Making analytics work in the government culture

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In my previous post, I talked about why analytics was fast becoming essential for government. In particular there is rising demand for improved customer experience and increasing pressure from taxpayers to improve cost effectiveness and value for money. With increasing recognition that good customer service is not impossible, government agencies are having to up their game.

It is, however, easy to say that analytics is essential, and much harder for governments to really drive benefits from an investment in analytics. There are plenty of possible use cases, from crime and justice, through education and healthcare to tackling all kinds of fraud as well as non-payment of taxes. Agencies around the world are already using analytics to address many of these. It is, however, hard to adapt use cases from elsewhere to local circumstances or ensure that analytics systems are used effectively after the initial enthusiasm.

Transforming government analytics practice

Analytics is, however, crucial to helping governments transform their data into information that can be used effectively to support better operational and strategic decision-making. There are three essential elements to achieving this.

Access to data

First, there must be a strategic focus on improving access to data. There is, and always has been, plenty of data in government, but not all data is created equal. Systems and staff must have access to data that is reliable and high quality, and it must be available at the right time to support decisions. This does not necessarily need to be in real time, although that can sometimes be helpful, but it must at least be reasonably timely. It must also be integrated with other data sources and information, so that decisions are not taken in isolation. The key is to identify and use the ‘right’ data for each decision, and this means getting both data management and data governance right.

Another important requirement is the elimination of information silos created in different government functions. Inter-department data sharing allows analytics to work on a higher potential of discovering new avenues of innovation, of course with the right security, audit and governance measures in place.

Analytics is crucial to helping governments transform their data into information that can be used effectively to support better operational and strategic decision-making. #analytics #data #government Click To Tweet

Technology and strategy alignment

Second, systems must enable staff to align analytics technology with business strategy. In other words, the analytics solution must be able to focus on what really matters: the top priorities in government. Government systems have shown over and over again that what counts is what is measured, so it is vital to measure the right things, and then use the information appropriately.

Advanced analytics is the best and proven mechanism of discovering and learning more about those “right things”, with right scientific approach and capable technology behind. Analytics systems must also be able to supply useful information to the right people at the right time, which means being able to provide insights into the information.

Growth and analytics maturity

Finally, an analytics solution needs to enable ongoing growth and increasing analytics maturity. This sounds obvious, but it is surprising how many organisations are caught out with a single-use system, or one that struggles to add more complex use cases. Analytics platforms, however, mean that analytics solutions can be efficient, repeatable and reusable, and also expanded when necessary, to meet new needs. This expansion may be in terms of new teams wanting to use the platform, and also new and more complex analysis requirements. Platforms also assist with data governance and management, because all the data is in one place, and easily accessed by those who need it.

Strategic and holistic approach

In practice, therefore, what governments need to get full advantage from analytics is, fundamentally, a strategic and holistic approach to it. It must be strategic because the effort needs to be applied to solve problems that matter. It is no good addressing minor issues that make very little difference.

Instead, it is important to use analytics to get to grips with some of the big issues that have defied previous efforts—reducing healthcare use among older people, for example, or student retention statistics and how these can be used to provide support for students to avoid them dropping out. These are the areas where analytics can really add value, with big improvements, not incremental achievements. They are also, fortunately, areas where large amounts of data are available.

The approach must also be holistic because government has suffered too long from a silo approach to problems. The biggest and most intractable issues tend to be both cross-departmental and cross-functional: the links between educational status, crime, health and housing, for example, or the effects of childhood deprivation on adult income and crime.

These problems require agencies and organisations to bring together data from multiple sources, in a managed and governed way, such as via an analytics platform. Only this way will new insights be available, so that new solutions can be developed. Analytics does hold the answers, but it also has to be managed appropriately to gain maximum value.

 

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About Author

Yigit Karabag

Regional Director, Business Solutions - Middle East & Eastern Europe

Yigit is the director of presales for SAS Middle East. He has 15 years of domain experience in enterprise level information management solutions and has been involved in large scale projects dealing with structured and unstructured data across the banking, telco and public sectors respectively. Yigit is also a board member for various data management organizations and a regular speaker at data management & data governance events. He holds a degree in Computer technology and Programming from Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey. Aside from being a fan of sci-fi authors such as Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, he is also a musician and an avid model train builder.

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