3 Key Steps to Make Data Actionable

September 20, 2022 by Meredith Trimble

3 Key Steps to Make Data Actionable

3 Key Steps to Make Data Actionable

There’s no question that data informs smarter decisions and more successful policies. In fact, data’s value in the public sector was codified in the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act. Agencies now implementing the details of this law are, among other activities, detailing how they use data to identify and address mission-critical questions. This represents an important shift, as agencies that once asked, “How much did we spend?” are now asking, “How are we spending our funding, and what does that mean for specific projects?”

There’s a challenge in this shift, however. The move to gather and analyze data to understand impact requires agencies balance meeting new requirements against the backdrop of their existing data infrastructures and strategic priorities. Michael Donofrio, Tyler’s senior advisor for federal solutions, explains, “A lot has been done already by agencies because of the value of data and importance of evidence. What agencies are struggling with is trying to figure out how best to complement what’s already been done so they don’t recreate work.”

To get the most out of existing investments while expanding capacity to put data to use, Donofrio suggests the following three processes:

  1. Enable data discovery

Start by putting data in a catalog-like format, so users can find it using metadata, just like they would find a product on Amazon. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, increased the availability, accessibility, and scalability of data in this way to disseminate authoritative information on demand to state and local governments as well as to the public. Technology helped connect disparate communities of users not only easily find data, but also access it in a consistent, useful format.

  1. Provide easy access

Easy access further requires interoperability. Rather than make everyone change the tools they know and use, it’s far better to make data available in a format that all current tools can utilize. Agencies can have numerous systems, each with their own reporting tools, or make use of data warehouses where data sets are consolidated. Some agencies simply want flat data to work with as they please. “What’s important is the infrastructure that connects the data ecosystem together and ultimately grants access to the people who need it,” notes Donofrio.

  1. Cultivate collaboration

“The end goal is for agencies to act on their data, to build on their analytics and insights, and to continue to evolve their use of data to make a bigger mission impact,” says Donofrio. Pulling information from data and marrying those insights with historical knowledge can help teams create accurate narratives across departments and jurisdictions.

The Health and Human Services Department, for example, modernized its open data platform HealthData.gov and expanded its use to all federal healthcare components. Not only is the agency improving discovery and access to authoritative health data, but it is also disseminating consumable information that small or underserved communities can use to drive economic value, drive research or drive funding.

Following these three processes can help agencies get the most from data now and going forward.

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