Last week’s tech meeting with Donald Trump was an impressive piece of work. Not only did Trump not dress down the tech leaders, which I thought he was going to do, the focus remained on what technology CEOs wanted from the new administration. This was exactly right and suggests that Peter Thiel has had a far greater impact on the incoming Trump administration, in a positive way, than I would have thought possible. One of the fascinating parts is that Trump asked the tech execs for ideas on how technology could be used to eliminate government waste. A lot of us believe that, if you could eliminate the massive amount of government waste in the system, a president could increase services and lower taxes, which would make anyone in the job certain of reelection and a hero to the people.
So how could you use technology to eliminate waste? On the short list is by using forensic analytics. I wrote about this type of analytics several years back; let’s revisit it today.
Forensic Analytics’ Potential
Forensic analytics is capturing and analyzing data to understand why something works or doesn’t work.
For example, BeyondCore, which leads in this area, was able to determine that the Affordable Care Act model contained an error. The model assumed that young insurance users didn’t need much health care and thus would fund the older users who did, but it came to that conclusion looking at regular health care, not mental health care, which young people use far more heavily. Including both types of health care, the contribution from young users was no longer adequate to cover the older users.
Sadly, products like BeyondCore’s offering are run after a problem is identified, and where the cause is elusive, but they can be run to determine if there is problem with a plan either because of unidentified dependencies or false assumptions. The reason they aren’t is that generally the focus is on getting the plan approved at the front end and avoiding negatives, not looking for them, which is why so many government programs, in particular, come in massively over budget and under expectations.
I think two programs, Air Force One and the F-35, could potentially benefit from forensic analysis. Air Force One is using an airframe designed in the 1960s against a new threat landscape. It also wasn’t designed to be a military plane. With the F-35, the Defense Department seems to think you can create one plane that’ll do everything, with mission creep so bad I’m surprised serving coffee isn’t in the plan. The result of that is a plane that recently lost a dogfight to the 1970s era’s F-16.
Forensic analytics can, by looking at the data, determine without bias what problems are causing waste and, often, even recommend what needs to be done to fix those problems. In the F-35’s case, for example, one potential recommendation could be to replace the folks setting the specifications with experts more familiar with current generation technology and missions. In the end, it could strip billions out of bloated programs and point the way to better solutions, saving money and producing more viable weapons.
Wrapping Up: Trump, the Analytics President?
If Trump can learn to use analytics properly, he could be far more successful than his predecessors, and more popular. But the key is understanding how to use technology to solve problems. I think Thiel deserves a lot of credit for this very different path Trump is taking and this could set the stage for future presidents who use technology as a tool more than they use technology companies for endorsements or election funding. This is the real power of tech. It is a force multiplier. If Trump can effectively use it, like he did with the election, he’ll be able to accomplish massive advantages for the U.S., based on the technology that is built here. We’ll see.
Rob Enderle is President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, a forward-looking emerging technology advisory firm. With over 30 years’ experience in emerging technologies, he has provided regional and global companies with guidance in how to better target customer needs; create new business opportunities; anticipate technology changes; select vendors and products; and present their products in the best possible light. Rob covers the technology industry broadly. Before founding the Enderle Group, Rob was the Senior Research Fellow for Forrester Research and the Giga Information Group, and held senior positions at IBM and ROLM. Follow Rob on Twitter @enderle, on Facebook and on Google+