Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Dean Silverman, Senior Advisor to the Commissioner in the Office of Compliance Analytics for the Internal Revenue Service, maps analytics to business values.

Mr. Silverman joined the IRS in 2011 to build an advanced analytics program.  The primary objectives for his analytics program are to reduce fraud and improper payments. His focus has been reducing Identity Theft and fraud in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program; reducing the tax gap (the difference between what is due from taxpayers and what is actually collected); and to identify improvements to core compliance challenges.

Mr. Silverman offers the following lessons when using analytics:

Use Practical Outcomes and Measurable Business Values. For analytics to be relevant, Mr. Silverman says that analytics programs must provide practical outcomes and measurable business values. “There’s an endless amount of data…but what good does it do for me [if it does not lead to] any meaningful, actionable strategy?” Mr. Silverman continues, “analysis is important … but if it’s not overlaid with problem-solving, you’re going to spin around and answer the wrong question.” Since the capabilities needed for analytics often require a considerable investment, a strategic goal associated with specific outcomes provides a framework to measure that future return on investment.

Create an Empowered Team. In developing the IRS’s Office of Compliance Analytics (OCA), Mr. Silverman describes the role of an analytics team.  The team:

  1. Presents the hard, sometimes uncomfortable questions
  2. Helps structure and participate in major change programs
  3. Supports the core business in framing the problem
  4. Uses data that exists to find a solution

Identify Executive Sponsorship. Mr. Silverman stresses the importance of executive sponsorship in an analytics program to provide the “secret sauce.” Those champions need to engage key stakeholders to identify the problems that are currently keeping the organization from accomplishing its goals now.  The champions promote the inclusion of “analytics as a way of doing business.”

Use an Embedded Partner Approach. Mr. Silverman and his team started by reaching out to the operating and IT divisions to “partner hand and glove … in agreeing on what the problem was, solving it, [and] …then measuring the results.” He considers this the “embedded partner approach.” To be successful, an outsider – like himself -- who has been “embedded” in the organization by a senior leader needs to create a sense of mutual trust. It is critical to convince the internal partners that you are there to help focus on their results by leveraging their expertise and understanding of current process and available data.

To listen to Mr. Silverman’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 Gerald Ray Deputy Executive Director, Office of Appellate Operations, Social Security Administration.