In the past two years, state and local government (SLG) leaders have improved their means to produce meaningful data analytics, but they still find themselves struggling to accomplish this as the amount of data collected increases at an exponential rate, according to a new report from MeriTalk.

MeriTalk surveyed 75 IT decision-makers and 75 program managers from SLG organizations to understand how organizations are utilizing data analytics and what they need for eff­ective, data-driven governments.

Most respondents – 90 percent – said they have improved their use of data analytics over the past two years, and it remains a top priority for their organization. Given the heightened awareness of the mountains of data collected and emphasis on the importance of a data-driven government, this is not surprising.

However, despite all the improvements SLG organizations have made in data management, only 36 percent of respondents graded their organization’s use of analytics to create meaningful information an “A.” While about 80 percent admitted to struggling in meaningful data analytics due to the growing gap between the amount of data their organization collects and uses for meaningful analytics.

The Growing Analytics Gap 

The growing data makes meaningful analysis difficult for SLG leaders; 78 percent felt they simply could not keep up.

But as the flood of data increases, according to the report, organizations must advance data analytics maturity models; currently, 63 percent remain in the early to mid-stages. In a modern government, data analytics is the lifeblood, and an effective government cannot be on life support; therefore, the report found “it is imperative to progress from information collection to optimization.”

According to respondents, their organizations need the following to continue improving data analytics maturity:

  • 43 percent need improved workforce training;
  • 41 percent need improved data management;
  • 41 percent need increased funding;
  • 37 percent need improved data access;
  • and 35 percent need modern infrastructure.

Additionally, respondents – 41 percent – also identified the lack of staffing and workforce expertise as challenging in dealing with the growing analytics gap. According to the report, amplifying education and automation can help close the gap. SLG leaders must identify a potential group of data management and analytic experts, invest in training opportunities, and increase automation to take pressure off an already overworked department.

“Leading organizations use resources wisely – both technology and human capital – to maximize data value,” the report noted.

Leadership Matters: CDOs are Changing the Game 

The chief data officer (CDO) position is proving to be a game-changer at all levels of government. A strong CDO “can help organizations forge a data-first mentality, secure essential buy-in from non-IT leadership, and make data management the priority it needs to be,” the report noted.

About 74 percent of respondents said their organization has a CDO, with the majority adding the position in the last two years. SLG organizations with a CDO are twice as likely as those without to make data management a priority. In fact, the longer an organization has a CDO, the more likely they are to grade their use of data to create meaningful information an “A.”

Moving Forward

Moving forward, SLG organizations have begun to prioritize various data goals to close the growing analytics gap. About 34 percent have prioritized increasing automation for advanced analytics. Those who grade their data analytics an “A” are significantly more likely to be prioritizing automation – 50 percent to 25 percent.

Additionally, the widening gap between the amount of data SLG organizations collect and the amount they can use for meaningful analytics indicates that data collection does not equal data interpretation. About 51 percent of respondents have prioritized improving their understanding of their data and continue to collect.

Other areas of prioritization include:

  • improved data security;
  • increased data quality;
  • expanded data access;
  • and enhanced transparency with citizen data collection or use.

Read the full report to learn more.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk State and Local Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.