Brian's Blog


With the Inauguration behind us, there will be a number of mid to senior-level government leaders leaving to pursue opportunities within the private sector leaving vacancies for the incoming class of government leaders. As these new leaders enter the ranks of public service, they should be asking themselves how they can have maximum, long-lasting, positive impact – big data and advanced analytics is just such a way. 

As I have written in previous blogs, there are many best practices in terms of how to get started with big data. In this blog, I will be more specific in terms of the issues that can be tackled today, using specific best practice examples, resulting in maximum impact.

Improper Payments:  In 2012, improper payments totaled approximately $108 billion. In addition, the OMB identified particularly vulnerable programs and processes to help programs to identify the estimated improper payments. Big data and advanced analytics is a tool that is now available to government agencies to help quantify, identify, and prevent improper payments.

In one of my previous blogs, I discuss the success that the State of New York had in utilizing big data and advanced analytics in stopping over $1 billion in improper tax refunds going to New York taxpayers.

Regulatory Oversight: Some government organizations’ main mission is regulatory oversight. Among others, this oversight includes the banking and financial markets and energy sectors. As I discussed in a prior blog, audits provide a limited scope of oversight, but to oversee entire markets or sectors, there is no better tool for regulatory agencies than operationalizing advanced analytics.

There are a number of measures that are going through a rulemaking process over the next year that big data and advanced analytics may be the only way for agencies to comply. These include Dodd Frank and Healthcare Reform. Both Dodd Frank and Healthcare Reform are great examples of how big data and advanced analytics are critical components of assisting their respective regulatory agencies. For example, there are many people and organizations that make it their lives to profit from outsmarting the regulatory authorities. Therefore, it is critical that the regulatory authorities use every weapon possible to prevent these illicit gains.

Domestic Security:  Federal, state, and local governments have made great inroads in protecting our homeland through utilizing big data and advanced analytics techniques. In addition, there are countless examples where federal, state, and local organizations are utilizing big data and advanced analytics techniques to outsmart domestic threats and crime to keep us safe. For example, the New York Police Department has put into place the NYPD Real Time Crime Center. This example uses big data, in motion, to monitor and fight crime.

Operational Efficiency: Studies have shown that government agencies are at a point of maturity where there is significant ROI to be gained through using big data and advanced analytics to increase operational efficiency.

For example, in this video, the District of Columbia Government describes how big data and advanced analytics combine to improve the performance of the District of Columbia’s water and sewer system, all the while saving the city money.

Prescriptive Policy Analysis: There are a number of agencies that have a tradition of using big data and advanced analytics for use in rule making and policy development. As the availability of data becomes more pervasive, more agencies have the ability maximize their policy effectiveness.

Analytics are not only perfectly suited to measure programmatic need but progress is achieving the programmatic mission. In a recent IBM Center for the Business of Government Blog, the highlights of the new Federal Performance Framework were reviewed to examine issues with measuring programmatic performance, in the federal government.

Anyone can make a difference: Finally, it is critical to understand that anyone affiliated with government can make a difference through utilizing big data and advanced analytics. Whether you are an incoming political leader or a career civil servant, the examples above provide guidance in getting started. Specifically, we all have an opportunity to help build a “culture of analytics” in the government organizations with which we are affiliated. As described in this prior blog, IBM sponsored a study “From Data to Decisions II – Building an Analytics Culture in Federal Agencies.” This study provides a fair number of examples where folks in all levels of government have made a difference through embracing analytics and leading by the numbers.

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