Overcoming Barriers to Effective Advanced Analytics in Government

Jun 15
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Government agencies are rightfully expected to set standards in complying with legal frameworks, responsibly manage budgets and deliver outcomes in line with the highest standards of transparency and accountability. In this environment, a data scientist advising that something may or may not be possible is not the degree of certainty government usually requires. 

The emergence of advanced analytics has enabled organisations to more effectively achieve corporate goals by leveraging information previously hidden in data held by them or accessible to them. A failure to effectively employ analytics places an organisation at a competitive disadvantage and may result in inefficient operations, an inability to detect fraud and other malpractice or simply a failure to understand the business environment in which an organisation operates.

All government agencies have limited resources (funding, tools, people) and need to prioritise the use of these. The appropriate use of advanced analytics is able to act as a multiplier that enables existing resources to be more productive. This is usually achieved by providing a clearer picture of how an organisation is performing and about current and emerging environmental issues affecting operations and policy settings.

The legal environment governing the use of information and data may present technical and legal challenges. These are not unique to analytics although dated guidelines need to be addressed to overcome technical barriers to Big Data analytics. Legal, budget and recruitment issues are common to a range of activities. I intend to focus on key issues that underpin the ability of government to effectively deploy and develop advanced analytics. Some of these are:

  • Establishing and maintaining an organisational culture that values and promotes analytics.
  • The development of effective teams.
  • Encouraging and enabling innovation by:
    • accepting failure as success;
    • promoting freedom to think; and
    • identifying and empowering high-level champions.
  • Providing access to platforms, data and tools.
  • Developing and retaining analytics professionals within the agency.

Analytics can provide a positive and ‘disruptive’ influence for government by promoting and underwriting positive change. It is important to realise, however, that such change needs to be enabled.

And let it be noted that there is no more delicate matter to take in hand, nor
more dangerous to conduct, nor more doubtful in its success, than to set up
as a leader in the introduction of changes. For he who innovates will have
for his enemies all those who are well off under the existing order of things,
and only the lukewarm supporters in those who might be better off under
the new. This lukewarm temper arises partly from the fear of adversaries
who have the laws on their side and partly from the incredulity of mankind,
who will never admit the merit of anything new, until they have seen it proved
by the event.    – 
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince 

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Submitted by Klaus Felsche

Klaus Felsche

Klaus Felsche is Director of Analytics & Innovation at the Department of Immigration & Border Protection. On joining the department in 2001 he became the project lead for implementing the Internet Electronic Travel Authority – the world’s first on-line visa processing system and was subsequently posted to Indonesia for over three years where he served as the principal integrity officer. He returned in late 2005 and took on the role of establishing the department’s Immigration Networks role, managing the global immigration compliance network and a new immigration intelligence IT system. He became the department’s first Analytics officer in 2008, charged with building up this capability to enhance the government’s capability to more accurately identify visa, citizenship and traveller risks. His current role is building analytics capability in support of innovation.

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