Big Data OverviewLeveraging big data to optimize and streamline business func-tions has been one of the leading technology trends in govern-ment throughout 2012. In this Industry Perspective, GovLoopand Oracle have collaborated to explore the current state ofbig data and share best practices with the government com-munity.Throughout this report, Peter Doolan, Group Vice Presidentand Chief Technologist, Oracle Public Sector and Izzy Sob-kowski, CIO, NYC’s Health and Human Services, share theirperspectives and insights on how big data is impacting govern-ment. Izzy also shares his experiences about how the Healthand Human Services Department of New York City has man-aged vast amounts of data to improve efficiency and productiv-ity within the City.PETER DOOLAN IZZY SOBKOWSKIGroup Vice President CIOChief Technologist NYC Health and HumanOracle Public Sector Services
Big Data i n p ract i ceFor centuries, government or- zens. For instance, a government has an interesting program calledganizations have been collecting agency that provides permits on- BioSense 2.0. A press releasedata from a variety of sources, and line can track dozens of statistics from the White House describesusing the collected data to inform about visitors. The agency can see the program as, “BioSense 2.0 istheir decision-making. With the how customers arrive, page views, the first system to take into ac-boom in non-traditional forms of collect comments, exit paths and count the feasibility of regionaldata such as social media, video, nearly any type of interaction on and national coordination fordigital photographs and email, the website. Armed with this kind public health situation awarenessgovernment agencies are now of knowledge and a long history through an interoperable networkchallenged how to best collect, of user behavior, organizations can of systems, built on existing statemanage, and drive decisions from have a full view of the customer. and local capabilities.” The CDCdata. Today, government leaders This information can then be used is leading the charge in sharingare increasingly exploring innova- to improve services for the end health information between state,tive ways to use big data to glean user, driving improved productivity local and federal government toinsights to improve efficiency and efficiency for the agency. help distribute information andwithin their agency. resources to protect citizens’ At the federal level, the White health and improve their standardFurther, as more kinds of data on House has encouraged agencies of living. This is just one of manythe web become transactional, to explore big data programs and exciting big data initiatives occur-government agencies are pressed use technology to help enable ring at the federal level.to develop a multidimensional improved services. The Center forview of their customers and citi- Disease Control and Prevention
“Although there are dozens ofexciting big data initiatives occur-ring in government, it is impor-tant to remember that govern-ment has been collecting data for We now have a larger ability, which meancenturies and big data is part of disciplinary is important. These are intendan evolution of how governmentuses data. Izzy Sobkowski states, It’s not just big data but it’s big“I think big data as a concept hasbeen around for a long time. Weused to capture things in files,and then we went to databases machine sensors, and also from Often, agencies cannot performand different types of databases. consumers through social media, an analysis of the data at theThis is just an evolutionary phase, social networks.” rate data is generated. The finalrecognizing the fact that we have “V,” Value, describes that witha vast amount of data and are As Peter and Izzy have both iden- so much data available, differentlearning new methods of captur- tified, big data is an evolution of techniques and strategies needing, storing and retrieving data.” technology, and with advance- to be used to elicit the right in-As more big data initiatives are ments to technology, agencies formation for agencies. can begin to leverage and find value in the vast amounts of data Izzy builds on the “four V’s” while that they traditionally collect.The providing his definition and in- hope is that in the end, through sights of big data. Izzy states, “The improved technology, govern- ability to capture data in some ment agencies can improve the meaningful way, to be able to re- kinds of services they are provid- trieve it and to act upon it.” The ing to their core constituents and ability to act and derive value stakeholders. from data is one important func- tion of big data. Big data has been described in a variety of different ways, and Izzy also mentioned that big data there still remains some ambigu- encompasses all kinds of differ-starting to develop throughout ity about how big data is defined. ent data forms, but the importantgovernment, Peter Doolan re- Peter stated that big data can be element is how the different dataminds us that the way data is being described using the four v’s, “Theused is different than from how industry is coalescing around thedata has been traditionally used four V’s of Volume, Variety, Veloc-by government. Peter reminds us, ity, and Value,” Peter stated.“There is clearly something hap-pening in the data business that The first “V,” Volume, describesis different from what has hap- the mass amounts of data col-pened before.” With emerging lected by agencies, sometimestechnology, more kinds of data terabytes or petabytes of data.are being collected, stored and The second “V,” Variety, iden-managed. Peter asserts, “This [big tifies the multiple sources ofdata] is new, and there’s some- data created, this includes non-thing driving big data programs. traditional data sources like im-And the something that is driv- ages, video and audio. The next interacts and then how govern-ing it of course are things such “V,” Velocity, shows the shift in ment can use data to drive in-as machine data, coming from the rate at which data is created. formed decision-making.
ns that the ability or the need to go inter-ded to be large projects tackling big ideas. “ ing big data initiatives in New York City. One of the first les- sons learned from NYC is hav- ing a clear scope for the big data initiative. In New York, Izzy and his team had a concrete problem they were attempting to solve. g ideas, big concepts, big need. Izzy states, “The problem that we are trying to solve is to under- stand the citizen from a 360-de- gree holistic view.” is often the ability to speak the One common challenge with business language. Peter contin- In order to have a 360-degree big data initiatives is learning ues to express the importance of view of the citizen, Izzy identi- what skills are needed within the strong communication skills for fied the importance of working agency. According to Peter and across departments in NYC. Izzy Izzy the three core skills need- stated, “Being able to go across ed are communication skills, a our silos, across our agencies and background in statistics and an understand the citizen as best as understanding of IT and how IT we possibly can, to see what ser- systems can interact. vices can be applied and have the best possible outcome, that was Izzy stated, “We now have a larg- the goal.” er ability, which means that the ability or the need to go inter- One of the benefits Izzy has seen disciplinary is important. These from big data programs in New are intended to be large proj- York City is a decrease in costs; ects tackling big ideas. It’s not an employee, “Regardless of the Izzy attributes the cost savings to just big data but it’s big ideas, big person or those individual skills, collaboration across silos. “Our concepts, big need.” As big data they have to be able to speak the costs are lower. The citizen gets programs typically work to tackle business.” better services and we have bet- big ideas, it will be important that ter outcomes on both sides. And big data staff can work across Peter continues, “I have seen so the way that you do that is by government and focus on being many projects fail, not because crossing agencies,” states Izzy. knowledgeable in multiple disci- of technology, the project failed plines. because of the inability for IT Working in health and human professionals to explain and services, Izzy operates in a tightly In order to truly leverage big communicate their capabilities regulated environment. Izzy men- data, agencies need to be able to the business side, and for the tioned that on staff he has a full to recruit employees who can business to communicate back time attorney to ensure that collaborate across the agency. A to the IT side, stating their needs any kind of data exchanged be- complementary skill for those and requirements to have a tan- tween agencies is legal. He also collaborating across the agency gible impact on the outcome.” mentioned that the data is “rule is to be a talented communicator. Like with any project, identifying based.” “The data is rule-based. Peter states, “You need an IT per- a shared problem, and working Even though I may be able to see son who can speak the language towards a common vision is criti- a piece of information under a of the business.” Peter is clear cal for big data programs. certain circumstance, I am pro- to identify that there are doz- hibited from seeing that same ens of talented people with an IT Izzy provided some great insights information under a different cir- background, but a differentiator about his experiences operat- cumstance,” stated Izzy. This pro-
cess has led to Izzy being able to from a 360 degree perspective. collaborate with peers. Althoughshare data across agencies, which big data has a unique set of chal-has been critical to using health Izzy also added the importance lenges for government, big datadata in New York City. “In a very of the legal framework the City is part of the solution to solv-highly regulated environment, of New York has developed, “In- ing some of governments mostwe’ve found ways to operate in novation comes in a lot of differ- complex issues. As more data isthat environment and operate ent ways and the technical inno- collected, and technology is de-appropriately for the best out- vation could never have occurred veloped to improve how data iscome of the citizen,” commented without the legal framework to managed, agencies will be ableIzzy. ensure privacy and security.” As to unlock the secrets of big data big data initiatives continue to be within the agency and use dataThe sharing of data has helped implemented at all levels of gov- to optimize and streamline theirsolve the initial problem that Izzy ernment, it is always important to most critical business functions.and his team set out to solve, take a step back and identify bestviewing a citizen of New York practices, share resources andBest Practices for Big DataOne of the hardest parts about a big data initiative is figuring out where to start. Peter Doolan provides someinsights on how to jump-start a big data project “To get a project off the ground, find a business owner, find aproblem that’s highly sensitive, ensure that you have the ability to source the data, and to fix the problem. Inmany cases you’ll find there are resources available to achieve the mission, they’re just not getting done throughIT today. They’re getting done through some other way.” Quick Wins Have a Clear Scope Communicate Izzy mentioned the impor- Izzy advises to start with a Izzy identified numerous best tance of having quick wins clear scope of the project, practices related to clear while running your big data “Don’t start with an open- communications. Izzy sug- program. Izzy states, “Like ev- ended project. Try and solve gests to set reasonable goals, erything in the government, one problem and answer one meet deadlines, control cost just really showing the value question. You can expect and value of the project, de- of what you’re doing. This is some kind of iterative ap- liver on budget, and to build the quick win. Show the im- proach as you go forward. Big the project with confidence. pact that it’s having on the data is a data discovery exer- Izzy states, “Setting reason- agency.” By pointing to quick cise and it almost becomes able goals, not overpromis- wins and being able to quickly like a habit.” Having a clear ing in terms of time, cost and identify ways the big data ini- scope and knowing what value, getting consensus that tiative is enabling the agency problem is trying to be solved these are items which are to become more productive is critical for big data. With so valuable, and then delivering and efficient, the team will be much data and information them on time and on bud- energized and will be able to that agencies collect, having a get. This process builds a lot gain support across the orga- clear scope and project goals of confidence and allows the nization. are essential to success. program to thrive.”
About OracleOracle offers an optimized and fully integrated stack of business hardware and software systems thathelps organizations overcome complexity and unleash innovation. Check out their Optimize with Ora-cle group on GovLoop as well as the Technology Sub-Community of which they are a council member.About GovLoopGovLoop’s mission is to “Connect government to improve government.” We aim to inspire public sec-tor professionals by serving as the knowledge network for government. GovLoop connects more than55,000 members, fostering cross-government collaboration, solving common problems and advancinggovernment careers. GovLoop is headquartered in Washington D.C with a team of dedicated profes-sionals who share a commitment to connect and improve government.This Industry Perspective was authored by Pat Fiorenza, GovLoop Research Analyst and designed by JeffRibeira, GovLoop Community and Content Coordinator.GovLoop734 15th St NW, Suite 500Washington, DC 20005Phone: (202) 407-7421Fax: (202) 407-7501