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Will agencies get the full value of their information?

Shutterstock image: digital record management. 

As government information assets become increasingly digitized, agencies expect that information professionals will have or develop the skill sets necessary to meet this increased scope of information management responsibility.

However, survey results show that although federal information professionals may have a firm high-level understanding of their future job requirements, there is a growing gap between those expectations and current proficiencies. This gap might only widen with the changing focus of a new administration and potential turnover of seasoned information managers.

The next-gen info pro

The survey's results indicate federal information management capabilities are becoming outpaced by the rising tide of emerging technology. Of particular interest are skills related to analytics technology, which has been trending upwards in the government for years now.

And make no mistake, information professionals are well aware of this fact. Survey respondents listed analytics and predictive analytics among the top information management capabilities in the coming years.

While these responses show that the federal government has correctly identified the rising value of analytics technology, other responses indicate that troublesome gaps may also be on the rise.

Skills gaps

Although survey respondentscited analytics as one of the leading future capabilities,  only 42 percent of survey respondents listed it as a desired information management skill set. This is even more evident when respondents were asked about their biggest areas for improvement.

More than one in five respondents pointed to analytics as a leading opportunity for improvement at their agency, placing it alongside information security, electronic records management and overall records and information management practices.

However, respondents failed to prioritize the components of a complete analytics platform. They ranked taxonomy and metadata management towards the bottom half of in-demand technical skills. This is problematic, as taxonomy and metadata management are core components of analytics, and a lack of expertise or focus in these areas leads to diminished capabilities.

Age  gaps

In addition to a potential skills gaps, the survey also highlighted scalability gaps created by an aging federal workforce. While the older half of the workforce was more likely to prioritize information security, the younger half pointed to data quality management as the most in-demand capability.

These contrasting priorities pose difficulties, given the aging federal workforce and agencies’ struggle to attract young talent. Although agency employees may not be ranking analytics technology as a top priority, it is a fundamental requirement for meeting digital government objectives. As such, agencies must do everything they can to bolster their analytics and information management talent.

Addressing the issue

With analytics serving as the catalyst for the future of information management, how can agencies address the widening skills gaps? First, they must meet the demand for these skill sets by providing specialized training and fostering professional development. Also, ensuring that staff is properly trained on how to use the variety of analytics solutions in government environments is critical.

Agencies should also harness the knowledge and skills of all employees. Sometimes this means leveraging the skill sets of younger staff members who might be more proficient with analytics.  Individuals who have taken classes or been trained in analytics can be an important asset moving forward, helping agencies to fill the government skills gap.

Realigning priorities

As the government continues to adopt analytics technology, it is vital that agencies invest in the talent and knowledge necessary to enable those efforts. Addressing the skills gaps is the first step in getting ahead of future information management requirements. Doing so will allow the government to unlock the full potential of analytics by boosting faster decision making, driving cost savings, creating program efficiencies and unleashing the potential of agency information.

About the Author

Tyler Morris is director of product management at Iron Mountain Government Services.

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