Analytics was a common thread, and significant contributor, to all of the modernization discussions. Below are highlights that show why analytics should be top of mind for government leaders’ modernization initiatives:
Analytics Provides Value to Customers
U.S. Department of Agriculture CIO Gary Washington started the summit with a question: how can information technology provide value? The USDA has been hard at work in their efforts to change the technology landscape in their department for the better for all those involved, especially their “customers”: America’s producers.
Washington referenced the work the USDA has done with the General Services Administration, creating a framework for modernization via “centers of excellence,” one of which included the establishment of “digital service analytics” to modernize how the department visualizes data.
In explaining how analytics and visualizations provide value to customers, Washington noted measurements have been made regarding the physical processes and systems farmers need to navigate to complete tasks such as applying for loans or acquiring permits. Seeing the complete data picture, a self-service portal has been created that now hosts these processes online, reducing visits to banks and other agencies which previously took farmers away from their work.
Analytics and visualizations were able to state the case and support these more efficient, accurate, and secure processes, leading to stronger customer service, stronger infrastructure, and, in turn, stronger agricultural operations.
Visualizations Start Conversations
The summit panel discussion featured an impressive collection of leaders in the government IT space:
- Todd Coleman, Director of Data Analytics Government-Wide Policy, General Services Administration
- Joyce Hunter, Former Deputy CIO for Policy and Planning, USDA
- Henry Sienkiewicz, Former CIO and Designated Authorizing Authority, Defense Information Systems Agency
Coleman explains how data is a nascent capability of the government. According to him, showing up in a meeting and asking “What can we give you? What do you need?” doesn’t always work. The people in the room don’t always know the right answer. You can get there, however, by using the available data and the right tools to produce visual, actionable items. "Whatever data we do have, get it into a visualization. Get it out there, and that’s what starts the conversation,” stresses Coleman.
Data Drives Organizational Transformation
Joyce Hunter, Former Deputy CIO for Policy and Planning, USDA, and Peter Aiken, Director of Data Blueprint, led a deep dive on the utilization of data in IT innovation, transformation, and modernization.
“Today data is the most powerful, yet underutilized and poorly managed organizational asset,” notes Aiken, who says that data, much like cash and financial resources, is an indispensable part of a company’s operations. Many people don't yet understand the role that data plays in modernization, and some use it better than others. The true transformation lies in how data is being accessed.
Feedback Data Drives Concrete Action
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Office of Human Resources Personnel Psychologist Gonzalo Ferro showed how visualizing the results of their employee engagement program has paid dividends for his entire department.
Ferro’s responsibilities at the SEC include analyzing workforce data to improve organizational decision-making, better managing human capital, and helping drive business strategy. The problem: their current processes weren’t efficient enough, and only 40% of those who participated in the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey for the department thought that their feedback would result in action.
The agency then began to employ business intelligence and data visualization tools to garner faster, more actionable results in analyzing and communicating data to leaders. This fostered a more efficient process to identify problems within specific teams, enabling officers to reach out to human resources personnel to seek recommendations and solutions.
The SEC began to improve in their survey results and review processes by leaps and bounds. With visualizations, trend lines, and other displayed data accessible to all department personnel, communication became clearer and more transparent. "They speak, we listen, and we can then take concrete action,” says Ferro.
With strong data and data visualization tools, the SEC is now saving time and resources by developing sustainable dashboards for all areas of human capital management. Ferro says this year, the department plans to build the action planning process pieces within their data dashboards.
Statistics Change Behaviors
Former TSA General Manager of Operational Process and Performance Metrics Bob Scanlon took a “look back” at some behavioral changes derived from statistics that provide lessons for government as it “looks forward” in its quest for IT modernization.
When the United States took over building the Panama Canal, recalled Scanlon, a local newspaper was created and distributed: the Canal Record. Its goal was to help people connect with one another in the area, but something else also happened: productivity increased. Why? In each issue, the paper recorded the output of steam shovel teams. As a result, the teams became more competitive, trying to best one another in output standings, and productivity flourished. Analytics lesson learned: if we don’t see performance, we don’t react to it.
In relation to the TSA, the department used MicroStrategy to maximize their operational efficiency by analyzing key metrics including passenger wait times, staff injury occurrences, and equipment utilization. In the first two years, the results have not only increased efficiency but saved the department more than $124 million in operational costs.
Looking to accelerate modernization initiatives at a government agency? Look first to data and analytics.