If there’s one class of enterprise whose IT folk should be focused on big data pretty much as a given, it’s the public sector.
Here’s why: evidence-based policy formation.
We’re all aware that the public sector is facing a squeeze. Governments in deficit need to return to balanced budgets, perhaps even return to retiring past debt (in Ontario, for instance, the “Ministry of Debt Servicing”, with its single program — pay interest on the province’s accumulated debt — is the third largest ministry by spending, and closing in fast on number two).
That means there’s little money or appetite for redirecting some for a massive project.
Yet, at the same time, it’s the public sector who’s best placed to have some early big data wins.
Municipally, there’s a constant debate about traffic flows and patterns. Should streets be one way, or two? Should a lane be taken away for bicycles, or not?
Instrument the roads involved with traffic counters, measure for a few months, implement the change, measure again.
Now you know what the effects are.
You may be asking yourself, “but what does this have to do with IT?”
As with BYOD, big data heralds a core transition in IT work. It becomes less about business processes and efficient operations (they still matter, but a lot of that work is done) and more about value generation.
You want to partner with your business colleagues in the enterprise, you need to bring ideas to their table. Ideas that don’t assert an outcome, but show how it can be tested relatively quickly and inexpensively.
IT gets to learn about the tools and techniques needed to do this repeatedly. The business area gets hard data they can slice and dice in many different ways to do their job.
In the public sector, that’s policy recommendations.
Imagine a City Council that could be taken through minute by minute ebbs and flows on a change, see waves of traffic move through streets.
Imagine seeing as well whether the usual fear — if I change this street, the next street over gets the overflow — is real or not.
For, with traffic, sometimes that is what happens — and sometimes the traffic just melts away. People find other ways to get around than driving a car.
IT’s contribution has simply been to be able to put facts on the table. The policy work happened where it should, in the business. But they can defend their recommendation, not with opinions from consultants, but with data.
Start small. Pick a target. Keep it cheap and simple. Build your expertise.
Delivering wins will help keep the dollars that are available flowing into IT, because you’ve shown you produce results with them. Isn’t that what you want?
Big data could be the public sector’s time to shine.