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How agencies can reap more value from analytics

Government managers who haven’t initiated an analytics program are missing opportunities to save money and get the most out of their existing resources, according to a recent Accenture survey of government decision-makers across six countries.

Analytic techniques and tools, which make it easier to identify meaningful patterns and statistical trends in far-flung data sets, can be applied to a wide range of areas important to government, including cybersecurity, education, fraud detection related to health care benefits or tax collection, transportation and weather forecasting.

Public-sector agencies have been employing analytics to such varied pursuits as detecting biological threats and improving airline safety.  A recent Brookings Institution report also detailed how analytics could be used to improve how well teachers teach. And a social services agency in North America used analytics to identify and reduce the errors, yielding an annual savings of 4 percent on a $2.5 billion income assistance program.

In addition to helping them accomplish their missions, organizations using analytics also are more likely to have detected a decrease (versus no change) in errors and instances of non-compliance during the past 12 months, according to the Accenture survey.

However, more than half (52 percent) of government leaders faced a barrier to using the tools, citing a lack of understanding of analytics and its benefits, according to Accenture officials.

Organizations that are not using analytics cannot tap into the same benefits as those that understand and apply these tools. Those benefits include better decision making, improved financial management and faster, more accurate transactions.

Agencies need to enhance their understanding of analytics and improve their analytic capabilities to build what Accenture describes as an “analytics advantage.”  Agency managers should focus on three core goals, Accenture officials say:

  1. Develop a cross-functional, integrated analytics vision. Agency IT managers need to educate their business leaders on analytics, helping to clarify what it is and what it can and cannot do.  Agencies need an integrated analytics vision and a plan for applying that vision across business processes. Development of a framework of analytic capabilities will help bring structure in forming this integrated vision.
  2. Create value by prioritizing analytics. Focus on high-value processes, specifically those related to where value is being lost today, Accenture officials say. This focus will help in ferreting out waste and save money that can then be redirected to fuel improvements and growth.
  3. Operationalize analytics.   Analytics alone doesn’t generate value. Value is only delivered when agencies take the insight delivered by analytics and apply the insights to business processes. Analytics should not be isolated from the front-line business. Agency managers must develop a governance structure, processes, metrics and technology support to ensure wider use of analytics in order to derive greater value from data analysis.

By broadening their understanding of analytics and focusing on building analytic capability, agencies can operate more effectively while saving money during difficult fiscal times, Accenture officials say.

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