1. Don't fear the data
Kicking off an analytics project within an agency can be tricky. Leadership, culture, and employee buy-in all play a role. But the foundation of any data analytics project is…well…the data.
A panel of Federal leaders discussed how getting their hands on that data can be the biggest hurdle. Why? “It’s a risk fear” said Kevin Roney, Program Manager at Department of Homeland Security’s S&T division. “They’re fearing that somebody’s going to use the data against them.”
What’s the solution? While there’s no quick fix, being clear about what you want to measure and why can go a long way towards getting buy-in.
Dan Tangherlini, former GSA Administrator and President of SeamlessGov, said that it starts with leadership. Leaders need to “really explore what you’re trying to achieve” and choose the right metrics to support that goal. The good news is, across government this sea change is starting to happen.
For more on this topic, check out the article by Meredith Somers, Digital News Writer/Editor for Federal News Radio: https://federalnewsradio.com/technology/2017/06/experts-urge-agencies-to-remove-emotion-and-fear-from-data-analytics-focus-on-value-of-information/.
2. Meet your mission
At Qlik, we know that our Federal customers are doing really cool things with our software. But other agencies don’t often get the chance to see their accomplishments—especially those that relate to mission. It was refreshing to see so many customers share how they’re using Qlik to improve mission effectiveness. Here are a few highlights:
- Chris McDermott, Chief Data Officer at Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), shared how his agency is using analytics to identify Service members and civilians whose remains were never recovered from historic battlefields. Using Qlik to sift through physical remains, historic records (dental, medical, etc.), etc., they’re able to make positive identifications and give closure to families.
- Schatten Douglas, Portfolio Manager, Air Force Office of Small Business Programs at the Air Force Office of Small Business, described how he’s using Qlik to ensure the Air Force is engaging small businesses wherever possible. By turning a statutory requirement into an opportunity, they’re exploring ways to not only meet utilization goals but also drive better value for the Air Force (and ultimately the tax payer) through small business. “With this increased visibility, we’re able to transform, modernize and promote successful practices with respect to engaging small business,” said Douglas.
- Richard Allen, Environmental Specialist at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), discussed how the agency is empowering more than 1,000 people at headquarters as well as researchers in the field with analytics. “We’ve gone from 1 user to 1,000 users in two years,” Allen shared. And by empowering users to apply the technology to whatever they see fit, “we’ve found unique use cases for analytics” along the way. Allen went on to detail an unexpected use case. “Our biggest surprise is that we’ve used Qlik for facilities….to identify facility checks. For example, we know there is a seasonal pest problem in one facility we can be more proactive in the future.”
3. Augment—don’t replace—human intelligence
People, not machines, should remain at the center of the decision-making process. Through an engaging demonstration using historic data from the Titanic to predict indicators of survival, Qlik CTO Anthony Deighton introduced the audience to the concept of augmented intelligence. Deighton showed how the direct data exchange between the QIX engine and third-party calculation engine combines the best of machine intelligence with human interaction and decisions. I’ll say it again: people, not machines, are at the core of the decision-making process.
It’s a concept that government welcomes. In earlier panel discussions, Douglas discussed how, in addition to good analytics, “good human intelligence is essentially crucial” in meeting the Air Force’s small business utilization goals.
Tammy Tippie, Director of Performance Management at DHS, touched on getting leadership to care about the data. “This can be really intimidating. They don’t understand how you did the calculations. They don’t understand why the empirical data you’re showing them should weigh more than their own personal anecdotal experience.”
Tippie advises that educating and working with leaders is the best approach. “There’s an educational component to helping leadership see why this is a better way of informing what they do than gut feel… If you can connect what you’re doing to the things they care about and help them understand how you’re mitigating the risk” and supplementing their current knowledgebase with information, then they’ll see the value.
4. Explore new possibilities for the Internet of “useful” Things
The morning session closed in an unusual way—Deighton watered a plant on stage alongside Michael Prorock, Founder and CEO of Qlik customer mesur.io. Using smart sensors, analytics and measurements, mesur.io provides farmers and golf course administrators with real-time insight into critical factors such as soil quality, moisture and nutrient levels, and pest concerns.
But the application for tech like this doesn’t end with soil management. When it comes to IOT and analytics, the possibilities are endless. Prorock encouraged the audience to “think about the potential application for government.” And not just for agencies like EPA and USDA, but also for Defense and Intelligence agencies. What could your agency do with real-time analytics receiving data from a sensor that can measure just about anything—from light and soundwaves to body heat?
5. Make sense of LOTS of data
Government is inundated with data. From spending to sensors to the 2020 Census, if your agency’s measuring it, chances are we’re talking large data volumes. To make sense of all this data (without waiting minutes for a spinning wheel after each selection) you need more than a lightweight visualization tool.
Qlik does big data, and does it well. The first example kicked off with Deighton demonstrating instant querying of a 4.5 terabyte dataset, but it didn’t end there. Throughout the day, we saw example after example of customers and partners analyzing huge data sets on Qlik—and doing it seamlessly.
McDermott explained how at DPAA “We are tying together data that previously was in a stack of folders and files. We often have 50 terabytes of data that need to be evaluated around a specific recovery.”
Douglas shared how the Air Force Office of Small Business analyzes more than nine billion records in Qlik. We also saw how the Air Force Deputy Assistant Secretary manages their $40 billion acquisition portfolio in Qlik.
And we saw several demonstrations of Qlik used to rapidly explore trillions of dollars of federal spending data pulled from the Federal Procurement Data System.
In summary, it was an action-packed day full of inspiring customer stories. My blog wouldn’t be complete without my sincere thanks to our sponsors, without whom the event wouldn’t have been possible—Deloitte, Na Ali'i, Booz Allen Hamilton, Qlarion, Cloudera, Integrated Data Services, Grant Thornton, Alpha Six, Narrative Science and IntelliDyne.