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FCW : November 15, 2012
28 November 15, 2012 FCW.COM Analytics: What's on your dashboard? "If you can t measure it, you can t man- age it." So said management expert Peter Drucker, who clearly has some fans in federal IT. The Obama administra- tion s Of ce of Management and Budget pushed rst TechStat and now Portfo- lioStat to better measure executive- branch technology investments, and of cials said budget submissions for scal 2014 "should include a separate section on agencies most innovative uses of evidence and evaluation." "Many potential strategies have little immediate cost," wrote Acting OMB Director Jeffrey Zients in the May 2012 budget memo, "and the budget is more likely to fund requests that demonstrate a commitment to developing and using evidence." The embrace of analytics goes far beyond OMB and IT spending, how- ever. Agencies are also building sys- tems to measure staff performance, identify both tax fraud and innocent mistakes, predict and prevent crime, ensure proper processing of health insurance claims, and even improve weather forecasts. Why it matters Enthusiasm for analytics has ebbed and owed for decades, tracking rather closely with how much in uence MBA types wield in the executive branch. (Zients degree is in political science, but he began his career in manage- ment consulting at the same Bain and Co. that gave Mitt Romney his start.) Today, however, the surge of measure- to-manage efforts also re ects the real- ity that there is a lot of data available. In mid-October, there were 378,529 datasets on Data.gov. The Census Bureau alone has more than 550 mil- lion electronic les and 800 terabytes of accessible data. Throw in economic indicators, signals intelligence, satel- lite imagery and more than 400 million tweets per day, and "big data" begins to sound like an understatement. Harvard Business Review recently reported that "about 2.5 exabytes of data are created each day," enough to ll roughly 2.6 mil- lion 1T hard drives. And "that number is doubling every 40 months or so." All that data has trained the public to expect more transparency, while data visualizations and widely used dashboards such as Google Analytics have shown just how useful properly processed statistics can be. Perhaps most important, the pressure on agencies to deliver results with lim- ited resources is greater than ever. That was certainly the impetus for Portfolio- Stat, which requires agencies to review their entire IT investment portfolios and identify opportunities to save money by sharing services, making commodity IT purchases and canceling low-priority projects. "The federal government must focus on maximizing the return on American taxpayers investment in government IT by ensuring it drives ef ciency through- out the federal government," Zients and Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel wrote to agency executives in March. Legal obligations reinforce the pres- sure from OMB. A new report from the Partnership for Public Service and the IBM Center for the Business of Govern- ment, titled "From Data to Decisions II: Building an Analytics Culture," notes that the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act of 2010 "calls for agencies to focus on high-priority goals and create a culture where data and analytics play a larger role." According to Robert Dolan Jr., world- wide industry executive for public- sector business analytics at IBM, fed- eral of cials are turning to analytics for a number of reasons: to improve accountability, drive smarter decision- making, build a culture of results-based government, "achieve the best out- comes for everyone, from everyone" and, of course, "to spend public funds responsibly." The fundamentals Experts from the public and private sectors agree that successful analyt- ics projects require far more than data. The right software and data science expertise are also vital, but the most important ingredient is an executive- level commitment to data-driven decision-making. "Technology gets you only so far," Dolan said. "You have to have the pro- cess and the culture." ExecTe c h Agencies are drowning in data, but the tools and strategies to make sense of it all are starting to surface BY TROY K. SCHNEIDER
October 30, 2012
November 30, 2012