Any information analytics system needs a customer

29 september 2016

Before going ahead with a nation-wide introduction of information analytics systems, state authorities need to achieve a critical mass of experience in successfully using them, believes Alexander Malakhov, Head of the Department for Information Technologies of the Analytical Center. Success stories about information analytics solutions recently implemented by state authorities were presented at a round table on the role and place of information analytics tools in the planning and making of management decisions.

“40% of managers believe their reports have all the information they need for making management solutions but only 20% of their reports agree with that assessment,” Mr. Malakhov said. In the public sector today, agencies that utilize information analytics systems are few and far between and on the whole state authorities tend to have too much inertia, the expert noted. In practice, civil service officers have learned to compile numerous reports in Excel, but once those get submitted up the chain of command their further use is rather problematic. In addition to simply collecting source data, it is important to learn how to work with the sources, data storage formats and data analysis and only after all those aspects are in place, they should move on to data visualization. Plus, it needs to be borne in mind that no information analytics system is going to run itself. You cannot just feed data into it, push a button and get instant results. The effectiveness of any information analytics solution depends on two factors: the quality of data and the professionalism of the analysts that analyze that data, Mr. Malakhov stressed.

The new tasks that information analytics systems are expected to perform are far more complex than simple extrapolation of the current trends into the future, believes Alexander Raikov, the Director General of the New Strategies Agencies. The expert believes that modern analytics tools must do more than simply analyze data and general reports. There are 3 issues that are important to decision makers: why are things happening this way? What would happen if we implement this measure or a set of measures? What should be done to achieve a specific ambitious goal? “Today, strategic planning documents contain 30-40% of indicators that people have in their heads but that are still absent from our databases. Thus, analytics go beyond the level of databases and the system for supporting the decision making process turns into a collective decision by a group of people,” Mr. Raikov said. And in his opinion, this trend is going to continue in the next 5-10 years.

The Federal Treasury presented a success story about using information analytics systems. The Treasury introduced a standardized system that helped them optimize and redistribute workload among all the territorial directorates based on real needs. The Treasury operates state-level information systems that deal with much more data than your ordinary ministry. Take the state purchases portal, for example; there are 350,000 customers registered in it; a million users have certificate; 100 related systems are connected; and so far, more than 250 terabytes of information have been collected. “All this information gets fed into the analytics system on a daily basis that has 20 pre-configured reports used primarily by regulators and controllers,” said Treasury representative Valery Tkachenko. - “There is plenty of demand for the system: every day the system gets some 1,000 requests for reports.” Technical problems, if any should arise, can be handled easily if all systems rely on the same regulations and reference information and if we ensure there is trust in the system. What is more important, in the expert’s opinion, is that the system should have users that analyze data on a daily basis and for whom the system is a tool they use constantly. “Without such customers, any information analytics system will just wither on the vine, and we have got plenty of examples of that, including among state information systems,” Mr. Tkachenko noted.

The round table on the role and place of information analytics tools in the planning and making of management decisions was held as part of the Best Research Tools contest and was broadcast online.