How to Get Past the ‘Big Data’ Hype


Agencies can avoid succumbing to the hype surrounding “big data” by tying analysis of performance information to mission-critical goals and giving rank-and-file employees access to numbers, according to a new report from a nonprofit and a consultancy.

“Today’s analytics projects often are driven top-down by program managers or agency leaders seeking to comply with administration mandates, husband their resources and take advantage of new technology,” the Partnership for Public Service and IBM Center for the Business of Government stated. “The lesson from grass-roots- driven older projects is that managers should not overlook the payoff that comes from enabling employees to see and use data organized for their needs.”

The report -- part of a series -- profiled the Veterans Health Administration’s analytics work on assessing care needs, such as the likelihood of hospitalization; the Defense Department's efforts in biometrics for identity protection; the Agriculture Department Animal Plant Health Inspection Service’s work with the Homeland Security Department on shipping containers and the risk of pest infestation; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s efforts at detecting food-borne illnesses; and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s bid to predict coming needs for emergency aid in weather disasters or famines.

Agencies should draw five lessons from the study, the authors wrote:

  • Collaborate with other agencies to collect data and share analytics expertise;
  • Develop data to determine return on investment for analytics programs;
  • Give agency leaders clear, concise analysis and proof of adoption, and results they can use to support data-driven programs;
  • Encourage data use and spark insights by enabling employees to easily see, combine and analyze it; and
  • Make sure leaders and managers demand and use data and provide employees with targeted on-the-job training.

(Image via Genialbaron/

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.