A government productivity revolution requires a government analytics revolution: Introducing The Government Analytics Handbook

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In the past decade, the data revolution has transformed productivity in the private sector. The management of private firms is increasingly informed by data—rather than only by gut and intuition. But what about the public sector? Governments make thousands of personnel management decisions, procure millions of goods and services, and execute billions of processes each day, many of which pass through financial management information systems and other electronic databases.  They are data rich. 

Yet, there are few examples of governments that systematically repurpose their administrative and survey data to assess how well they are functioning, where they are at their best, and where they are falling behind. It is rare to find a unit in government tasked with such analytics, and it is even rarer for a government to have a strategy for “government analytics.”

What if governments started using all the records and data at their disposal to make public administration more efficient? Recent studies suggest that the potential cost savings and productivity gains of government analytics are huge. And at times these cost savings arise from small tweaks in the management of personnel. One study, assessing the productivity of social security offices in Italy, suggests that merely reallocating managers could improve processing of social security claims by 7 percent. 

The Government Analytics Handbook is a blueprint for using data to measure and improve public administration. It lays out sources of data available to public sector managers to show how government works—and where it could work better. By using the Handbook, public sector managers—and any public officials interested in strengthening their public administration—can learn from the examples of public officials all over the world who have begun to harness the power of government analytics. 

Government analytics can help address a range of management challenges. For instance, are you purchasing goods and services in the most cost-effective way? Are your management practices effective at motivating your employees? How competitive is your salary offer with the private sector? Are you suffering from corruption in public expenditure? And are you delivering services that meet citizen expectations? Data can help you pinpoint what is working and what is not within your organization so you can make informed decisions that save money, improve employee motivation, and boost productivity.

 

 

The Government Analytics Handbook is structured to help readers quickly identify sources of data they already have access to, and it offers practical advice about repurposing these data for analytics, as well as examples of the many possible insights that can be generated: 

  • Part 1 of the Handbook offers a broad overview of government analytics. Read this if you are busy. 
  • Part 2 lays a foundation for government analytics by outlining cross-cutting themes, such as statistical tools and skills, holistic measurement approaches, and ethical principles that make government analytics effective. 
  • Part 3 dives into the many sources of administrative data available in government databases. It includes chapters on, among other data sources, human resources and payroll data, procurement data, case productivity data, and expenditure data, as well as the different questions they help answer about the wage bill, corruption, customs efficiency, cost-effective procurement, spending, and everything in between. 
  • Part 4 explains how to use data from public servant surveys to better understand how public sector organizations work and measure the quality of management. It also offers an overview of the latest research into how to design and implement these surveys as effectively as possible. 
  • Part 5 turns to external assessments—including household and citizen surveys, measures of service delivery, and anthropological studies—to show how these data sources offer a richer overall picture of government processes and outcomes. 

The Government Analytics Handbook comes with toolkits to help readers implement the analytics discussed. By using these tools, public officials and managers can start improving productivity right now, at low cost, by making use of the data they already have. The time for a data revolution in public administration has come. Do reach out to us with questions, if we can support you in this journey, or to document your successes.

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Authors

Christian Schuster

Professor in Public Management, University College London

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