The Business of Data-Driven Government, presented by Qlarion

How to Eat the Elephant: A Realistic Process for Becoming a Data Driven Organization

by Adam Roy, VP of Operations, Qlarion

Government came away from the Great Recession with one lesson that still rings true today: Do more with less. As this mantra has collided with Big Data and the advancements in processing power, cloud technology, and cheap storage, the ability for governments to use their data effectively has increased dramatically. However, turning data into better decisions is not a simple process.  For years, the tangled web of transactional systems, lack of cohesive procurement strategies, changing requirements, budgetary constraints, and political positioning has left a series of incompatible systems, unrelated business processes, and disparate data pools. These factors leave government leaders without a clear path to leveraging their assets and become data driven.

Arguably the most pressing question decision-makers are asking is, “How do we get started?” The answer is simple. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time, of course! The kick-off process is one that has to be taken one step at a time and planned out over several years, but the following steps are essential:


1. Start Small.

If you look at organizations that have taken on this challenge of becoming data-driven, they have started the long hard climb from a very specific starting point.  Take the City of Boston as an example. Their journey to becoming data-driven started with a goal: let’s be able to track our progress against our goals. To do this they implemented technology to enter their key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure progress against their goals across their several dozen departments. Next they began to operationalize their goals and roll out analytics solutions to support performance management, guide multi-department task forces, and drive policy and business process changes. These changes are continuing to spread, evolve, and mature across all facets of the city, but they started small and thought big.

2. Find an Effective Executive Sponsor.

Passionate executive sponsors understand the business needs, can drive the change to completion, and can ensure a sound, scalable technical solution. Their first action is to identify and develop a business case to quickly demonstrate the value of data-driven decisions. The business case should be tied to an expected and quantifiable return on investment.Should the organization not have the appropriate skills or technology for the project, they need to evaluate and select a low risk technical solution and services provider. The technology should be business oriented to enable and not frustrate the end users, and the implementer should be an experienced firm focused on bringing together technology and the business through analytics. Both should enable this initial, crucial business case to be implemented in a short time period and hold to the anticipated business value.

3. Market the Business Case to Key Players

The team has been created and the target acquired, but the business needs to support it. To garner this support, the case needs to be “marketed” to the key players the appropriate levels of the organization as the implementation starts moving forward. Good will and buy-in from the business an be created by the use of demonstrations of the technology and transparency in the short-term objectives and long-term vision as it relates to being a data driven enterprise. Part of this marketing should include participation in the process and building a broad understanding of the environment. As the initial project starts comes to a conclusion, not only should the sponsor be marketing it more around the enterprise but lining up the next, more substantial business case. Keeping focused on ROI is important and will continue to support the justification for additional investment dollars. It is also important that as part of their sponsorship they apply pressure on all of the right levels of the organization to use the data for evidence based decision-making so that the anticipated results can be realized.

Going forward, the focus is building the foundation for success. A multi-year roadmap with focus on the organization, technology, data, and business processes can serve as a vehicle to solidify that path forward while also guide the decisions and priorities of the organization transitioning to being data driven. Finally, it is important to start to line up that all important budgetary support.

adamr-e1314994970277Adam Roy leads the consulting services teams delivering Qlarion solutions to clients in the public sector. He has over 15 years of experience in management and information technology consulting, primarily in the federal government, retail, and real estate sectors. with organizations including Fannie Mae, the U.S. House of Representatives, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Prior to Qlarion, Adam was a consultant with CadenceQuest (from which Qlarion was spun off), Booz Allen and American Management Systems.He earned his undergraduate degree in Finance and Operations Management from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and his MBA from the Robert H. Smith Business School at the University of Maryland.