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What Do Data Analytics Have to Do With the Way You Play the Game?


I’m not an NBA fan, but a recent rant from former NBA MVP and current TNT talking head Charles Barkley certainly caught my attention. In discussing the Houston Rockets, Charles said, “They are awful defensively.” To which Inside the NBA host Ernie Johnson replied, “If you look at the metrics they are number five in the league defensively.”

Enter Sir Charles’ rant on analytics: “I’ve always believed analytics are crap . . . Analytics don’t work at all . . . Smart guys want to fit in [to the NBA], so they made up a term called ‘analytics.’ Analytics don’t work.”

Never mind the fact that the 2011 NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks had a “director of basketball analytics” coach on the bench during games, or that in 2013, all NBA teams were given access to big data collected by SportVU, “a camera system so technologically advanced that it has opened the door for Big Data to invade and shape the NBA.”

It’s obvious that Sir Charles has his head in the sand when it comes to understanding the implications of and advantages gained from integrating advanced statistics and analytics into every phase of the NBA game.

The question I began to ask myself is: Can the same be said of how government programs are run? With the technological capability of integrating advanced statistics and analytics into every facet of decision-making—from long-term, strategic direction to day-to-day decisions—are government program managers looking for ways to make more informed, and therefore better, decisions? Are they embracing government analytics?

Here are three ways government program managers are starting to embrace government analytics by incorporating advanced statistics into their decision-making:

Strategic Direction of R&D Programs

When developing the strategic direction of a research and development program it is a good idea to gather as much data as possible concerning current strengths and gaps in your specific field. Many program managers are using data and analytics to help determine these gaps and inform where resources will be best spent to meet stakeholder needs. I recommend building a data-based strategy. And even if you don’t have access to large data sets, you can still make better decisions with the data you do have.

Social Media Metrics

In order to track the popularity of actions, many program managers have started to turn to social media metrics to confirm whether programs are resonating with the public and stakeholders. With social media, though, it’s important to choose the right metrics for your program and purpose. The government has released the Federal Social Media Analytics Toolkit to help program managers evaluate their social media metrics.

Performance and Customer Satisfaction

Program managers have also been asked to measure their programs’ performance and customer satisfaction. The General Services Administration’s Digital Services Innovation Center purchased a Google Analytics solution to implement this measurement for all .gov websites. Another way to gather data on customer satisfaction is to interact with stakeholders online. Building an online platform for interactions provides a cost-effective way to interact with your program’s stakeholders, who may be dispersed across the country.

In what ways have you seen federal programs using analytics or advanced statistics to drive better decision-making?

Ryan Felts is a principal consultant with Corner Alliance.

(Image via BNMK0819/

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