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Author's profile photo Dante Ricci

Morgan’s Top 5 for the public sector from SAPPHIRE NOW Orlando and DC 2013

Hearing the presenters at SAPPHIRE NOW in Orlando and DC, it’s undisputable that big data is changing the way government operates. With the tsunami of data that the public sector is collecting, managing and storing, agencies need to be vigilant to maximize efficiency and improve service delivery through big data initiatives.

We asked Jen Morgan, President, Regulated Industries (Public Sector, Healthcare and Utilities) at SAP to help recommended five presentations from SAPPHIRE NOW that address big data challenges and other key issues. “There’s no doubt,” said Morgan, “that substantial hurdles exist. Citizens have legitimate privacy issues and nearly every public sector entity is struggling these days just to pay the bills.” Still, there was a strong, positive vibe wherever she went. “I heard some amazing stories from government luminaries and public servants in the trenches. Success is out there.

Here are five that she recommends.

Use Data Better, Faster, and Cheaper to Drive Public Value

One of the most anticipated presentations of SAPPHIRE NOW was delivered by former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith. Currently holding court at the Harvard Kennedy School, Goldsmith was not shy about voicing the unique challenges of implementing effective public sector solutions. The need is indisputable. “We won’t get the results taxpayers deserve, nor citizens require,” says Goldsmith, “until we figure out how to better manage a public sector that uses data better to hold itself and third parties accountable.” In his presentation, Goldsmith identifies what he calls “The Perfect Technology Storm” that governments find themselves in today. They include the emergence of mobile technology and cloud computing, extraordinary budget constraints, and private sector examples that cast a whole new light on what’s possible, particularly in the traditional siloes of public sector organizational structures. It’s 19 minutes well spent.

Deliver Transparent and Effective Budgets

Looking for a convincing case study for how SAP Public Budget Formulation can modernize your public sector budgeting process? It’s right here in this presentation by Pat Saffo  from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), complete with the all the classic legacy issues that drive system replacement: Heavy dependence on Microsoft Excel workbooks; multiple legacy budgeting and financial systems; labor-intensive budgeting and data-gathering processes. This is an implementation with outcomes that will warm the heart of any public sector professional. Such as improvements in revenue forecasting and resource allocation, robust reporting tools that automate much of the creation of CDOT’s yearly strategic plan, and Maintenance Levels of Service functions that allow for long-range planning (up to 40 years!) of needs for maintenance activities. Not to mention how the development of their Federally-mandated Statewide Transportation Improvement Program is “linked to the CDOT’s long-range plan to assure consistency and adherence to planning processes pursuant to state statutes.” In all, it’s one of the top success stories of the entire conference.

Innovating with Analytics in the Public Sector – Extending Beyond The Core

David Nicolaysen, who manages the platform team at the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and Vineet Gupta, who is responsible for implementing SAP platforms at NCDOT, will be the first to tell you that presentations are not their core competency. What they will tell you in this comprehensive presentation, however, is a compelling story of how a department that manages over 80,000 miles of roads succeeded in “migrating to a platform for future growth and information analytics capabilities.”

How did all that work out? “SAP BW and Business Objects Dashboards provide critical IT tools for implementation of an integrated analytics and reporting program.” To hear them tell it, the migration allowed NCDOT to better focus on the kind of data quality and integration that enables meaningful reporting on a wide range of key performance indicators and operating metrics. Perhaps even more critical is the fact that their new platform paves the way (no pun intended) for future growth and increased capabilities such as Mobility and HANA. 

Gain Analytical Insight for Better Decision Making

Before this panel discussion began, you could be excused for questioning what these three disparate organizations have in common. By the end of this excellent half-hour session run by SAP’s Dante Ricci, it’s pretty clear just how powerful the latest analytics tools are in re-shaping the very nature of how these public sector entities operate.

For Jeff Weiler of Nevada’s Clark County School District (CCSD), it’s all about transparency and accountability to taxpayers and parents. To that end, CCSD has implemented “Open Book” (, an online portal that, by providing every parent, citizen and taxpayer a clear, more “human” view of how their dollars are being spent, is going a long way toward overcoming the most common misconceptions and objections that plague the modern educational establishment.

For Jose Garcia, Associate Director of SAP Development and Reporting at the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, the benefits of improved analytics include “smarter” IT functions, improved research capabilities and a clear path to the inevitable migration to mobile analytics and the promise of breaking down functional silos and promoting greater cross-department cooperation.

And, finally, there’s the incredibly consequential subject of Canadian national defense, about which Michael Mitchell provides excellent examples of how a vastly improved analytics platform has turned an organization that was primarily “functionally-oriented” into one that is “strategically-focused.” And how that’s left the department well-positioned to quickly determine how even the smallest changes to today’s budgets and priorities can affect projects with developmental timelines stretching 20 or 30 years into the future.

What brings all three together under one analytical roof? A secure future.

Close the Gap Between Strategy and Successful Execution

If there’s one theme that runs throughout nearly every public sector discussion, it is that of providing “transparency” to taxpayers. In that regard, we found this 15-minute presentation on the recent efforts of the City of Boston to be the model of efficiency. Implemented in stages beginning in late 2011, the full rollout of their SAP Strategy Management mobile app was achieved by June of 2012. The goal was to connect “day-to-day” operations to the higher-level strategic goals.

In his presentation, Devin Quirk, Citywide Performance Manager for the City of Boston uses the example of the always-prickly issue of permitting as his case study. By standardizing this historically cumbersome process and implementing daily reporting, the City of Boston was able—from September 2012 to March of 2013—to reduce the incidence of overdue licensing from 600 cases to a mere 13. It looks like the naysayers are going to have to find something else to shake their heads at. 

To experience these and other SAPPHIRE NOW Orlando and DC 2013 replays for the public sector, go to

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