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Better data analytics needed to help control government spending: survey

Federal managers say business analytics may help them tighten up their operations by better identifying waste and inefficiencies. But most do not have the tools or management support to undertake more analytics-based approaches.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer on

Governments at all levels are being forced to deliver more services with less funding. At the federal level, managers and professionals in a new survey say employing business analytics may help them tighten up their operations by better identifying waste and inefficiencies. But most do not have the tools or management support to undertake more analytics-based approaches.

The survey of 150 Federal financial, operations, and performance managers and professionals finds that just 44% of respondents believe their agency has the necessary funding to accomplish its goals in fiscal 2012. The study was conducted by MeriTalk, a federal social networks, underwritten by SAS Institute Inc.

Formal plans to curb inefficiencies are few and far between, but that doesn't mean federal managers aren't sifting through and analyzing data on the costs and benefits their agencies provide. Almost half, 49%, say they conduct data analysis to monitor spending trends, and 47% conduct data analysis on operational costs to identify opportunities for increased efficiencies. And there is some collaboration taking place -- 45% report that they share best practices across departments.

However, most still conduct such analyses with relatively low-tech tools and approaches. A majority, 62%, still rely heavily on spreadsheets and manually compiled reports as analysis tools.

Few agencies are acting on other opportunities for smarter government. For example, the survey finds only 18% of respondents say they analyze their enterprise IT architecture for savings, 19% review asset management, 27% consider program overlap/duplication, and 27% mine acquisitions/sourcing for greater efficiency and cost reduction.

Much of these insights need to be developed at the project level. Thirty-six percent of respondents report that analyzing spending data by project would most help their agencies identify opportunities to improve efficiency. However, one-third of respondents also say that insufficient controls and insight into program performance hinder efficiency efforts. Another 27% say that management is not making oversight a priority.

Where data analytics are currently being applied in federal agencies:

1-Operational costs 47%
2-Management metrics
38%
3-Contract management 36%
4-Acquisition/sourcing 27%
4-Program overlap/duplication 27%
5-Asset management
19%
6-Enterprise IT architecture 18%
6-Governance processes 18%

Source: MeriTalk-SAS study: Taxing Times: The Federal Efficiency Opportunity

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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