Transforming Survey Processing at a Federal Statistical Agency
Jack Nealon
U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Washington, DC, United States

The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is pursuing several transformational initiatives with the goals of providing cost savings in the production of official statistics and improving data quality for many surveys. The transformational initiatives will change how and where work is performed so NASS can serve the mission of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) more efficiently and effectively in the future.

Cost savings and improved data quality will be achieved by providing more flexibility, more integration, more standardization, and more streamlining to the survey processing environment. This is being accomplished by consolidating and centralizing servers from 48 locations and implementing database-optimized, generalized, and modular application services for all surveys. At the heart of the transformation is providing generalized applications that use enterprise metadata and enterprise transactional and analytical databases.

When employees can readily access applications and data from any location, NASS can efficiently operate as one rather than 48 decentralized units. For example, work can be optimally redistributed to improve response rates and resolve data anomalies in a timely manner. Shared metadata and data will eliminate the need to create, manipulate, and transfer thousands of data files from application to application, which will reduce staff requirements. Applications performing overlapping or redundant functions are being retired. Generalized applications will be used for all surveys. The resulting cost savings and data quality improvements will position NASS to continue to be a very relevant federal statistical organization during expected tighter budgets in the future due to the global economic situation.

Keywords: Enterprise metadata; Enterprise transactional and analytical databases; Generalized and modular application services; Centralized processing

Biography: Jack Nealon served as the Director of the Information Technology Division and as the Chief Information Officer at the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) in the U.S. Department of Agriculture from January 2001 to March 2010. Jack has been a catalyst and leader for major information technology reengineering efforts at NASS to bring significant improvements to their survey processing capability, such as the development and deployment of an eight-billion record Statistical Data Warehouse. Jack is currently serving as the senior project manager for two transformational initiatives at NASS to provide significant cost savings and data quality improvements in the production of official statistics at NASS.