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FCW : April 30, 2015
It’s no secret that federal agencies are drowning in data, with more flowing in every day. To make the most of that data, agencies have embraced data analytics systems and tools that help identify relevant patterns and foster accurate decision-making. But while these solutions are a critical step forward in managing data, it isn’t enough. More data and new types of data flow through agency systems every day, and new threats and challenges merge that require fast, effective decisions. What’s missing in many cases is a culture of analytics—an institutionalized approach of data-driven decision making and operations across the organization. This approach puts analytics front and center in every decision, promoting a structured, thorough approach to decision making. And by giving decision makers access to relevant data in an understandable way, they can more easily focus on the big picture instead of spending time discussing and debating minor details that could delay important decisions. “By getting the data into the hands of the domain experts along with the tools to access, understand and ask that data anything, you’re ensuring that the decisions are being made by the people most qualified to understand the underlying business issues, priorities and goals,” said Hjalmar Gislason, CEO of DataMarket, a company that specializes in making statistical data and structured data sources accessible. For example, every agency must have the ability to react as quickly as possible to potential threats. As the threat landscape changes, data sources expand and it becomes critical to have the most current information in a solution that gives full visibility so decision makers can strategically determine where to invest scarce technology and personnel assets. Without an analytics culture, some part of the equation could easily fall through the cracks. Identifying fraud, waste and abuse on a continuous basis is another area that requires an analytics culture. If, for example, an agency isn’t constantly analyzing ever-changing data sets, it is likely to miss thousands of erroneous payouts to citizens who don’t deserve them, or fail to identify new types of fraudulent claims. Even the process of justifying budget expenditures is easier when an agency adopts an analytics culture. “When you have a culture of analytics, it’s much easier to react to unexpected data calls,” said Monica McEwen, Federal Director at Qlik, a vendor that provides self-service solutions for data visualization and guided analytics. “Leaders today have to move fast. They should have all information on hand to inform that decision. For example, government leaders need to know how a budget decrease will impact their overall mission, or how to more effectively justify the need for additional funding.” Mission accomplished While some areas of federal government are further along than others in promoting an analytics culture, certain segments within the Defense Department lead the way. “It is simply insufficient in the world we live in to make strategic, global decisions purely based on gut feel,” said Dr. Marty Trevino, Senior Strategist and Organizational Architect in a Defense Department Information Assurance Directorate. “With more and more data coming at us than ever before, it’s important to figure out how to distinguish between the digital exhaust versus the data that’s most important to help drive agency mission. Having a culture of analytics is critical to ensure that the data is used in a way that can help drive an actual decision.” To foster the culture of analytics, DOD researchers and implementers are working to converge the concepts of organizational design, business intelligence and data analytics, and data science. When complete, senior leaders will always be able to view a common operating picture of DOD’s current state environment via interactive dashboards. In addition, they’re incorporating predictive analytics to highlight potential issues before they become a reality. “It’s a response to a world moving at cyber speeds,” Trevino said. “Yesterday’s static dashboards and lengthy decision cycles won’t work today.” EXECUTIVE INSIGHTS: DATA MANAGEMENT Creating an Analytics Culture The only way to make fast, effective decisions consistently is by putting analytics first
April 15, 2015
May 15, 2015