Executives around the world are realizing that we have entered a new era in decision making. Our ability to store, access, and analyze vast amounts of information has grown exponentially during the past decade. However, even as federal invest eight- and nine-figure sums to derive insight from information, less than 40% of employees have sufficiently mature processes and skills to do so. There is an good chance that, right now, someone in your organization is about to make a poor decision based on data that you have paid enormous amounts to gather and analyze. As federal agencies continue to amass vast quantities of data, the concern is that their ability to discern insight from data diminishes. Across the federal CIO and CFO community, we hear this common refrain.
To overcome this insight deficit, “big data,” no matter how comprehensive or well analyzed, needs to be complemented by “big judgment.” Big data and big analytics will dramatically amplify the effects of human decisions, sometimes to an unimaginable scale. This is great news if those decisions are timely, sound, and properly motivated—and potentially catastrophic if not.
ACTION STEP #1. TAKE OWNERSHIP OF YOUR INFORMATION
At the best agencies, leaders own the following pieces of the information value chain: the process of determining what data is necessary; what analyses they want to run; how they share that data across the agency, vendor and citizen information, and how they staff and fund the work necessary to derive insight from data.
Create incentives to drive cross-agency data standardization efforts. Functional groups and programs lack incentives to share data with others, either out of parochial attitudes or limited mechanisms to compensate first movers who build their data for reuse by others. Executives should create a strong governance process that cuts across the agency, including a way to reallocate funding to overcome the first-mover disadvantage.
ACTION STEP #2. MAKE INFORMATION USABLE
One-half of employees find information from internal sources to be in an unusable format. To overcome this challenge, the best agencies deploy a combination of improved information filtering, better visualization, and increased investment in training. They develop a deeper understanding of how, when, and why information is used, and they vary quality standards accordingly. Case in Point:
Don’t strive for perfect information. Only one-third of employees trust information from other functions in the organization (Figure 10). To overcome this distrust, leaders need to make transparent the information’s original source and how it has been manipulated over time. Clear guidelines that allow employees to assess the usefulness of information for themselves can lead to improved data quality. Simple tactics, such as color-coding data to indicate information quality or labeling missing fields, increases trust and often spurs action to close data gaps.
Contact us to share how your agency is using “big judgment” along with “big data.”