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GCN : April 2013
FOR MANY GOVERNMENT IT organizations, data analyt- ics is an area that s worth a little extra investment, even in tight budget times. In fact, the rise of cloud-based data analytics solutions make this an opportune time to explore analytics solutions even further. "Analytics" refers to a broad category of solutions, encom- passing business analytics, fraud analytics, identification of improper payments, threat evaluation, statistical model- ing, Web tra c review and much more. The main goal for many agencies is to use data analysis to drive their missions, meet mandates and improve citizen services and outcomes. Such solutions can cost hundreds of thousands of dol- lars to implement, yet the po- tential for fund recovery and improved business e ciency can make such investments very worthwhile. Analytics can help government organi- zations improve their overall performance, identify waste and even detect fraud. Agencies that can make a clear business case for an investment in analytics will find the funding required. But making the case could require conducting a detailed return on investment analysis and showing that the investment will pay for itself via fund re- covery or other valuable data insights. Such computations can be complex, so it s often worth bringing in a third party, such as a CPA firm, to help with the valuations and predictions. One way to expand an agency s use of analytics is to look to cloud-based services that allow an organization to load and review relevant data without making big internal infrastructure investments. For example, both IBM (via its Business Analytics in the Cloud o erings ) and the SAS Institute (via its OnDemand Solutions) o er a variety of business analytics and statistical analysis functions in a hosted environment. Both have try-before-you-buy op- portunities (with SAS o ering a way to upload your own data sets as part of the trial.) TRACK RECORD IN ANALYTICS SAS provides fraud detec- tion solutions to the Michigan Enterprise Fraud Detection System and the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. IBM provides solutions for optimizing audit case selection for the New York State Department of Tax and Revenue, and also provides predictive analytics software for North Carolina to help identify potentially fraudulent Medicaid pay- ments. In these cases, the so- lutions helped pay for them- selves through the money saved via fraud detection. Other companies also are providing e ective solutions. Nuix Inc. recently received a contract from The Transpor- tation Security Administra- tion to provide fast analysis of large data sets (over 1.5 terabytes per day in some circumstances) during the agency s investigations and electronic discovery opera- tions. The Homeland Secu- rity Department designated Google Analytics as the o - cial agency tool for Web inter- nal search data collection and tra c analysis, and it also set a metrics plan which guides employees to use the service and share the data with a central internal resource. IT service providers and systems integrators also are in a good position to o er data analytics as a service. Deloitte touts its group of Federal Business Analytics professionals who can help with such implementations, and CSC o ers hosted SAP in the Cloud solutions. But while solutions for data analytics are plentiful --- including both cloud-hosted and locally installed --- shak- ing loose the necessary fund- ing still remains a challenge. There are several drivers that can help spark CFO- and CIO-level interest in invest- ing in enterprisewide data analytics, and all are worth considering when evaluat- ing whether budgeted IT money should be directed to data analytics solutions. For example: • Big data analytics can help organizations be proactive vs. reactive. This is becom- ing increasingly important as data sources and available information skyrockets in most organizations. • Visual analytic tools have also made remarkable gains in recent years. Being able to show data in easy-to-under- stand charts and graphs helps boost the overall value of these solutions. RIGHT TOOLS FOR DATA SPRAWL • A greater volume of data is being collected every day by many government agencies. High-performance analytics provide a path for proactive management of big data. Government agencies need the right tools if they plan to address these sprawling resources. • Visual analytics, data visu- alization and democratiza- tion of IT all allow the users of analytic solutions to shift focus to the line of business --- understanding how key data points a ect day-to-day operations and how new demands are being placed on existing resources. For many government agencies today, the challenge remains in understanding what to do with internal information resources and how visual, predictive analyt- ics can improve government service delivery. Take a second look at new data ana- lytics solutions. Spending the time to evaluate how these investments can pay o is a worthwhile endeavor for any government IT shop. • --- Shawn McCarthy is research director for IDC Gov- ernment Insights. DATA ANALYTICS: A PERFECT INVESTMENT FOR TIGHT BUDGETS INTERNAUT BY SHAWN McCARTHY GCN APRIL 2013 • GCN.COM 19