The Query: Insights on Breakthrough Government Performance

Using Data Analysis to Get Internal Buy-In … For Data Analysis

by Mike Donofrio, Senior Director of State and Local Solutions

It is well known by now that Virginia is facing a $1.5 billion shortfall over the next two years due to lower-than-expected tax collections. While the governor has already begun to discuss places to trim the current budget, the groundwork has also been laid for agencies to make strategic investments in data analytics to save money in both the short- and long-term. Making smart, targeted use of data analytics is one of the best ways for agencies to reduce costs in an uncertain budget environment. But what is the best way to determine what, specifically, to invest in?

Many agencies have access to large quantities of data that they feel are important, but don’t know specifically where to start.  The key to getting budget approval for data analytics project in a tough budget environment, is to focus on what leadership believes is important. Selecting a use case and data set within a top-priority is the key to earning the executive buy-in needed to get the data analytics project off the ground.

Business executives are looking for return on investment – especially when the idea may change the way things have been done for decades. Regardless of how much potential a project may have, the ROI is ultimately what decisions are based upon. And even if a project appears to have an obvious benefit – like, for example, the use of data acquired collectively by Richmond’s healthcare systems to detect and address opioid abuse – the specific ROI still reigns supreme.

Success of a data analytics project is largely determined by this buy-in and the business use case the project will target. But quite often, it’s the technical staff trying to convince the business how beneficial data analytics can be. The businesspeople making everyday business decisions – particularly the ones holding the keys to the purse strings – have to be on board from the early stages to really define the ROI.

Governor McAuliffe recently passed Executive Directive 7, which is a significant step toward increased data sharing, correlation and analysis among state agencies. Further, the Commonwealth has already built the contractual framework, through the Next Generation Analytics Contract, that enables agencies to start data analytics projects immediately. Selecting these targeted projects in close coordination with executives on the business-side to go after specific ROI will enable the Commonwealth to make targeted investment in data analytics that can have a significant impact on the budget shortfall, while simultaneously improving the services it provides to its citizens.

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