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Earlier this week, I had an opportunity to sit down with Jeff Brown and Jason Wood from Avaap (formerly Navigator Management Partners). Avaap is an Alteryx partner and they are currently working with the state of Ohio to help run the InnovateOhio Platform.


Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state of Ohio launched the InnovateOhio Platform to make data actionable to solve the complex problems faced by residents of the state. There are many components of the platform, including a Cloudera Data Lake, a Tableau visualization platform, Alteryx Server, and other value-add, modern analytics technologies.


The purpose of my discussion with Jeff and Jason was to better understand how data and analytics are utilized within the state and what role Alteryx plays in helping create actionable insights that help form policy and decisions to create better service delivery and a better quality of life for all Ohioans.


Jeff and Jason said that prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Alteryx Platform was vital to many of the analytics projects done within the state. Specifically, the Alteryx Platform was used to tackle some of the data challenges that arose when dealing with 100+ agencies, many of which had multiple systems and formats for data. “In many cases,” said Jeff, “we use Alteryx for data profiling… to open up data sources and understand it.”


Alteryx can wrangle, cleanse, and aggregate data from multiple sources across many use cases. With its ability to quickly prep, cleanse, and join data, it reduces the need for a large scale ETL capability to get analysis-ready data into the hands of data scientists, analysts, and other end users who are working on critical issues for the state.


Before COVID-19, the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) began working with the InnovateOhio Platform to develop a way to identify duplicate payments in the state government accounting system. With more than 18 million transactions annually, modern data tools, and innovative methods, Ohio was able to detect subtle duplications that escaped human review. As a result, the state identified over $117,000 in duplicate payments, improved their analytical tools, and created a data-informed process that reduces costs by stopping or recovering erroneous payments.


Additionally, Alteryx is instrumental in helping the state gather, organize, and analyze disparate sources of data that were used to pursue grants to fight the Opioid crises. On this project, Jason said that while pursuing the grant “we’ve been told by other folks above — we were the first to be able to get the data ready to go.” Jason also said that having a centralized, modern data analytics Platform that could handle structured and unstructured data quickly and scale was critical. Being able to quickly wrangle and prep data meant that researchers and data scientists could focus on the science, research, and the impactful stuff.


Like in every state, county, and local government, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ohio has changed the focus and status quo to one of tracking and responding to an immediate public health threat. And while COVID-19 is a critical public health challenge, it is in many ways a data challenge as well. It’s a data challenge in two specific ways; first is the quality and availability of data when it comes to the lack of testing and the delay in getting results. Second is the variety and scale of data sources — including data related to supply chains, public health, prisons, nursing homes, as well as social distancing, mobility, and risks of infection.


The speed of the outbreak requires that those responsible for pandemic response have access to actionable insights that are accurate, trusted, and quickly available. These insights are necessary to support internal decision-making, informing the public and feeding information into analytics models that can help predict trends, hotspots, and other risks.


In this rapid-response environment, Jeff commented, “We don't have the time to sit here and do real, robust ETL work. Alteryx is great at connecting to all these different sources and getting the data ready. Alteryx has been an incredibly easy and helpful resource to expedite the preparation of all the data that is feeding our visualizations and dashboards.”


As Ohio and other states look ahead to recovery, data and analytics will play a critical role. Organizations will be running modeling less focused on surge detection and more focused on how and where it may be safe to relax social distancing.


This will require the monitoring of many more metrics to understand what is happening and what adjustments need to be made to continue to protect public health, make people feel safe, and restart the economy in the most responsible way possible.


Through this discussion, it became clear that the investment the state of Ohio made in the InnovateOhio Platform created a vital data and analytics foundation that enabled the state to handle many of the data challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Thank you, Jeff and Jason, for sharing your insights on how a robust analytics Platform like Alteryx has helped the state of Ohio respond effectively and efficiently to the COVID-19 crisis and begin to plan for the state’s recovery.

Andy MacIsaac
Solutions Marketing Director, Public Sector