Embracing Data Analytics in Government

I’m not an NBA fan, but a recent rant from former NBA MVP and current TNT talking head, Charles Barkley certainly caught my attention. Charles, in discussing the Houston Rockets said, “They are awful defensively”, to which TNT ‘Inside the NBA’ host Ernie Johnson replies “If you look at the metrics they are #5 in the league defensively”. Enter (part of) Sir Charles’ rant on analytics: “I’ve always believed analytics are crap”….“Analytics don’t work at all…. Smart guys want to fit in [to the NBA] so they made up a term called analytics. Analytics don’t work”.

Never mind the fact that the 2011 NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks had a ‘Director of Basketball Analytics’ coach on the bench during games, or that in 2013 all NBA teams were given access to big data collected by “SportVu”, ‘a camera system so technologically advanced that it has opened the door for Big Data to invade and shape the NBA’.

It’s obvious that Sir Charles has his head in the sand when it comes to understanding the implications of and advantages gained from integrating advanced statistics and analytics into every phase of the NBA game.

The question I began to ask myself is, can the same be said of how government programs are run? With the technological capability of integrating advanced statistics and analytics into every facet of decision making, from long-term, strategic direction, to day-to-day decisions, are government program managers looking for ways to make more informed, and therefore better decisions? Are they embracing government analytics?

Below are three ways government program managers are starting to embrace government analytics by incorporating advanced statistics and analytics into their decision-making.

Strategic Direction of R&D Programs When developing the strategic direction of an R&D program it is a good idea to gather as much data as possible concerning current strengths and gaps in your specific field. Many program managers are using data and analytics to help determine these gaps and inform where resources will be best spent to meet stakeholder needs. I definitely recommend building a data based strategy. And even if you don’t have access to large data sets, you can still make better decisions with the data you do have.

Social Media Metrics In order to track the popularity of actions many program managers have started to turn to their social media metrics. Using these to confirm if actions or programs are resonating with the American public and stakeholders. With social media though it’s important to remember to choose the right metrics for your program and purpose. The government has also released a Federal Social Media Analytics Toolkit to help program managers evaluate their social media metrics.

Performance and Customer Satisfaction

Program managers have also been asked to measure their programs’ performance and customer satisfaction. GSA’s Digital Services Innovation Center purchased a Google Analytics solution that is being used to implement this measurement on all .gov websites. Another way to gather data on customer satisfaction is to interact with your stakeholders online. Building an online platform for stakeholder interactions provides a more cost effective way to interact with your program’s stakeholders who may be located across the country.

What ways have you seen Federal programs beginning to use analytics or advanced statistics to drive better decision-making?