New Study Shows Power of Data Analytics

on November 30, 2011 at 1:40 PM

Data analytics are proving to be a powerful tool for improving the results of government program, according to a new report released today, “From Data To Decisions: The Power of Analytics.”

The report, which examines how several federal agencies used data, is a joint effort between the Partnership for Public Service and the Public Sector Business Analytics & Optimization practice at the IBM Center for The Business of Government.

“Even though the notion of talking about data and analytics seems terribly boring, by using case studies we bring it to life,” John Palguta, vice president for policy at the Partnership for Public Service told Breaking Gov right after the release.

“If we are trying to reduce homelessness among vets or improve health care in nursing homes, we need to start by asking ‘what does success look like?'” explained Palguta. “This ultimately becomes an analytics question.”

The report describes how organizations such as Veterans Affairs Department, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are really using data, analytics, collaborations and transparency to drive change.

“It’s really about taking the massive amount of data that we can gather, figuring out which data is most useful, and then making it understandable and usable to users whether the public or within government,” explained Palguta.

“For example what made the (National Highway Safety Traffic Administration) ‘Click It or Ticket’ campaign really work was officials analyzed the data and found out what really drives behavior to use seatbelts or not,” explained Palguta. “Now it’s up to 85 percent use.”

Between May and September 2011 researchers reviewed agency documents and conducted more than 45 interviews according to the Report. They examined eight diverse agencies “that had experience using analytic strategies and techniques and whose sto­ries were compelling and translatable to other agencies.”

The study took an in-depth look at three agency programs: HUD and VA jointly administered Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program; the Safety Management System in the FAA; and the Department of Health and Human Services’ CMS Medicare Program.

The report also showcased
‘s Busi­ness Intelligence system; the Depart­ment of the Navy’s Naval Aviation Enterprise and the Social Security Administration’s use of mission analytics in customer ser­vice.

Where there is success a culture where analytics can thrive has been cultivated.

“The agencies we highlighted had certain practices in common that they used to gather data and turn the information into knowledge that improved their pro­gram results,” said Palguta.

Common practices include:

  • Leaders focused on transpar­ency, accountability and results.
  • Staff had a clear line of sight from where they stood to the desired goals and outcomes.
  • Agencies invested in technology, tools and talent.
  • Agencies cultivated and lever­aged partnerships across the agency and with partners who deliver services.

The study is meant to produce action.

“We want this to spread,” declared Palguta.

“We do not want to data analytics to be a niche activity; we want this to grow as a way to manage government effectively and efficiently, because both are necessary. The message is there is a tool out there, it’s called data analytics and it can help you manage wisely.”