Tom O

OPINION

How to target the government's big data sweet spot

As we begin fiscal 2016, big data and analytics tools have great potential for federal agencies – and offer opportunities for technology companies with analytics and business intelligence tools.

To take advantage of the big data and analytics market, remember that agency decision makers want to hear about interoperability between legacy systems and newer programs. Enabling data exchange and workflows between old and new is a key message.

Because government struggles with data “cleanliness,” you’ll also want to talk about proper tagging and tiering of data. If you can help the government avoid what can be a time-consuming and costly data cleanup, you’ll earn high marks from federal program managers.

Here are three ways the federal government is now using – or plans to use – big data and analytics:

Cyber Analytics

Cybersecurity analytics is an example of where unstructured data analysis is already quite advanced. These analytics are in high demand and government will look for tools such as network mapping and analysis, as well as products that help identify threats before they can do significant damage to systems.

Another area of interest for cybersecurity professionals in government is the identification of insider threats. This topic is relevant to all agencies – particularly those with a national security focus such as the Defense, Homeland Security and Justice departments.

Cybersecurity analytics tools have been incorporated into programs like the National Cybersecurity and Protection System – of which the newest iteration is Einstein 3A. Despite all of the challenges remaining for the program, Einstein 3A has done an excellent job mitigating the number of threats directed against VA networks.

The program is only projected to improve its detection capability as more agencies sign on and a larger library of threat signatures is developed.

Healthcare Analytics

The Quality program at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is a great place to start understanding data management and analytics needs in the federal health community. There are some overt demands for data analytics tools in the program requirements.

 

Another fantastic opportunity is the CMS Healthcare Quality End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) Systems investment, which will need to integrate health care-related data sets to address the most effective courses of treatment and the development of applications that promote more efficient programmatic operations.

The Department of Veterans Affairs also has opportunities in the form of larger umbrella investments, so defining opportunities can be challenging. The Medical 21st Century Development Core and Interagency 21st Century Core investments have significant funding for clinical decision support for the next iteration of the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA) health record system.

And expect the VA to have significant interest in the next developing area of analytics technology: citizen engagement.

Citizen Engagement

An emerging area of interest for government, citizen engagement supports traditional methods of engagement (like phone calls into help desks), and it facilitates social media data mining. Government agencies that engage extensively with the public – such as the IRS, CMS, Social Security Administration, VA, or FEMA – should be targets for solutions that help manage the engagement with citizens and improve communications between government and the American citizen.

Unfortunately, the money for these opportunities doesn’t always fall within IT budgets, but instead, into public affairs or communications budgets, so you’ll need to cast a wide net. Of course, you’ll still have opportunities to sell solutions into more traditional IT organizations – particularly if you can help protect agencies’ social media pages from being hacked by malicious entities.

Another area of interest, particularly for DOD, will be in the realm of social media sanitization, ensuring that servicemen and women who are about to be deployed don’t reveal where they may be sent in the near future. Analytics that measure the citizen experience are going to be among the next frontiers in analytics, and agencies will demand these tools over the coming years.

Big data opportunities aren’t always apparent on the surface, and you’ll need to read between the lines in program requirements to identify where big data technologies can assist government end-users. Few programs or programmatic requirements explicitly spell out demands for analytics tools, but the above opportunities outlined should lead you to programs and initiatives that you should look towards to identify sales opportunities for your big data and analytics solutions.

About the Author

Tom O’Keefe is a consultant with immixGroup, an Arrow company, which helps technology companies do business with the government. Tom focuses on civilian agencies, as well as public sector enterprise mobility. He can be reached at Tomas_Okeefe@immixgroup.com, or connect with him on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/tmokeefe.

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