DigitalGov Summit Recap: Leveraging Open Analytics

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Seven million dollars is a big price tag. That is the amount Forbes predicts organizations will spend on analytics-related initiatives in 2015, according to a recent report.

While government agencies may not have big budgets for data analysis, we do have tons of data—survey data, usability data, campaign data—that should be leveraged to drive decisions. This idea was the subject of a panel discussion during the second annual DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit, held in May.

How can you bring all your data together to tell a story, drive decisions and make a change, asked Marina Fox, manager of the government-wide Digital Analytics Program and panel moderator.

Define Your Goals, Then Apply the Tools

The most important thing is to define your goals, or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and then develop a hypothesis and action plan, which can be informed by a suite of tools, said Sam Bronson, digital analytics manager at the Department of Health and Human Services.

These tools can also be used to find out at which points you’re “losing customers” in your agency’s website and how to make your site “stickier” to retain those customers, said David Cooper, psychologist and mobile applications lead at the National Center for Telehealth & Technology.

“Analytics affords us a way to gather data from the thousands visiting our site, and we can use that data to see how users are using our site,” Cooper explained.

Data Should Drive Decisions

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) used customer satisfaction data to launch a regular email newsletter recap that had an “amazing” response, said Anne Henderson, new media and web content manager at PBGC.

The satisfaction data showed that customers wanted more communication with the agency, so Henderson convinced her coworkers to combine disparate agency blogs and resources into one newsletter.

After sending out the first email newsletter, the agency’s Web traffic more than quadrupled that day, and the email itself had a 44% open rate.

Building a behavior flow is also important with mobile apps, Cooper said.

“You need to segment your audience and see how many of your users are using your app as intended,” he explained. “If they aren’t, find out if you need to add or subtract features.”

For one of the National Center for Telehealth & Technology’s apps, Cooper’s team looked at the number of people who installed the app (not just downloaded) and realized it wasn’t worth their effort to support it in the future.

Data Analysis Doesn’t Have to Cost A Lot

If you can get people to agree to collect data in a spreadsheet, you can make decisions, Bronson said.

Regression analysis can be done in a spreadsheet, added Fox. You don’t have to invest a huge amount of money. “We are all analysts these days, and making sure you leverage the data to make the experience of websites better for consumers is really our duty. It’s what we do,” Fox explained.

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