Carter Hewgley, FEMA: Conversations on Using Analytics to Improve Mission Outcomes
When Carter Hewgley joined FEMA in 2011, the organization was focused on two things, the timely delivery of services and the processes required to collect and organize all the resources to support those services. FEMA was a “disaster-driven” organization, more focused on responding to the next emergency, rather than reviewing the lessons learned from a previous emergency. Although there were “analytical cells” across the agency and programs, enterprise-level analytical capability was still at its infancy. It took executive sponsorship from a senior executive who had been impressed by Boston’s 911 response analytics, to promote acceptance of performance measures that provided genuine insight. Mr. Hewgley reported that building FEMAStat was a “three-year, iterative, ongoing, learning experience.” Here is the chronology, with lessons learned, of how FEMAStat began. First Year, Getting Started: “Grab whatever data you can find, throw it up on the wall, and match it to the right decision at the right time to make it the most relevant and important value-added experience for those who are using it.” Mr. Hewgley started by reaching out across FEMA to discover how program and department managers were currently managing performance reporting. He encouraged collaboration with the people who understood the data, to document and publish it. Simultaneously, he initiated discussions with senior management to identify key strategic focus areas or business questions. The important task was to continue to document, tailor, and refine available data from a “bottom up” perspective and then relate that data to the strategic focus areas for the “top down” perspective. Once that exercise was completed, Mr. Hewgley and his team established benchmarks to provide context. Two of the lessons learned during year one: · In retrospect, Mr. Hewgley wished he had also used this first year to build more of an integration infrastructure, but felt that the data quality was not as relevant – at first. Cleansing the data could occur once collected and assessed. · Additionally, when an administrative initiative - such as this - competes with responding to a disaster, the disaster wins. Mr. Hewgley was in New York working on data collection and analysis when Hurricane Sandy struck. Working with local FEMA officials, he realized there was a need for analytics on site, where rescue and recovery activities were being directed. Having to deploy resources remotely from FEMA headquarters would not have been optimal. As a result, Mr. Hewgley defined the concept of mobile field analytics as a focus for the second year. Second Year, Focus on Strategic Initiatives: “The second year was more collaborative.” In order to better define the initiative's value proposition, Mr. Hewgley focused on fewer strategic initiatives. There were “stat sessions” that examined common processes. When staff defined their processes, they were amazed at the complexity, and readily came together to model new streamlined processes. Not surprisingly, a big challenge was letting go of the need to solve the “whole problem in favor of solving a particular part of the problem.” This year was also a time for beginning to build field office capabilities. This was accompanied by a growing sense that more “flavors” of metrics were needed. Mr. Hewgley realized that in addition to field performance statistics, other areas such as resource allocation, finance and budget, and capability building should be undertaken. Third Year, Simplicity and Sustainability: “ What we’ve tried to do is focus on one specific problem and really pin it down . . . I think when you narrow it to the right question that is high priority enough and strategic enough that senior leaders really care about it but it’s specific enough to where you’re not boiling the ocean, I think you really hit a sweet spot”. The third year was spent considering the strategic questions to further focus and refine the data and capabilities to support the types of analytics FEMA needed. As a result, a new team was organized to respond to these needs. In conclusion, we asked Mr. Hewgley to name his key ingredients for analytics success and they include: Executive sponsorship Leadership and analytics expertise Data, and people who understand the data Communication, curiosity, and collaboration Business value, for your executive sponsor to use for ROI and to justify investment To listen to Mr. Hewgley’s complete podcast and to read excerpts from his interview, visit the “Conversations on Using Analytics to Improve Mission Outcomes” page. In my next blog, I will highlight the insights gleaned from an interview with Dean Silverman, Senior Advisor to the Commissioner, Office of Compliance Analytics, Internal Revenue Service.