The volume of data available to public sector organisations to allow them to manage more efficiently is growing rapidly. The problem is that the expanding mass of data can lead to a decline in control. Brian Gentile explains how business information systems can dispel this information fog and provide a basis for better decisions.
One path leads to the current situation – masses of data and little control. The other leads to the effective use of BI tools, which will finally harness this data and assist in making astute financial decisions ensuring the delivery of better public services.
Every day, public sector organisations need to access and make sense of mountains of data, spread across disparate agencies. IDC estimates that the digital universe has surpassed 1.2M petabytes and is expected to grow 44 times by 2020. This geometric rise in dataflow has created an increasing need for the deployment of business intelligence systems, to ensure a smooth exchange of information between agencies and facilitate well- educated decisions. Consequently, Gartner has forecast that the global business intelligence market will grow 9.7 per cent in 2011, to reach US$10.8 billion. With such huge swathes of data to manage, now is the time for public sector organisations to finally get to grips with it. I’ve listed my top five reasons why business intelligence should be on the mind of every government leader today.
Delivering rich and diverse functionality
Modern BI solutions offer rich functionality, ranging from reporting and integrated analysis through dashboards and mash-ups to advanced analysis and data integration. These functions give government bodies insights for improved decision-making in every project area, from Human Resource Management to budgeting, CRM, success management and welfare projects. With reportedly fewer than 20% of those in an organisation using BI tools to help make better, fact-based decisions, there is much room for improved use of lower-cost, highly-scalable, easy-to-use BI tools in government.
Optimising business processes
Governments protect public interests, regulate public affairs and act as treasurers of public funds. However, public spending is always tied into political processes. BI tools can create direct process efficiency gains by helping to identify the portions of any process where time and steps can be reduced or removed, enabling huge tax savings and reductions in charges. In a sense, without business intelligence, process improvement is largely left to chance.
Improving intra-governmental information flow
BI is an invaluable tool to support information-centric government services. An end-to-end BI suite can support communication within and between government bodies, as well as with the general public. Particularly for intra-governmental communication, users need a powerful platform with in-depth reporting and analysis functionality, along with robust security capabilities. Architecturally, open source BI tools can be deployed more effectively than aged, proprietary tools in modern environments, such as SaaS, Cloud, and virtualized deployments, enabling more efficient use and wider-spread adoption (through lower cost). The resulting wider use drives improved information flow among those who should genuinely collaborate to make fact-based decisions. Further, BI solutions with user-friendly interfaces and a high degree of scalability can be quickly integrated into existing process landscapes. Benefits include increased operational efficiency, greater transparency, premium customer service and the ability to securely deliver information to all stakeholders.
Enabling complete transparency
Governments are accountable to the public. And the public expects complete transparency in political decisions. BI tools raise the bar for transparency by allowing data to be easily accessed, viewed, managed and even traced back to the source, in the case where the data has been moved or transformed. Accuracy and security compliance are equally high on the public agenda. BI applications increase precision in data collection, analysis and communication processes. This also helps to protect confidential information, such as medical, legal, or tax details. Ultimately, BI tools should allow the wider use of valuable views into data, enabling more transparent information to emerge.
Open-source saves costs and eases integration
Open-source BI solutions are not only more cost-efficient than proprietary applications, but also easier to integrate into existing landscapes thanks to their open architecture and standards. This gives government organizations, departments and employees the data visibility they need to work efficiently. Properly done, open source developer communities are actively and continuously advancing BI products to ensure a healthy BI ecosystem. In this sense, government organizations can gain directly from the primary advantages of open source software: participation, collaboration and transparency. As importantly, choosing open source software allows tax revenues to be used more judiciously, in many cases saving government organizations up to 80% versus proprietary software.
With many public sector organisations struggling to make cuts, following the Comprehensive Spending Review, it is essential for them to get an overview of their data, to see where changes can be made. At a time of financial uncertainty, open source business intelligence can be the perfect solution, being not only more cost-efficient than proprietary applications, but also easier to integrate into existing applications and technology landscapes. This technology will improve processes and enable public bodies to make up-to-datefact-based decisions.
The public sector is currently at a fork in the road. One path leads to the current situation – masses of data and little control. The other leads to the effective use of BI tools, which will finally harness this data and assist in making astute financial decisions ensuring the delivery of better public services.
Brian Gentile is President & CEO, Jaspersoft