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How Governments Are Using Analytics to Improve Service and Efficiency

How Governments Are Using Analytics to Improve Service and Efficiency

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Published by mstegen
Accenture’s ongoing research suggests that many top government agencies can be classed as high performers, on par with leading businesses. One trait common to these forward-looking organizations is a reliance on sophisticated analytics. This article explains how governments can use analytics to improve service and efficiency.
Accenture’s ongoing research suggests that many top government agencies can be classed as high performers, on par with leading businesses. One trait common to these forward-looking organizations is a reliance on sophisticated analytics. This article explains how governments can use analytics to improve service and efficiency.

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Published by: mstegen on Jun 08, 2009
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02/13/2011

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Knowing Beats Guessing
How Governments Are Using Analyticsto Improve Service and Efficiency
by Jeanne Harris, Accenture Institute for High Performance Business
In more and more tax jurisdictions worldwide,government agencies are starting to use advancedanalytics methods to answer such questions,improving their revenue collection systems whilepresenting a more helpful face to taxpayers.The analytics systems use advanced business-intelligence tools and easy-to-use “dashboards”to give agency managers the insights they needto make better and faster decisions about taxpayment compliance, appropriate taxation rates,resources for tax collection, and much else.Arizona’sDepartment of Revenue is a case in point.In 2003, the U.S. state was in crisis. After severalyears of seeing its revenues fall short of projections,Arizona faced more than a $1 billion shortfallat a time when state law required a balancedbudget. Moreover,explosive population growthof more than 3 percent per year was increasingdemand for the state’sgovernment to serve morepeople with programs ranging from educationto public safety.
Who’s underreporting their taxes? Who are the most promisingcandidates for an audit?
 
State revenue officials, committed to a“management by objectives” approach,turned to a data-driven “AccenturePublic Service Value Model” (PSV) to helpdefine and measure the Department’sperformance over time. The PSV analysisoffered an evidence-based way to betterunderstand how different policy andbudget choices might affect overallfulfillment of the DOR mission, and thusits value to citizens. The analytical modeldemonstrated explicitly how value tocitizens can change as a consequenceof shifts in policy and resource allocation,and it validated the actions taken by theArizona tax authorities to shrink the taxgap equitably while improving customerservice. Their actions gradually saw anincrease in tax revenues collected, alongwith a decline in the agency’s costsper taxpayer.Data-driven insights are proving increas-ingly valuable to the public sector wellbeyond tax collection. For many publicinformation offices, such as the U.S.Bureau of Labor Statistics, and forintelligence agencies, such as Britain’sMI5, data gathering and analysis is of course a core function. And clearly theintelligent use of data analysis andfact-based decision making is literallyalife-and-death matter in wartime.But sophisticated analytics—defined asthe extensive use of data, statistical andquantitative analysis, predictive models,and fact-based management to drivedecisions and actions—is rapidly gainingacceptance in areas as diverse as postalservices,public safety,and health andhuman services. In the U.K., for instance,police analysts have learned that wheninterpreted properly, the right data cantell them which juveniles are most likelyto become adult criminals—opening upopportunities for early intervention.Importantly, analytics is just as applicablein local and regional municipalities asit is at federal and national governmentlevels. In New York City, for example, offi-cials now have a comprehensive analyticssystem that will give them the insights theyneed to more quickly pinpoint problemsand provide higher levels of service to thecity’s notoriously demanding citizens.It is not an exaggeration to say that changeis sweeping through the public sector.Accenture’s ongoing research suggeststhat many top government agencies canbe classed as high performers—easily onapar with high-performance businessesin the commercial sector, such as Procter&Gamble and General Electric. Wehave found that those high-performanceagencies share a number of key attributeswith their corporate counterparts. Forexample, they are relentlessly focusedonoutcomes and are not misled bymeasures that are means rather thanends. They are highly efficient, continuallyrethinking their processes to improvethe delivery and maintenance of publicservices. They are exceptionally awareof changes in their environments and ableto translate insight into action quicklyand effectively. And they have a keenunderstanding of the value of analyticsto their overall effectiveness.
The case for better data
Several factors are coming togetherto accelerate the public sector’suseof analytics. First, government agencieshave access to significantly more datanot only from publicly available sourcessuch as the Internet, but also fromtheir own systems and those of otherorganizations. Many agencies are makinggreat strides in capturing clean, integrated,timely transaction data. The data iscoming from many more sources throughawider range of channels—from trafficcameras and under-highway sensorsto e-mails and mobile communicationshandsets. And it is proliferating atstaggering rates: According to onerecent survey, the volumes of data addedworldwide will increase more than sixfoldbetween 2006 and 2010.
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Analytics is rapidly gainingacceptance across the public sectorin areas as diverse as postalservices, public safety, and healthand human services.
 
1
“The Expanding Digital Universe: A Forecast of Worldwide Information Growth Through 2010,” IDC white paper,March 2007
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http://www.weallusematheveryday.com/tools/waumed/home.htm
How New Yorkers hold theircity accountable
New York’s famously hard-to-pleasecitizens can now see exactly what they’regetting for their city tax dollars: an onlineperformance measurement tool thatmakes the workings of governmenttransparent. Just as important, city officialsnow have advanced analytical toolsto run the Big Apple more effectively.Dubbed “The Mother of All AccountabilityTools," the Citywide Performance Reporting(CPR) system gives New Yorkers accessto constantly updated performance datafrom city agencies. Each year, the mayor'smanagement report makes performanceindicators public. Now the CPR system,launched in February 2008, is making 300of those indicators available online, plus anadditional 200 indicators that are integralto New Yorkers’ quality of life and thatwill be updated monthly.But New York City mayor MichaelBloomberg also sees the CPR as a crucialmanagement tool. Integrating performance-related statistics from 60 city organizations,the system is helping Bloomberg’s citymanagers make more intelligent decisionsby providing them with fast and flexibleaccess to information about citizens’demands and agency performance. Thesystem features four dashboards fromwhich users can access reports designedto address the city’s overall performancemanagement, customer service andservice delivery. The CPR comparescurrent performance to performanceduring the same time last year, providingashort-term performance trend or"snapshot" for use in real-time decisionmaking. It quickly highlights performancethat is trending in a negative direction,providing color-coded early warningfor areas that need attention.Through New York City's Web site, theCPR offers: graphical representation of performance, including pie charts to makeperformance trends easy to identify;drill-downs that allow users to reviewcomparative trends for up to a five-yearperiod; and monthly, quarterly or annualupdates of each critical measure, dependingon how often the statistic is produced.The system will be updated monthly withthe most current measurements availablefor each performance indicator.Built on Oracle business-intelligencesoftware, the CPR provides a standardizedreporting format across all agencies andall data types. It aggregates data acrossagencies into "city-wide themes" thatrepresent groups of related services suchas infrastructure, education or public safety.The system also provides easy downloadingto help users analyze and present systemdata. The CPR system is proving so effectivethat many of the city’sagencies are nowlooking for ways to apply the new BI toolsmore broadly.Next, New York City officials plan toexpand performance reporting capabilitieswith additional city-wide, agency andprogram-specific dashboards. They alsointend to integrate GIS analysis toolsto display service request informationon a map and increase the analyticsdata available to the public.In tandem, organizations have morecapable software and hardware to beable to capture, store, distribute andinterpret all this data. There is moreprocessing power on desktops as well asin data centers. And real-time businessintelligence (BI) software, in which auto-mated decisions are embedded in businessprocesses, is rapidly gaining ground.At the same time, demand is soaringfor better insights and more effectiveways of gathering and interpreting datain the service of better decision making.Demand is coming not only from a bat-tery of amply discussed external factors—the spread of terrorism, a greater needfor transparency in government affairs,higher expectations from Internet-savvycitizens, and so on—but also from a newgeneration of technology-literate anddata-literate executives who have grownup using Excel and basing more of theirdecisions on facts.Prime-time television gives an intriguingperspective on the widening influence of analytics today.The popular U.S. show“Numb3rs”—about a crime-fighting FBIagent and his brother,amath professor—is based on real FBI cases where theagency has brought in mathematiciansand statisticians to help solve crimes,fight terrorism, and so on. The show haseven led to a nationwide math educationinitiative headed by Texas Instrumentsand backed by CBS and the NationalCouncil of Teachers of Mathematics.
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