As government agencies continue to leverage data better to fulfill their missions, bolstering cybersecurity has emerged as a top priority, closely followed by the need to attract and retain skilled data analysts.
These are the top findings in REI Systems’ most recent Government Analytics Survey, done in partnership with Jennifer Bachner, Director of the Center for Advanced Governmental Studies at Johns Hopkins University. This annual survey polls analytics professionals to gain a deeper understanding of the tools, resources, and methodologies proven successful in government.
The 2022 survey polled 192 respondents working at all levels of government and in government-adjacent organizations. Over 41% indicated that they work for the federal government, 26% for state or local government, and 21% as a contractor. Nearly half of the respondents boast over a decade of experience in government analytics.
As data grows more abundant, agencies are inundated with information. Nonetheless, they remain confident in the data they generate. Over 56% of respondents expressed a “great deal of confidence,” while nearly 35% reported having “some confidence” in the data generated by their agency.
Only 2.5% responded “no confidence.” Among those with no confidence, the reasons given included:
- Low-quality or missing data
- Inability to compile the correct data
- Non-integrated systems
- Inconsistent data entry
- Lack of visibility and transparency into the quality of data
Roughly 40% of respondents said data-driven insights have improved external and internal communications within their programs. Almost 20% indicated data-driven insights led to a significant enhancement in mission achievement by more than 5%. Similarly, another 20% said their organization’s performance was boosted by over 5% because of data-driven insights.
Nearly half of the respondents expressed concerns about the lack of sufficient resources allocated to analytics in their organizations.
AI and Emerging Tech
As artificial intelligence continues to rise in prominence and become more integrated into government operations, over 40% of those surveyed said AI, machine learning, and machine-developed analyses can drastically improve government analytics.
However, in adopting emerging technologies, most respondents pointed to limited knowledge among operational and decision-making leaders as a key obstacle.
When asked about their agency’s progress in implementing the executive order on improving the nation’s cybersecurity, particularly through emerging technologies, 40% said they’re working on infrastructure modernization and making headway on both short-term and long-term plans.
Almost 30% reported having implemented cybersecurity protocols, while close to 40% acknowledged using data analytics to bolster their cybersecurity through infrastructure modernization.
As debates surrounding AI ethics and governance continue, over half of the respondents expressed concern about the ethical use of this technology. When questioned about using AI-powered facial recognition technology for added login verification, 40% considered it a high privacy concern. Just over 30% viewed it as a high ethical concern.
Tapping Top Talent
Government has long struggled to compete with the private sector in attracting top talent, often unable to provide equivalent benefits. Fifty-five percent of respondents identified attracting and retaining highly skilled analytics staff as agencies’ most significant challenge.
Interestingly, the current landscape offers a unique opportunity for agencies to recruit skilled professionals from the private sector. As technology companies continue to downsize their workforce, agencies can augment their analytics capabilities by hiring top-tier talent now available.
Looking at the future, respondents plan to attract those with advanced data analytics skills by encouraging leadership to make data-driven decisions (35%); creating a cloud-based unified data and analytics platform (50%); and providing the latest technologies to analytics staff (25%).
Additionally, 20% expressed intent to build a centralized data and analytics organization that offers multiple career paths for data analysts and scientists.
Work from Anywhere
The work-from-anywhere movement has upped the need for data-driven methods to achieve goals and required improved infrastructure for remote analytical tasks.
When asked about remote work’s effect on analytics, over half of the respondents reported improved infrastructure for remote analytical tasks. The same number of respondents recognized a growing need for data to meet program goals.
Almost 30% noticed more involvement from agency leaders in data-driven decision-making, suggesting they understand the value of using data and analytics to address remote work challenges.
Keys to Analytics Success
Analytics can be transformative in helping agencies achieve their objectives faster and more efficiently.
The survey identified three crucial elements to that analytics success:
- Well-qualified analytics staff (23%)
- Clear and persuasive communication of results (20%)
- Centralized leadership of data management, data governance, and advanced analytics (15%)
Agencies can adopt multiple strategies to enhance the role of analytics in their decision-making. Respondents emphasized the importance of investing in workforce development and increasing awareness among leaders:
- Increase the number of qualified staff
- Find ways to attract skilled analysts
- Provide better training
- Cultivate better-informed leadership
The 2019 Government Analytics Survey noted staffing as a key obstacle and identified AI as an area of interest, but one where more talk than action was happening. Two years later, in 2021, the majority of survey respondents reported their organizations spend too little on analytics. They also said the key hurdle to adopting emerging technologies was the limited knowledge of leadership.
In this latest survey, agencies still face staffing challenges, limited AI adoption, and inadequate funding for analytics. Leadership still needs more awareness.
However, the 2022 survey shows a shift in priorities toward cybersecurity and remote infrastructure, mainly because of the impact of the pandemic.
Overall, the recent survey underscores the ongoing importance of data analytics in government operations and the need for agencies to address talent management and technology issues to fully leverage its potential.
Using these survey findings as guidance, agencies should prioritize their workforce development, fortify their cybersecurity defenses, and adopt best practices to manage their data. Doing so will lead to a more efficient, data-driven future — and ultimately, a more effective and efficient government.
Ramakrishnan (Ramki) Krishnamurthy is an Enterprise Artichect at REI Systems. To find out more about how REI Systems can advance your data & analytics practice contact us at email@example.com.