Advancing Your Analytics Journey: Lessons Learned, Opportunities Ahead
Section: NASACT

The Analytics Journey

Un-integrated data and spreadsheets > Advanced data processing tools (semi-integrated) > Data analyzed using integrated processes > Real-time data analysis using integrated data processing
Few would dispute the potential payoffs of modern analytics—integrating data, analyzing it in new and innovative ways, and then making data-driven insights available in a fast and actionable format. In Accenture’s view, analytics is key to fulfilling the transformation we think governments should make in reducing the time and effort required for the ‘required’ activities of transaction processing and compliance. And, analytics is equally critical in using those freed resources to fulfill the true mission of supporting citizen-facing services with innovative insights and programs.  

With the right analytics capabilities, government can correlate related datasets, identify behavioral patterns and forecast possible or most likely outcomes. Consider the potential for revenue agencies to identify and address high-risk refunds, under-declarations and ineligible credits; for human services organizations to identify ineligible recipients, misuse of benefits and changes of circumstances; and for pensions agencies to ferret out incorrect payments, ineligible recipients and pensions misuse.

Virtually every government agency is seeking to advance its analytics journey—starting from basic reports and drill-down queries, achieving proactive alerting, near-real-time reporting and forecasting, and then analyzing drivers and, ultimately, optimizing operations. What can you learn from other organizations that have made significant progress? And, how can you benefit from evolving models for delivering analytics capabilities?

Analytics Produce Big Results in the Big Apple

New York City maintains arguably one of the most advanced analytics capabilities among state and local governments. The NYC Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics (MODA) serves as the focal point for solving the most difficult cross-agency challenges using the full breadth of city data and technology. Since its inception in 2013, MODA has used analytics to deliver some impressive results. Among them: a five-fold return on the time of building inspectors looking for illegal apartments, an increase in the rate of detection for dangerous buildings that are highly likely to result in firefighter injury or death, and a five-fold increase in the detection of business licenses being resold.

MODA’s experiences have yielded some key lessons that can benefit other state and local governments as they work to advance their analytics journeys. New York City’s successes underscore the importance of addressing governance, managing people and engaging the business.

Take advantage of the many sources of data available in government—and manage it all from the beginning:
  • Access data from multiple sources. NYC developed a data integration strategy and playbook and supported them with a robust technology platform before engaging with agencies.
  • Establish clear data governance. MODA created a citywide data sharing charter that clearly dictates participation and responsibilities.
Develop strong relationships, leadership and young talent:
  • Secure data. To identify relevant internal and external controls, the office engaged with the IT security team early in the process and continually evolves its security posture.
  • Demonstrate strong leadership. MODA has taken a top-down approach to adoption, with City Hall leading the charge.
  • Develop strong talent. Rather than acquiring experienced resources, NYC has focused on nurturing young talent.
Business Engagement
Combining technical staff with business staff is critical:
  • Sustain engagement. MODA structured its organization to promote continued engagement with partner agencies.
  • Leverage subject-matter expertise. By pairing data analysts with experts in the field, MODA and its partner agencies have successfully collaborated on tough problems.
  • Define success. From the beginning, the MODA team has persevered—not letting less-than-ideal circumstances delay progress.
Most recently, MODA has been working to further strengthen its capabilities—expanding on the existing foundation to better leverage New York City’s wealth of diverse intelligence on locations, businesses and people. The goal is to build a common data platform that makes city data more readily accessible—and actionable—across agencies. The platform is key to cutting across data silos, unifying how data is formatted and classified, and addressing varying levels of accuracy.

Analytics Evolution

As MODA and other state and local organizations work to advance their journeys, they can benefit from significant shifts in how analytics capabilities are designed, developed and delivered.

Disruptive Technologies
In the “old world,” analytics relied on on-premise ERP systems and standalone business intelligence and reporting applications. In today’s “new world,” disruptive technologies are making analytics far faster and easier to implement. Drag-and-drop user interfaces, the ability to configure rather than code and access to open-source software are breaking down traditional implementation barriers.

Agile Development
Traditional waterfall methodologies—with phase-dependent development—often require six to 12 months before any analytics system goes into production. New-world analytics are using agile development. Agile dramatically decreases time to market, with rapid prototyping and sprint deliveries enabling agencies to deliver more value more quickly.

As-a-Service Delivery
Historically, analytics have come at a high cost in terms of specialization—with only limited communities making full use of their potential. Newer as-a-Service delivery models are leveling the playing field, making it possible not only to reduce total cost of ownership but also to expand and accelerate access to insights.

Advanced Analytics
Analytics initiatives used to be held back by development backlog and technological dependencies. Today, commercial and government enterprises are demanding the ability to handle the variability, volume and velocity of Big Data, to deliver truly advanced analytics and to evolve to business requirements.

Insights within Reach

While critical challenges remain, the ability to implement—and benefit from—analytics has never been more accessible. It’s also never been more critical. In light of growing public expectations and continued budget constraints, analytics is rapidly becoming an essential strategy in identifying opportunities, understanding needs, and designing and delivering public services. With a thoughtful approach and a willingness to embrace disruptive technologies and innovative approaches—particularly analytics as-a-service—state and local agencies can deliver breakthrough results with limited resources. 

About the Author
Mark Howard is the global lead for Accenture’s Public Administration/Regulatory Industry Group. His team focuses on helping clients implement leading practices, systems and organizational designs in government administrative and regulatory agencies. His clients in the U.S. include cities, counties, states, special districts, universities and federal agencies.