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Improving Data Analytics in the U.S.

Information communication. Finger presses one of virtual screens. Mirror reflection

According to a new report, although 90% of state and local government agencies have improved their use of data analytics in the past two years, four out of five say the gap between how much data they collect and how much they use for meaningful analytics is widening.

A study also found that 89% of respondents agree that data analytics is “the lifeblood of modern government,” but 63% are still in the early to middle stages of analytics maturity, and only 36% grade their agency’s use of analytics to create meaningful information an A. What’s more, 78% of respondents said the amount of data their organisation collects is growing faster than their ability to keep up.

The biggest roadblock that they’re seeing is the lack of available resources — mostly as it relates to the workforce and talent — that can actually do something with the data. Specifically, 41% of respondents cited lack of staffing and workforce expertise as the biggest challenge to meaningful use of data, followed by a lack of data prioritisation from leaders outside the IT shop (37%), poor data quality (33%) and an inability to share information (27%).

To help close the gap and help identify a potential group of data management and analytic experts, more customers invest in training opportunities and increase automation to help take some of the pressure off an already overworked IT department.

The Chief Data Officer role is becoming more respected and important, too, with 74% of respondents saying their agency has one; 37% of them added the job in the past two years. CDOs can help forge a data-first mentality, look at problems from a data perspective and get buy-in from non-IT stakeholders. In fact, organisations with a CDO are twice as likely to say data management is their top priority, the survey found.

Although these challenges are consistent across large and small agencies — the fundamental need for meaningful data is the same — smaller ones more often lack budget or resources. Resources are needed both from a technical expertise perspective, but also culturally. It needs to fit into the initiatives that are set out and correlated back to the business of running the government.

The other side of that is leveraging that expertise to focus on expanding into opportunities where the experts can maximise the use of the data. Agencies expanding on AI and big data capabilities is a great example of being able to harness data to enhance the mission,  to help solve the business problems and to provide constituents with a better end-user experience.

Agencies of all sizes are struggling to see a return on investment in data management and analytics, the survey shows. The biggest benefit respondents report seeing is improved security (39%), while the smallest, at 32%, is improved accuracy and effectiveness in decision-making, although 53% of respondents noted improved data use for key decisions as an improvement in the past two years. Agencies are also looking to analytics to help them evaluate their cloud choices.

Adopting a hybrid cloud strategy requires agencies to have more in-house resources and expertise – a CDO, for example.  With the flexibility of being able to move workloads back and forth from localised data centres into the cloud, it is going to be even more of a requirement that is going to be able to manage those workloads.

A modern data experience should be very simple. It should be API-defined and easy, common management tools so that organisations can derive proactive analytics that is actionable at scale. It should also be seamless, so the customers have the opportunity to leverage the technology without having a big strain on management.

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