic solutions. And an enterprise program helps government advance its data management and analytics maturity.
In an enterprise Center of Analytics, partnership and collaboration is key to finding the value of analytic solutions. Data alone is of little value. Analysis without reliable, quality data cannot provide the insight needed for key business decisions. And an analytic solution without an active and engaged user community to leverage the analysis cannot bring value and results to the business. The Center of Analytics can help government find the right path to capitalize on data and analytics to improve government outcomes.
Check out "Hey, government of [insert state], where's your center of analytics?", "4 keys to building a state government enterprise analytics system" and "State government center of analytics goes nowhere without user engagement", if you missed them.