Using technology to your advantage: Three government trends for 2014
INSIGHT ARTICLE |
Big data, transparency and mobility are frequently heard technology buzz terms, but what do they truly mean for government entities? Each of these trends is having a significant effect on government agencies, so you must fully understand how each can directly impact your operations. You must know what questions to ask, what priorities to set and how to evaluate options, establish realistic budgets and allocate the right resources to ensure successful deployments.
Government organizations typically manage a massive amount of data, and you must implement processes and systems that result in actionable business information and strategies. Analyzing data from potentially hundreds of different systems, positioning it in a meaningful format and drawing conclusions and providing information back to the community, employees and board members is no small task. However, if data is managed effectively, the internal and external benefits can be significant, enabling better decision making and more engaging and informative processes for citizens.
The potential for increased data analysis is almost limitless, as linking databases between agencies can proactively address citizen demands, identify community trends and gauge the impact of policy decisions. Gaining a better understanding of information and connecting key data points enables improved service to the community, streamlining and enhancing functions from public transit to utilities.
While there are many software applications available to support these initiatives, implementing a comprehensive business intelligence strategy and deployment road map is critical. The first step is to build a strong business case, identifying your goals and objectives, as well as beginning to identify the key metrics which are important to your organization. You will also need to evaluate infrastructure, gain sponsorship from IT and other executives, and begin to develop a plan for deployment, which may span multiple phases. Once this is complete, you can begin the technical aspects of system design, implementation and testing.
As this strategy is being defined, analysis of data sources and business rules must be clearly defined and communicated. Master data management is becoming increasingly important in order to manage large volumes of data, ensure accuracy and simplify both the development of the analytics and the ongoing maintenance.
Not so long ago, government organizations published basic financial reports on a periodic, or even annual basis. However, the Internet and improved access to data have increased expectations, as citizens desire much more insight on a timely basis into how the government is spending money, what issues are being addressed and what are the key priorities. Unlike a commercial business, your success depends on being accountable to the community, so your organization must frequently provide data in a format that is accessible and easy to understand.
The cities of New York and Baltimore are leaders in providing access to publicly available data through their websites in a readily accessible format. For example, New York passed legislature for an Open Data Law, requiring common standards and simplicity of access. The technology being utilized is often affordable on a much smaller scale which is available to any public sector organization.
Important characteristics of successful transparency initiatives are strong executive commitment, open data standards and deep integration with systems supplying the transactional data. In today’s real-time world, expectations are that data is not only accurate but current, accessible and meaningful.
The growth in mobile device use has added a layer of complexity to the demands on your data systems and output. From an internal perspective, you must consider how employees access data through smartphones and tablets while information must also be transparent and available in mobile formats for citizens.
Increased implementation of cloud platforms provides data access anytime and anywhere to the workforce and to the public on mobile devices. A well-designed mobility initiative is as powerful internally as it is externally. In addition to being able to alert citizens more effectively and provide general information, mobility can also automate processes and provide efficiencies to reduce government spending. The strategy allows for increased productivity and workforce satisfaction due to greater flexibility, more access in remote areas to reduce duplicate data entry, and improved safety of staff through the ability to provide alerts to and from mobile devices.
If your organization chooses to deploy a mobile app, there are several best practices to help ensure the platform is adopted and utilized by the public. You should begin with ensuring internal staff is trained appropriately, or partner with an outside provider that understands mobile application development. When building your app, it should have easy navigation and include meaningful information that has an impact to the city and citizens.
With the increased access mobility provides, organizations must be careful to address emerging security and privacy concerns. Data is a valued commodity for hackers, and before implementing mobile technology, you must ensure you do not introduce any new vulnerabilities to your organization. Develop and enact a thorough mobile security policy within your organization to ensure devices are not compromised and any apps you implement are encrypted and do not include security loopholes.
Where should you start?
To understand your data needs, undergo an assessment of your organization’s current performance and capabilities, and consider your ultimate goals. Identify key areas to assess and analyze and establish a benchmarking system and performance objectives. Your team or an outside advisor can identify quick-win opportunities for improvement and develop a long-term plan for performance enhancements and a road map for strategic initiatives.
In summary, the demand for data on a large scale is here, you can’t ignore it. Big data concepts are being used widely in public sector organizations of all sizes and technology deployments can range from simple to complex; inexpensive and quick projects to multiyear, high-cost engagements. Mobility and the cloud are changing the game¾raising expectations, increasing risks and opening up exciting opportunities to change the way you operate.
It’s important to have a structured process and a well-planned strategic road map in place to manage priorities, budget and resources. Partnering with the right strategic advisors to help you develop this plan, ask the right questions and identify critical risks and success factors can make all the difference.