Are agencies ready to make the most of big data?

Big data may be all the rage, but many federal agencies are ill-equipped to harness the opportunities that come with it.

MeriTalk’s new survey of 151 federal IT professionals reveals agencies have less than half of the storage, computing and manpower they would need to leverage big data. Only 60 percent said their agency is analyzing the data they collect, and less than half use their data to make strategic decisions.

IT professionals believe they can use big data to make their agency more efficient and enable leadership to make better decisions. When asked for the top three advantages to successfully managing big data, respondents listed boosting overall agency efficiency, enhancing speed and decision-making, and the ability to forecast. 

But who owns that data is less clear to federal IT professionals. Forty-two percent say the IT department owns the data; 28 percent say the department that generates the data; and 12 percent believe ownership belongs to the C-level. The remaining respondents said data is owned by data scientists (10 percent), data analysts (percent) and others (3 percent).

A full 90 percent saw challenges on the road to leveraging big data, including issues around storage capacity (40 percent), distribution and sharing (36 percent) and search and retrieval (35 percent). Respondents also indicated they have just 49 percent of data storage, 46 percent of computational power, and 44 percent of the personnel needed to handle big data in their agencies.

Despite these obstacles, agencies are moving ahead with efforts to leverage big data. Sixty-four percent say their agency’s data management system can be easily expanded, but it would take an average of 10 months to double their short- to medium-term capacity.

In addition, some agencies are working on ways to better manage and make decisions with big data. Top tactics include investing in IT infrastructure to optimize data storage (39 percent), training IT staff to manage/analyze big data (33 percent), and improving the security of stored data (31 percent).

 

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

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