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Government 2020: A vision for analytics-driven outcomes
Delaney Turner 270003RQ8K Delaney.Turner@ca.ibm.com | | Tags:  business_analytics government
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Young government employees want instant information to make decisions on the fly. Citizens want instant responses and demonstrated value for their taxes. Business analytics solutions make both of these outcomes possible, but Smarter Governments need both business analytics and visionary leadership to drive improved results. This was among the themes Business Analytics Government Forum, held last Friday in a snowy and overcast Ottawa.
Attendees from the federal, provincial and municipal levels of government had the chance to discover innovative solutions and discuss their views on the myriad challenges they’re facing. Be they revising outdated budgeting processes, breaking down information silos, revamping organizational hierarchies or a combination thereof, there was no shortage of insights and opinions on-hand. This was particularly apparent during the closing Government 2020 panel discussion featuring three individuals well-versed in the area of analytics and performance management in the public sector.
The questions to the audience were simple:
Read on to discover their answers and insights:
Jon Desenberg: Governments are seeing an influx of younger employees who have very different expectations for how a workplace should operate and how a government should serve its citizens. What is the impact of this demographic change on the way governments operate?
David Pratt: The younger population is using technology in very different ways that current civil servants do. When they get into management ranks the decision-making style in government is going to change. They’re extremely agile. They know how to source and use information and they’ll want to make decisions on the fly. That’s not the way we plan now.
There’s a shift to agile and real-time planning that’s going to happen in the bureaucracy and at the political level. Governments need to plan now for what that’s going to look like and put that infrastructure in place. Technology is certainly part of it, but culture and process are big parts, too. It’s a more grassroots-up approach.
Jon Desenberg: Does this change the traditional government hierarchy?
David Pratt: I think you’re going to see more honeycomb-shaped structures rather than a vertical hierarchy. Management teams are going to have to come together from different groups to tackle one problem, then disperse and recombine in different ways to address another. That’s already started and it’s going to get much more prevalent. Governments and businesses are becoming much more project-based. Teams come together and work for a period of weeks, not years.
Jon Desenberg: Rob, you’ve seen governments in transformation all around the world. What can you tell us about this shift?
Rob Dolan: You could call it the “Amazon effect.” People expect 24/7 access to government, and that’s a challenge because most governments aren’t used to providing services or access that way. Citizens want instant access to their government and instant responses from their government, whether they’re doing business with it or just want simple tax information. That’s what governments are struggling with right now. It’s not traditional but it’s going to accelerate and change the way governments deliver services.
Jon Desenberg: There are a lot of information silos that get in the way of better performance and better outcomes. Why do we still struggle to break through them to share knowledge? What are the incentives and disincentives to change?
David Pratt: A lot of it has to do with culture. Change needs to happen in service delivery across the organization to make sure there are consistent and reliable performance metrics that are shared across organizations and that management and citizens are holding people accountable.
Question from the floor: You’re talking about a fundamental change in how organizations work. Currently, from a performance management point of view, many of the tools we rely on are aligned to the organizational structure. How does this new honeycomb structure affect the tools we use?
Rob Dolan: You need to look at the goal or the mission that an organization is tasked to deliver – to find the commonalities among those silos and leverage them. Take juvenile crime rates, for example. Increases are often driven by higher student truancy ratings. But most police forces don’t enforce truancy rules. Likewise, school boards can’t arrest students for committing crimes. But both organizations have a vested interest in making sure they share information about truancy rates because we know that the longer kids stay in school, the less likely they are to commit crimes. You need to find leadership that’s willing to challenge the traditional way of doing things.
David Pratt: This is a challenge in the private sector as well. When you look at performance measures, you need to look at life from the outside in, not the inside out. Organizational structures are irrelevant when you look at an issue from the citizen’s point of view.
Rob Dolan: Take performance-based budgeting. it’s based on an end goal, regardless of who is actually contributing. It’s designed to cut across silos. If the goal is to combat homelessness and there are three organizations responsible for doing that, then the measurable goal is what should be funded and the associated metrics are carried across all three organizations. The goals need to take precedence over the budget. When that happens you avoid the collisions and arguments that often come into play.
Jon Desenberg: Two terms I keep hearing are “data calls” and “data overload.” We’re still not making intelligent decisions with all the information we collect. Many of us are tasked with gathering it for unknown people, and it’s probably useless. How did we end up here? How do we get away from this?
David Pratt: It start with leadership. Your leaders need to ask the right questions of the right people. Beyond that, you need to build up a capability around managing information at the grassroots level – building an information management infrastructure and implementing competency centers. At IBM we teach organizations how to govern, manage and supply information and train people how to use it in a management capacity.
Rob Dolan: Data overload happens when we try to measure everything. And we often use “data” and “information” interchangeably, but there’s a distinct difference between them. The remarkable thing about this generation that’s coming on board now is their innate ability to filter information and decide what’s relevant to them.
David Pratt: Governments also need to know where they’re going to put this expertise. CMAs are now learning strategic analytics and using complex algorithms. We need to think about how we take advantage of these abilities that are coming into the workforce.
Rob Dolan: At IBM we’re working with colleges around the world to train people to become more analytical. They’re no longer in the back room – they’re in the front office, looking at how analytics can be supplied across the board. These people are in very high demand.
Jon Desenberg: Who should people responsible for analytics and performance management report to?
David Pratt: There’s a lot of debate on this subject. I don’t think they should be in Finance, because that discipline is too biased toward financial markets and results. It’s not based on business outcomes. Analytics departments should report to the operational side, where the emphasis is on outcomes and citizen interactions, where you want to know if what you’re spending is having the desired effect, not whether or not you’re spending to meet your budget.
Question from the floor: Sometimes a switch to new metrics doesn’t paint as positive a picture as before. How do you deal with the impact and cultural issues that result?
Rob Dolan: Sometimes it’s leadership. Take Clark County, Nevada. Their Family Services Department had to change the way they provided services, so they brought in a new person who said “Our goal is to keep children safe. It doesn’t matter what we did before.”
Question from the floor: Where does the panel see the greatest impact of the private sector on government analytics in the coming years?
David Pratt: Customer Relationship Management. The algorithms that companies in Telco and Retail are putting behind their search engines and pricing and recommendation engines to segment their customers are just amazing. They’re building dynamic pricing and services engines that operate in real time and they’re learning a tremendous amount about their customers.
Another area is social analytics. Companies are using analytics solutions to scour blogs, message boards and other social sources to find out what their customers think of their products and marketing campaigns. Governments can take the same approach to find out what citizens think of their policies and and initiatives.
Jon Desenberg: What’s one thing we can do to get our leadership to pay more attention to metrics?
David Pratt: We need to act as citizens. If we want answers, we need to ask for them.
Rob Dolan: Agreed. It’s us. If governments have put data online, it’s because we’re demanding that access. Governments need to provide that information because the generation behind us will take no prisoners.