One adage federal agencies will no doubt be admonished to keep in mind amid current budget reductions is to work smarter, not harder.

That should be easier in some ways, given the vast amounts of operating information available to agencies. With information serving as the new currency in a fiscally-tightened federal economy, there is an increasing demand to obtain and utilize government data.

But federal officials report facing difficulty accessing key data from other branches and also trouble interpreting that data in a meaningful way, according to a just-released study by Deloitte and the Government Business Council.

Among the study’s primary findings:

More than 70 percent of federal government managers believe data collection is increasingly important to the decision making process as budgetary cost constraints take hold.

Approximately six out of 10 respondents report that using the data externally in a “meaningful” way remains difficult.

Nearly half of the survey participants struggle to make data both accessible and actionable.

The study’s authors said preemptive steps like data analytics can help agencies more effectively and strategically allocate limited resources. However, the study also finds that identifying and leverage actionable data is still a challenge.

“Given the Obama administration’s goal to reduce the federal deficit by $2.4 trillion over the next decade, federal agencies are searching arduously for ways to trim waste and maximize their current budgets,” said Brad Eskind, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP and federal technology and analytics leader. “Data analysis can help agencies get more value out of their existing data, by revealing under-performing programs or fraud, waste and abuse.”

That will be pressing on agency financial officials Eskind said, noting that “budget guidance for fiscal year 2013, issued by Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Jack Lew, asks that federal agencies cut five percent of their 2011 budget requests.

The study, entitled “Demanding More – How Federal Agencies Use Data Analysis to Drive Mission,” was based on an online survey of 209 federal managers conducted in September 2011 and a focus group of senior level federal employees.