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Federal Employees News Digest : Dec 2, 2013
find harmful pests when inspecting ship- ping containers. The VA has been using it in analytic tools to help meet the needs of their patients. This goes back a long way. So, data and data analytics are not just this cool, new thing---it's part of how you get your job done. That's another theme in the report---that there is now a temptation to start big data projects for prestige or because they're "cool," or some other angle on big data. Just how much of the government's use of big data is simply managers succumbing to big data temptation? Kamensky: I don't know if it's so much a growing "temptation," as it is that there is suddenly an awareness of big data among senior managers and a momentum to use it. It is being promoted by OMB, in their evidence-based decision-making memo that went out this last summer---and in the Office of Science and Technology with its advice, too, that data analytics are tools that are avail- able. Our report is a cautionary story advis- ing agencies: Don't just plunge in. Use these tools wisely. The report offers five lessons, using examples of programs that have been around for a while, documenting their [ups and downs] so when you get going on a big data project you don't just wind up with an unproductive flavor of the month. What are some of your favorite exam- ples---some which provide lessons that stick? Kamensky: The examples that struck me---and this I hadn't really understood before---show that long-term programs that survive over time aren't just the ones that have led to mission improvement. The sur- vivors are those that also demonstrated real return on investment---ROI. Ones where backers have shown managers actual savings realized by using an analytic approach. Can you offer an example at a given agency, from the report? Kamensky: A good example of that---and one in the report---is the USAID Famine Early Warning Systems Network and its data analytics. The program works, and [its users] were able to show positive ROI on it. Beyond the need to show ROI, any other crucial lessons from the report? Kamensky: There were five key lessons. So, first, there's the need to show ROI. Another lesson is it's important to give the data to employees, so they can combine and analyze it themselves. Let the users test drive the analytic tools, because interesting, useful things will come out. These are the people who really know the data, and know it intuitively, and they will lead you to places you wouldn't arrive otherwise. Another lesson noted in the report is that, in government, data analytics must get leadership to sustain it and employ- ees to buy into it, correct? Everything is about money---but to sustain even the most money-saving data project, you have to win hearts and minds, right? Kamensky: Yes---you need to find ways to engage your leaders with your "Aha!" results. And, again, to get that you really have to provide people on the front line with the data and some of the analytic tools---because they can tease some of the benefits out, and reveal them. Getting employees to buy in and leaders to support [a good data analytics program] really can make the difference. Teasing out useful, clear signals from obscure, complex data leads to another les- son: the need to use graphics and other simplified means to present the information to people---right? Kamensky: That's right---and it's yet another of the key lessons: You must give leaders information that is clear, concise and believable. Presentation is so impor- tant. The IBM Center a few months ago did a report on Data Visualization---pre- sentation---because we think that is such an important element in making good use of data analytics. These are just some of the lessons in the report. See the report at: http://ourpublicservice. org/OPS/publications/viewcontentdetails. php?id=233. ••• In Brief ‘Retirement parity’ legislation resurrected Three senators have reintroduced leg- islation that would eliminate the defined benefit portion of the Federal Employees Retirement System for new hires into the federal workforce. The lawmakers also sponsored the bill in the last Congress. The Public-Private Employee Retirement Parity Act, co-sponsored by Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), would end the annuities for new hires starting six months after enactment. The measures in the bill would not affect current federal employees. "Right now, federal government workers receive far more generous retirement ben- efits than private-sector employees," Burr said in a statement. "The cost to taxpayers of these benefits is unsustainable and we simply cannot afford it. We cannot ask tax- payers to continue to foot the bill for public employee benefits that are far more gener- ous than their own." The bill also would require the adminis- tration to post a report on the actuarial sta- tus of the federal retirement system online each January. See more at: www.burr.senate.gov/pub- lic/_files/PPERPOnePage.pdf. TSA union blasts current security policies The leader of the labor organization that represents Transportation Security Administration officers urged a reexamina- tion of security policies in the wake of reports that the TSA officer who was attacked and killed at Los Angeles International Airport earlier this month went unattended for a half hour after being shot. "I am appalled that Officer [Gerardo] Hernandez was left unattended for 33 min- utes after the brutal attack he suffered," American Federation of Government continued on page 12 December 2, 2013 Vol. 63, No. 20 6 Visit us on the Internet at www.FederalDaily.com continued from page 4
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