Why North Carolina’s Approach to Data Analytics Is ‘People Focused’

Downtown Raleigh, North Carolina

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Business partners should be the ones identifying the problems IT professionals solve, according to state CIO Eric Boyette.

BALTIMORE — The North Carolina Government Data Analytics Center is tasked with developing state agencies’ data analytics efforts, which is easier said than done when IT professionals are the ones identifying business needs, said Secretary and CIO Eric Boyette.

The former CIO for the state Department of Transportation, Boyette places an emphasis on sitting down with GDAC’s business partners and having them identify the problems to be solved through data organization.

Partners are the subject matter experts, Boyette said, and GDAC simply the service provider agencies all go through—per the General Assembly.

“When we started looking at the data … we had to bring the attorneys from the agencies and have them talk to us about ‘Hey, what can we do?’” Boyette said during a Monday session at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers midyear conference in Baltimore.

Not all agencies wanted to partner in the beginning, he added, which is why it was important to start with small, replicable projects.

At the State Transportation Analytics Center, Boyette started with cash flow and proved DOT had more money for projects than first thought—programming an additional $267 million into the State Transportation Improvement Program. When visualization of Department of Motor Vehicles data showed a large number of people visited solely to renew their driver’s licenses, online renewal was created. Looking at Turnpike Authority waybills, the state could see where goods were coming and going across state lines and target investments appropriately.

Data security must be assured, which is why GDAC has been slow to adopt Internet of Things sensors for real-time data collection and analysis. The state has methodically rolled out traffic sensors.

“I’m very stringent on IoT because of security,” Boyette said. “I’m very cautious.”

That said, the data governance team under Boyette’s leadership has continued to mature.

GDAC’s work is now welcomed by agencies looking to analyze data anywhere, anytime—mostly because it’s a vast improvement on the previous process.

“We didn’t really have a lot of legacy applications to do analytics,” Boyette said. “We had spreadsheets.”

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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