Harnessing big data analytics in the public sector

SAP Concur Technologies ( Australia) Pty Ltd

By Jonathan Beeby, Managing Director, SAP Concur ANZ
Wednesday, 01 June, 2022

Harnessing big data analytics in the public sector

Australian public sector organisations bear the responsibility of storing and protecting massive amounts of data. However, many government agencies are failing to achieve the full potential and value of that data when it comes to improving operational efficiencies, reducing costs, and enhancing employee and customer experiences.

Due to legacy processes, government agencies struggle with simply managing their data, so they are missing the opportunity to use it to benefit their agency, its employees and customers.

As well as optimising day-to-day operations, big data can deliver significant value in guiding the government response to major events such as pandemics, economic disruptions and natural disaster response.

In an attempt to address big data challenges, the federal government has implemented numerous measures that aim to improve the way data is shared and released. These measures include:

  • the Consumer Data Right, which gives consumers more control over their data and transaction activities;
  • an ethics framework in partnership with industry and research organisations to address the use of data, with a focus on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning; and
  • legislative reforms to streamline the management of public sector data while maintaining the protection of data privacy.

One of the biggest challenges for government agencies is how they can effectively manage the collection and storage of vast volumes of structured and unstructured data, which continues to double every three years.1 Legacy manual processes have left public sector organisations with siloed data storage. This has resulted in double handing of tasks and workloads, causing duplication that impacts cost and operational efficiencies and affects customer and employee experiences.

Public sector agencies were gradually automating backend processes before COVID-19, and the shift to remote work caused by the pandemic has accelerated the need to centralise, organise and leverage data across organisations.

In the fast-paced digital business landscape that has emerged in the past two years, manually sifting through vast data files and organising them in a way to improve decision-making is now too much for humans to handle. This is where AI becomes the key to taking working hours out of the equation and instead adding accuracy, unification, personalisation and risk tolerance, with the added bonus of predicting upcoming trends.

How data improves government decision-making

Due to the pure speed of the capture, storage and consumption of big data, extracting information from it manually, or even with traditional software, is almost impossible.

Government organisations are now realising that leveraging automated processes to input and analyse data reduces the risk of human error and fraud, and breaks down information siloes.

This delivers real-time data analytics and information insights that help agencies improve business efficiencies to better meet customer service expectations.

For example, financial processes driven by artificial intelligence are letting government agencies centralise, organise and access financial data securely in real time. This facilitates a more streamlined flow of information that helps public sector agencies make decisions based on real-time insights.

In turn, it delivers much greater levels of transparency that build trust with community stakeholders. More specifically, in areas such as fraud detection, automated finance solutions use big data to help government agencies uncover the potential for criminal activity early. This helps guide decision-making to mitigate the risk of data breaches and financial loss.

Using big data to improve customer experiences

How government agencies acquire and leverage comprehensive, relevant data to drive smarter decision-making is key to improving customer interactions.

In the digital economy, both public and private sector customers expect highly responsive and personalised services in near-real time. This includes expecting government agencies to anticipate community needs, even before the community has expressed those needs.

Big data management gives public sector agencies necessary information to clearly review the current performance of government programs, and identify where there may be gaps or opportunities to enhance customer experiences.

E-invoicing is one area where government agencies can achieve quick wins with suppliers and customers, by significantly improving invoice processing times. This has a direct impact on returning and reinvesting cashflow back into communities faster. The data collected through e-invoicing processes can also be used by public sector agencies to identify where the most money is being invested, and where there may be opportunities to redirect funds to projects that better meet community needs.

The fastest and most effective way to harness and capitalise on big data in the public sector is by starting with financial processes such as travel, expense and invoice management. These processes sit at the core of every government agency and can provide the easiest and best opportunity to use automation to maximise big data benefits.

To achieve sustainable data management outcomes, and reduce costs, public sector agencies should seek a big data management expert that has proven success in automating Australian government processes. This approach will achieve the highest level of success, with minimal risk, for government agencies as they embark on their digital transformation journey.

  1. https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Global-growth-trend-of-data-volume-2006-2020-based-on-The-digital-universe-in-2020_fig5_274233315

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Maxim

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