Wayne Gretzky once said, “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” But how can government leaders move from good to great with technology and security? Where will the “puck” be for your business area?

As we address these questions, there are new industry tools to consider and new ways to predict the future more accurately using available data.

Just as many people have moved from relying on traditional radio traffic reports describing road congestion to real-time warnings and alternative routing from smartphone apps, there are now thousands of new tech tools that incorporate real-time data to improve productivity and effectiveness. The opportunities to use big data analytics to solve specific problems are expanding rapidly in virtually every area of life.

For example: How does Chicago know which trash bins need to be emptied today? How can law enforcement use advanced analytics to predict, anticipate and prevent crime?

The answer is that an algorithm is mining big data or using new data that’s available via sensors as part of the Internet of Things.

So where can you start to better predict the future in your enterprise?

First, examine your current program and specific project assumptions. Do this by picking a government business area and assessing where you are regarding innovation compared to industry norms and best practices. Ask: What data are we collecting? How is the data shared? What are the privacy implications? Look at the data management guidance provided by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO).

Second, ask, “What if?” Imagine an alternative future in your particular area of interest. Start by examining technology trends. Utilize prediction reports from Gartner, Forrester and others that have crunched the data and checked the forecast percentages. Analyze and learn from the free end-of-the-year summaries as well as New Year predictions from media sources and vendors. We are seeing more technology and security predictions in every area of life, and you can benefit from this analytical trend. Look at award-winning projects and best practices from NASCIO and the National Association of Counties to inspire your teams.

And third, build project road maps that use this updated or real-time data. Re-examine tactical and strategic plans based on this new data-centric world. Forbes magazine reported that “fast data” and “actionable data” will replace big data, so companies should focus more on asking the right questions and making use of the data they have. Also look outside your organization to gain access to specific data needed to improve your customer’s experience. This is an ongoing process.

One way to make your vision a reality is to build scenario-based alternative futures for the service being provided. For example, your team can explore what can be done given various situations or assumptions in the year 2020. Answer set questions for each alternative path.

This approach is similar to the way that first responders and others in government prepare for emergency management scenarios such as fires, floods, tornadoes or even cyberattacks. Tabletop exercises can help you ask the right questions about what data is needed by various functions, who will communicate with whom and which metrics are important.

Some skeptics may ask, “But how can my government prepare for major unpredictable events like the United Kingdom leaving the European Union?” My answer is that even major events are not unpredictable. There will certainly be times when circumstances on the ground bring surprises, but we can have scenarios to plan for a wide variety of potential outcomes in any area — including defending against cyberattacks, business disruptions or technology breakthroughs.

Like Gretzky, we can be at the right place at the right time by knowing the data.