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"Moneyball" under the dome: Government analytics for public officials

Learn how public officials are implementing government analytics as policy to lead their organizations forward.

Overview

Analytics is not just a new technology trend—it represents a paradigm shift that is fundamentally changing the way information is gathered, interpreted and used. Analytics is revolutionizing business and it holds the same potential for government. However, the responsibility for utilizing the power of government analytics rests with government leaders.

Both a book and a movie, “Moneyball” chronicled the story of how Oakland Athletics’ general manager Billy Beane used statistical analysis to measure which skills actually contributed to winning baseball games. Mr. Beane’s approach revolutionized the way baseball players are evaluated, prompting economists and business leaders to ask similar questions in their own domains. Now it is time for government leaders to do the same.

Public officials who make the immediate and personal decision to implement government analytics as policy are likely to lead their agencies forward. Those who fail to do so are essentially fighting a losing battle against tight budgets, rising costs and ever-increasing citizen demands.

Background

According to Accenture’s Analytics in Action research, since 2009, the number of executives using predictive analytics within enterprise-level organizations in the US and the UK has more than doubled. The reasons cited include greater demand for fact-based decisions and expectations of a clear return on investment.

Leading in the current environment calls for an urgent change in mindset. Investing in new government analytics technology alone does not guarantee effective delivery of services to citizens. Government analytics, at its core, requires the business acumen to determine which data is important, what it means, and how it can be used to gain new insights that drive mission productivity.

Government analytics is clearly not an IT issue, but rather a topic for the C suite. In the months ahead, the most successful agencies will be led by those who adapt to change the culture of their organizations through executive decisions rooted in the same principle as the “Moneyball” approach.

Analysis

Government cost reduction, more informed decisions and better service delivery are among the key outcomes of government analytics when adopted as an executive decision. Washington State and New York City are shining examples.

Former Washington State governor Christine Gregoire was the first state leader to use analytics to drive the Government Management Accountability and Performance (GMAP) process that required all agencies to develop data-driven performance management tools to measure their effectiveness.

Children’s Services was the first agency to come onboard. Using government analytics, the agency was able to bring down the 12-month rate for the percentage of children experiencing repeat abuse or neglect from 14.4 percent to 10.6 percent between 2005 and 2009.

In New York City, government analytics continues to drive improvements across city agencies, largely due to the leadership of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Implementing analytics at an enterprise level has allowed agencies access to previously unavailable data sets, boosting the city’s ongoing successes in fighting financial crime, identifying pharmacy fraud, reducing fire hazards and detecting restaurants responsible for illegally dumping cooking oil into city sewers.

Recommendations

Where technology enables, government analytics transforms. Leveraging government analytics is the new reality for achieving better decision making that leads directly to performance improvements.

Like in sports, government agencies must analyze every relevant bit of data to set their priorities and strategies. Managers must use this data to make informed decisions, even when it leads to solutions not previously obvious. Leaders who look to technology for piecemeal improvements are taking a short-sighted, outdated approach that could potentially fail their agencies.

Investing in technology is not the same as investing in outcomes. Leaders who recognize this potential for change—and who step up now to drive the cultural shift required throughout their agencies—will see mission productivity through performance improvements, cost reductions and more effective service delivery. Defining the new reality in government transformation is not complicated. It is an executive decision.

Podcast

Learn how government analytics is evolving—from being reactive to having predictive capabilities—to help public service organizations perform better.

In this podcast, Mark Howard, North American Finance & Administration Lead – Health & Public Service, Accenture, discusses the concept of “Moneyball”—both a book and a movie, narrating how Oakland Athletics’ general manager Billy Beane used statistical analysis to win baseball games—and how it has prompted business and government leaders to fundamentally change the way information is gathered, interpreted and used.

Describing government analytics as a trend that’s here to stay, he cites findings from Accenture’s Analytics in Action Research to demonstrate how organizations are changing the way they use data to not just react to the past, but also to predict the future. Listen to this podcast to understand how government analytics is evolving to help public service organizations perform better.

This podcast was recorded at the National Association of State Comptrollers (NASC) Annual Conference held in Reno, NV on March 13, 2014.