Conversations on Big Data

Hosted by Brian Murrow and Lara Shane, "Conversations on Big Data" is a series of podcast interviews with innovative leaders from the public sector on how they are using data analytics to prevent and counter tax fraud, improve training, respond to emergencies, protect investors, keep our food supply safe and more. Between 2011 and 2013, the Partnership for Public Service and the IBM Center for the Business of Government collaborated on three reports on using data to improve decision-making. These podcast conversations are designed to broaden the perspective to additional agencies as well as revisit some of those covered in the reports; provide insights into the essential ingredients for a successful analytics program; and offer advice from leaders whose agencies are benefiting from analyzing data.

Below, please feel free to explore the audio podcast interviews and read more in-depth analysis in the series of blogs on the "Conversations."

Blogs

A picture – or visualization – is worth a thousand words

by Brian, on Monday, February 16, 2015

In our last Conversation on Big Data we discussed the importance of integration, of designing data repositories so that facts are organized by a set of data elements that provide business context. Actually, good design is as important for a successful quantitative analytics program as it is to findi...

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Integration makes Big Data Useful Data

by Brian, on Monday, February 9, 2015

Big Data is a term that is bandied about quite a bit these days. One sees references to Big Data on television commercials, in pop-ups on web sites, and in print advertisements. Have you ever stopped to think why “Big Data” has Big Data become the latest technical buzz word? Of course, ...

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Is Big Data the same as Dirty Data?

by Brian, on Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Conversations on Big Data is a series of discussions about using analytics in creative and interesting ways that the Partnership for Public Service and the IBM Center for The Business of Government designed to broaden the perspective about quantitative analytics. Wikipedia defines Big Data as &ldquo...

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Is Analytics Utopia just around the bend?

by Brian, on Monday, January 5, 2015

As our Conversations on Big Data is a series of discussions about using analytics in creative and interesting ways, Lara Shane of the Partnership for Public Service and I speak to people who are already doing just that. Not surprisingly, these people all share a common vision of an end state where t...

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Everything you need to know to build a successful analytics program you learned in kindergarten

by Brian, on Monday, December 15, 2014

For several years, the Partnership for Public Service and the IBM Center for The Business of Government have partnered to have Conversations on Big Data, a series of discussions designed to broaden the perspective about quantitative analytics and share lessons learned about what worked well and what...

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Leveraging quantitative analytics in the legal profession

by Brian, on Friday, November 14, 2014

The longest-running television crime drama was Law and Order, hitting the airwaves for a consecutive twenty seasons. I would argue that the effectiveness of the series had a lot to do with the balance of airtime between the “law” and the “order” side of the criminal justice s...

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Applying Analytics to Improve Organization Operational Performance -- Insights on from OMB

by Brian, on Monday, November 3, 2014

As a continuation of my podcast series, Conversations on Big Data, I sat down with Lisa Danzig, Associate Director for Personnel and Performance, at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), to discuss her experience using analytics at HUD and OMB to increase operational performance. These podcast ...

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Three Key Ingredients to Build an Investigative Analytics Unit – Lessons from the RAT Board

by Brian, on Monday, October 27, 2014

As a data scientist, I of course love the police dramas that use analytics to derive key evidence that put the crooks in jail for a long, long time. Well, a few weeks ago, as a part of our ongoing series, Conversations on Big Data, I had a brief window into just such an operation when I sat down wit...

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Using Big Data Analytics for Effective Financial Market Oversight -- The Three Essential Ingredients.

by Brian, on Monday, October 20, 2014

Over the past few months, I have co-hosted Conversations on Big Data, a series of discussions about using analytics in creative and interesting ways. Today’s Conversation is with Lori Walsh, the Chief of the Center for Risk and Quantitative Analytics (the Center) for the Securities Exchange Co...

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Analytics Need to Provide Business Value – a Conversation with the IRS on Big Data.

by Brian, on Monday, October 6, 2014

As a part of my ongoing conversation with senior executive leaders, Conversations on Big Data, I recently sat down with Dean Silverman, Senior Advisor to the Commissioner, Office of Compliance Analytics, at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). These Big Data conversations tend to focus on best practi...

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An Iterative Approach to Maturing Strategic Analytics - FEMAStat

by Brian, on Monday, September 29, 2014

Last month, I sat down with Carter Hewgley, Director of Enterprise Analytics at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to discuss using big data and analytics in a number of creative and interesting ways to support real-world business goals. This conversation was a part of the ongoing IBM/P...

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Analytics-driven Organizational & Cultural Change

by Brian, on Monday, September 15, 2014

As a continuation of my IBM/Partnership for Public Service Podcast series of discussions about using big data and analytics in a number of creative and interesting ways to support real-world business goals, Conversations on Big Data, we recently discussed with Malcolm Bertoni, Assistant Commissioner...

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Applying Analytics to Continuous Process Improvement

by Brian, on Saturday, September 13, 2014

Conversations on Big Data is a series of discussions with executive-level leaders about using big data analytics in creative and interesting ways to improve business outcomes. Today’s Conversation is with Gerald Ray, the Deputy Executive Director of the Office of Appellate Operations (Appellat...

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Focusing on Goals increases payoff of Analytics – A Conversation on Big Data

by Brian, on Sunday, September 7, 2014

For several years, IBM and the Partnership for Public Service have partnered to bring lessons learned from industry leaders in the use of Big Data Analytics to our readers. This year we had a series of Conversations on Big Data, a Podcast series of discussions about using analytics in a number of cr...

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Podcast Interviews


Lisa Danzig

Lisa Danzig
Associate Director for Personnel and Performance
Office of Management and Budget

Part One: HUDStat and using analytics for veteran housing (8:29 mp3)

Part Two:  Lessons learned at HUD and aligning analytics with the 2016 budget process (9:23 mp3)

Part Three: Recommendations to agencies on analytics programs (8:43 mp3)

Interview excerpts (pdf)

Q: What is your message to agencies embarking on the budget process and seeking to use analytics?

A: Engage a set of people who think this could be worthwhile and/or already have a problem or goal they’re trying to achieve and that you could apply this to. This helps you avoid that cycle of collecting hundreds of metrics that aren’t relevant to the problem.

 

Malcolm BertoniMalcolm Bertoni
Assistant Commissioner for Planning
Food and Drug Administration

Part One:  FDA and analytics, how it all began (8:35 mp3)

Part Two:  Ingredients for a successful analytics program and a leadership's role (10:39 mp3)

Part Three:  Recommendations to agencies on analytics programs  (9:04 mp3)

Interview excerpts (pdf)

Q: What are the important elements you need for a good analytics program?

A: You have to have some leadership support because it does require an investment. You also need to have champions both on the analytical side and on the program side—some data junkies who really love measuring and understanding and analyzing how an organization ticks, and some program managers on the front lines who get it, who are willing to embrace it and work with the analysts and improve their organization to make that part of their organizational culture.

 

Carter HewgleyCarter Hewgley
Director of Enterprise Analytics
Federal Emergency Management Agency

Part One:  FEMAStat and the "no surprise model" (8:28 mp3)

Part Two:  Analytics and creating a culture of change (9:57 mp3)

Part Three:  Recommendations to agencies on analytics programs (9:37 mp3)

Interview excerpts (pdf)

Q: What changes would you make to FEMA’s analytics program if you had leeway to change anything you wanted to?

A: My wish list is that we could get a common vision across the organization. If I’m solving a problem for my team’s ability to use data, I need to solve it for the entire enterprise, getting everybody to agree on what tool we all need, how do we all get access to the right data, and how do we do that in a secure environment where we trust each other. Once you have that in place, there is no limit. You’ll just unleash the talent of people to do predictive modeling and all kinds of stuff you see happening elsewhere.

 

Dean SilvermanDean Silverman
Senior Advisor to the Commissioner, Office of Compliance Analytics
Internal Revenue Service

Part One:  IRS analytics programs and reducing fraud (11:09 mp3)

Part Two:  Solving the "really big problems" at the IRS with new solutions (9:13 mp3)

Part Three:  Recommendations to agencies on analytics programs (11:22 mp3)

Interview excerpts (pdf)

Q: Why is it so important to use data analytics?

A: Leaders are always better off having data and an increased understanding of how things work, and how they might work more effectively, both to make decisions and to define the problem. The latter is frequentl’ not thought of as a major focus of data analytics, but defining the problem is where it all starts. Einstein once said, if he was given 60 minutes to solve a problem, he’d spend 50 minutes thinking about it and framing the problem and the 10 minutes solving it. None of us are Einsteins, but the principle still applies.

 

Gerald RayGerald Ray
Deputy Executive Director, Office of Appellate Operations
Social Security Administration

Part One:  Analytics and decision making in legal proceedings (10:07 mp3)

Part Two:  Building a successful data analytics program, change management, and customer service (9:10 mp3)

Part Three: Recommendations to agencies on analytics programs (9:09 mp3)

Interview excerpts (pdf)

Q: Why do you think some agencies struggle with their use of analytics?

A: There are a couple of core problems. One is they’re not particularly familiar with it. The other piece of it is that many agencies don’t have enough data scientists, or the data scientists are removed from the operational people, and if they’re not consulting with each other, they simply go off in different tangents, in different directions and you don’t get what you really need.

 

Lori WalshLori Walsh
Chief, Center for Risk and Quantitative Analytics
Securities and Exchange Commission

Part One: Analytics and the SEC's mission and programs (10:20 mp3)

Part Two: Important elements of an analytics program and the role of leadership  (10:17 mp3)

Part Three: Recommendations to agencies on analytics programs (10:06 mp3)

Interview excerpts (pdf)

Q: What role does leadership play in making analytics successful?

A: Leadership is critical. It takes time to get the infrastructure in place so you need leadership who understands and is willing to back you during this time of growth. Additionally, you’re always going to have the people who want to do things the way they’ve always done things and having senior leadership step in and say we’ve got to do things differently is critical.

 

Steve BeltzSteve Beltz
Assistant Director, Recovery Operation Center
Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board

Part One:  Using data to show accountability and transparency with federal funds (9:46 mp3)

Part Two: Important elements of an analytics program, people are critical (8:55 mp3)

Part Three:  Recommendations to agencies on analytics programs (9:37 mp3)

Interview excerpts (pdf)

Q: What advice would you give to others on how to improve their data analytics programs?

A: They have to understand their data. That’s very important. If they can’t get good access to their data or in an understandable format, then you’re not going to get anywhere, and that’s what most agencies are struggling with right now. You need to buy good tools and then the next part is finding good analysts.

 

 

Podcast music: Drops of H2O (The Filtered Water Treatment) by J. Lang featuring Airtone. Copyrighted under a Creative Commons license.