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May 08, 2019

Becoming A More Fact-Based and Data-Driven Organization

The Data Analytics Center of Excellence (CoE) is helping the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) meet its goal of becoming a fact-based data driven, customer-focused organization by leveraging the agency’s vast administrative and programmatic data. Since FY 18 we have been applying data tools and tactics such as: data sharing, data visualization, predictive analysis, and ad hoc analysis to put key information at the fingertips of leadership. Through better access to timely, accurate information, leaders will be enabled to improve their decisions, program outcomes, and overall management of the Department’s resources.

One of the Department’s two Agency Priority Goals (APGs) for FY18-19 is to develop the USDA Chief Executive Officer (CXO) Dashboards, which integrate data from systems spanning the agency’s 29 agencies and staff offices, and provide the Department with enhanced capacity to collect accurate, reliable, complete, accessible, and consistent data. USDA created the first Cabinet-level suite of comprehensive administrative dashboards for seven USDA administrative functions: human resources, information technology, finance, property, procurement, security, and operations, in 10-week sprints.

The CXO dashboards equip USDA executives and managers to retain a high-quality workforce, for example, by targeting areas of high risk for attrition that are now made visible through data analytics. USDA become more lean and accountable, by maximizing employee performance and reducing operating costs. The Department is moving away from the manual extraction, copying, and formatting of datasets to a centralized data repository that will help centralize data flows and reduce extra labor efforts and costs. With a single source of truth for information, USDA will be able to improve the cost-effectiveness of existing resources, such as loans and grants, vehicles, facilities, or investments in information technology.

In Phase 2 of the CoE initiative which kicked off in October 2018, the CoE is expanding upon the work for the CXO dashboard by developing mission area dashboards for each of USDA’s 8 mission area. In addition to developing dashboards, the CoE is helping the mission areas to build their data maturity and build data analytics capacity through trainings and other learning opportunities such as monthly communities of practice.

FSA Acreage Report and NASS's Cropland Data Layer Comparison

Some key accomplishment of the Data Analytics CoE in Phase 2 includes developing more than 25 dashboards for the Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) Mission Area. This provides FPAC employees in the field with real-time insights into how the more than 3 million U.S. producers are impacted by disasters and could be better served through targeted outreach and allocation of resources. In addition, more than 16 dashboards were developed for the Rural Development mission Area, the sixth largest lender in the US with a portfolio of roughly $200 billion, giving the organization better insight into their loan portfolios, risks, and defaults to increase availability of funds for their loan programs.

USDA is seizing these significant strides to better use data to become more efficient, proactive and more capable of effectively serving its customers now and in the future. Stay tuned for more updates about the Data Analytics CoE activities and progress at USDA during Phase 2!

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