Data Analytics Drives Mission Effectiveness in the Federal Government

Jan 25, 2012

Although virtually every federal agency collects data, many of these agencies struggle with how to best turn it into useful information, to improve mission performance and effectiveness. Data is scattered across multiple sources and is poorly organized so it is hard for many agencies to make decisions based on that data. It’s really about gathering the massive amount of data, figuring out which data is most useful, and then making it understandable and usable to users whether public or within government. The end goal of data analytics is to be able to obtain a “single version of truth and actionable intelligence” in near real-time from the mounds of data.

Five big trends are driving the adoption of new approaches to data analytics in the federal government – availability of volume, velocity and variety (both structured data and unstructured data including full motion video, emails, voice, social networks, sensor-enabled facilities, biometrics data etc.), compliance with regulatory guidelines and mandates, requirements to improve visibility, transparency and mission effectiveness across the government, cross-agency collaboration, budget constraints and the ability to do more with less.

If you look at DoD and the Intelligence Community, they have been significant adopters of big data and data analytics solutions to handle intelligence and information overload. Typically, they use big data technology to help analysts “connect the dots” and “find a needle in a haystack.”

 But now, law enforcement agencies like the Memphis Police Department (MPD) are also relying on data analytics solutions to predict trends, allocate resources, and identify “hot spots” to reduce crime rates. According to an article by Decision Support Systems Resources, with the help of a data analytics solution, MPD has enhanced its crime fighting techniques with predictive analytics software and reduced serious crime by more than 30 percent, including a 15 percent reduction in violent crimes since 2006. MPD is now able to evaluate incident patterns throughout the city and forecast criminal “hot spots” to proactively allocate resources and deploy personnel, resulting in improved force effectiveness and increased public safety. MPD recorded an 863 % ROI in just 2.7 months, an average annual benefit of $7M.

An article in TechNewsWorld discusses how the FAA is early in its agency-wide adoption of the safety system and its use of analytics is evolving. Currently, the agency collects a wide variety of data and is developing analytics capabilities to measure the effectiveness of its actions, but it has a way to go. For example, the agency can address a controller mistake detected by radar, but may not know the root cause of the mistake. With analytics, the FAA is now beginning to understand what contributes to all levels of hazards. The FAA is also working with the industry on a project that will introduce first-of-a-kind security analytics technologies and entirely new approaches to protecting large digital and physical infrastructures from hacking, botnets, malware, and other forms of cyber-attacks. This analytics solution will be able to correlate historical traffic patternswith dynamic data from monitors, sensors, and other devices capturing information about network traffic and user activity in real time.

Agencies don’t have to start an analytics program on a grand scale. They can begin benefiting from using in-house systems and commonly available desktop software and grow their programs as they gain experience in performance management. In order to be successful with data analytics, agencies require a long term commitment to create a culture comfortable with using analytics. Agencies have to believe in continuous improvement and agency leadership needs to communicate clearly what the end goal is that they want to achieve with the investment in technology. Data analytics may start as a niche activity, however you want to grow it as a way to manage agency mission effectively and efficiently with clear well-defined measurable metrics.

Are you seeing similar trends within your respective agencies? Let me hear your thoughts. To learn more about federal technology trends, you can follow me on Twitter at @FedTrends.

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