Big Data

USPS OIG vet: Analytics can make audits help, not hurt

Shutterstock image (by Laborant): clear magnifying glass, blurred binary code.

(Laborant / Shutterstock)

Big data and analytics can make an auditor's job easier and more effective. But the auditor must be prepared to face resistance from the organizations he or she scrutinizes -- and from within.

"Human beings are wired for survival," said Bryan Jones, former director of the U.S. Postal Service's Data Mining Group in the Office of Inspector General, at the Predictive Analytics World Government conference in Washington. "They're not wired for truth."

Jones, who is now director and program manager at Elder Research, reminded would-be innovators of the resistance they could face from people eager to hold onto outdated jobs.

USPS knows the technology/employment tension all too well, and Jones, who worked on USPS' Risk Assessment Data Repository, said he had encountered resistance from many job-protecting managers during his investigations.

But the impartiality of big-data analytics can make a numbers-based "truth" more readily apparent, he said, as long as agencies promote cultures that accept the numbers for the value they provide.

A single team, backed by a supportive executive, can start the pro-analytics culture shift at an agency, Jones added.

"The ultimate measure of success is when an investigator comes to us and says, 'Hey, when are you going to refresh the data in the model?'" he said. "Then I know we're successful because when you hear an investigator say something like that, you know that you've got the organizational shift, you know that you've got the culture going in the right direction, and you know the front line of the organization is buying into this."

Auditors at USPS, on the other hand, decided that an analytics-heavy, flexible audit model was worthy only after six months of disassembling and reassembling the model, Jones said.

Analytics improve audits because they can be "based on a real problem and not what I think might be going on."

Big data should also help audit reports carry more weight because "it doesn't matter how right you are" as an auditor if organizations don't implement your recommendations, Jones said.

About the Author

Zach Noble is a staff writer covering digital citizen services, workforce issues and a range of civilian federal agencies.

Before joining FCW in 2015, Noble served as assistant editor at the viral news site TheBlaze, where he wrote a mix of business, political and breaking news stories and managed weekend news coverage. He has also written for online and print publications including The Washington Free Beacon, The Santa Barbara News-Press, The Federalist and Washington Technology.

Noble is a graduate of Saint Vincent College, where he studied English, economics and mathematics.

Click here for previous articles by Noble, or connect with him on Twitter: @thezachnoble.


Featured

  • Telecommunications
    Stock photo ID: 658810513 By asharkyu

    GSA extends EIS deadline to 2023

    Agencies are getting up to three more years on existing telecom contracts before having to shift to the $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions vehicle.

  • Workforce
    Shutterstock image ID: 569172169 By Zenzen

    OMB looks to retrain feds to fill cyber needs

    The federal government is taking steps to fill high-demand, skills-gap positions in tech by retraining employees already working within agencies without a cyber or IT background.

  • Acquisition
    GSA Headquarters (Photo by Rena Schild/Shutterstock)

    GSA to consolidate multiple award schedules

    The General Services Administration plans to consolidate dozens of its buying schedules across product areas including IT and services to reduce duplication.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.