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Federal Employees News Digest : Oct. 29, 2012
Phil Piemonte, Managing Editor E-mail: email@example.com What's Inside44 OCTOBER 29, 2012 • VOL. 62, NO. 16 Data analysis leads to big savings, better outcomes A new report jointly authored by the Partnership for Public Service and the IBM Center for the Business of Government offers fresh evidence that the evolving science of data analysis is bringing government agencies big savings and improved outcomes. The report, entitled From Data to Decisions II, draws a road map for managers and employees to the successful use of data. It is based on inter- views with feds who have pioneered data-driven savings and improvements across a wide range of agencies---from the science-infused cultures of the National Institutes of Health and Food and Drug Administration, to the accounting-focused Internal Revenue Service, to the more blue-collar Transportation Security Administration. In these very different environments, skilled and committed federal employees have been busy using data gathering and analysis to both exceed mission goals and save money. Leadership is key "One common thread we found between both this report and our previous one on the same subject, is that you must get leadership buy-in to be successful in this area of data-driven decision making," John Kamensky, a senior fellow with the center, told FEND. "So, one main strategy to get leadership buy-in is to present leaders information [about data-driven successes] which they never would have gotten any other way---information that would surprise them or change the way that they think about a process." "Once they say, 'Wow, so that's the value of doing this!'---then they begin asking for more." Kamensky added that leaders must be inspired and believe in the process because they have to be involved enough to ask the right questions of the data---and encourage employees down the line to do the same. "What we see is that the whole advan- tage offered by the data is not the data itself---the data only raises questions, but it takes people to answer them. Different agencies, different data 'traditions' Around a dozen agencies' recent experienc- es with data analysis are detailed in the report. At an Oct. 17 PPS-hosted event, managers and leaders responsible for turning data analysis into breakthroughs shared those stories in person. Kamensky summarized for FEND what he and the report's co-authors learned from their research and the comments shared at the event. "There is wide variation across government, in terms of their maturity and use of data," Kamensky said. "In part that's because different agencies in government have varying traditions of using data at different rates." He told FEND that the lesson here is data experts must adapt to, and work with, these different capacities. Perhaps a more striking find is the role played by non-data experts in guiding agencies to find enormous savings through the use of analysis. "What's very interesting here was that each of the three speakers at our event, first, did not have long-term tenure at the organization and instead they brought in outside experience," Kamensky told FEND. "Second, none of them had strong technical data experience, but rather what they brought to the table was that they were more stra- tegic in their approaches." Data analysis brings big gains to agencies Indeed, Carlos Davila, a director of business management at FEMA, had done very little data crunching in the past. But, when tasked to a leadership role analyzing that agency's data, Davila used his unusual background as a Ph.D. historian and anthropologist to help him to see FEMA's problems differently---and to find some real les- sons buried in agency data. "When Davila first asked people at FEMA for their analysis of their work, they came back to him Future shock Regardless of who wins the 2012 election---or the next one, or the one after that--- Uncle Sam as you know him is likely to be a very different employer within a very few years. Politicians, as you may have noticed, change when they get elected, or when they move up to a higher office. That may be partially because they get access to information the rest of us don't get. They have the answers (at least sometimes) to questions we don't even know enough to ask. And they nearly always surprise the citi- zens who voted for or against them. And they often surprise some of the pressure groups---Wall Street, unions, corporate giants and consumer advo- cates---who may have helped get them elected. This is very true for the civil service. Democrat Jimmy Carter made civil service "reform" (I always put "reform" in quotes because one per- son's "reform" is another's disaster) a top legislative priority. It is one of his few major accomplishments, and you still live with it---for better or worse---three-plus decades later. Yet INSIGHT BY MIKE CAUSEY continued on page 2 For more news...see Federal Daily at www.FederalDaily.com • Federal pay sliding 3 • USPS pension surplus 3 • Legal Matters 5 • Informed investor 7 • In Brief 8 • Federal Benefits Q&A 8 continued on page 3
Oct. 22, 2012
Nov. 5, 2012