How Is Data a Transformative Asset?
October 25, 2022 by
Governments are awash in data, but it is often stored in different systems across multiple departments and agencies. Even as more modern approaches to data collection and collaboration have emerged, many departments and agencies have been slow to recognize the potential value of this information.
“People haven’t thought of data — the words we have in these tables and fields — as an asset in government,” says Melissa Bridges, who led an open data initiative for Little Rock, Arkansas. “It’s a culture change, and it doesn’t happen overnight. But leveraging this data as an asset can be transformational for those willing to do it across the organization, not in small pockets.”
Data and Outcomes
Governments have become much more proficient at using data to drive outcomes, often by focusing on metrics such as key performance indicators. But they are struggling to use data more broadly to become data informed. Data behind key metrics, for example, may reside in multiple systems, each of which may have its own format and may not easily share information.
The way to overcome this is to bring data together from multiple departments and systems, creating a single source of truth. This is an enterprise approach to data. It facilitates data sharing and collaboration, improves visibility into program performance, and supports better decision-making.
In effect, an enterprise data approach provides a real-time view of how government is functioning. This enables agencies to be more responsive to constituents and more successful in operations and program and service delivery.
Systems and Success
An enterprise approach to data uses modern data platforms to aggregate information from siloed systems and make it accessible and actionable. “An enterprise platform lowers barriers to data sharing by creating a place where people can deposit data and find the information they are looking for,” says Ira Baron, director of software engineering for Tyler’s Data & Insights solutions and former deputy chief information officer for the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs.
The key components of enterprise data platforms include:
Interoperability allows agencies to leverage existing investments.
- Controls and compliance
Granular controls facilitate data sharing across departments and jurisdictions in ways that protect sensitive data.
- Visualizations and insights
Stories with context, charts, and maps encourage deeper understanding and provide new ways to present information to decision-makers and the public.
Straightforward, user-friendly technology.
- Cloud and collaboration
A common cloud platform facilitates intergovernmental cooperation and ensures data security.
Strategies for Transformation
While enterprise data platforms with the components above provide a foundation for data sharing, leaders must still address organizational and cultural barriers to enable data-informed decision-making.
Strategies for success include:
- Designate a point person or department. Data projects need a clear leader, and that leader must have the backing of senior executives and elected officials.
- Begin with a strong use case. Don’t necessarily start small; start specific and demonstrate the value of data analysis with a clearly-defined win.
- Look for existing examples. Find existing use cases that highlight data’s value.
- Work closely with stakeholders. Understand user needs and challenges and shape new initiatives that benefit a broad range of internal and external stakeholders.
- Develop governance systems. At a macro level, identify what data exists and how it will be used. At a micro level, standardizing data from different source systems is critical.
- Expand initiatives. Once cultural change begins, engage concentric circles of stakeholders, including collaborations not just within but across jurisdictional boundaries.
The good news is that iterative improvements deliver immediate value while building momentum that can create access to new data sources, drive innovative use cases, and expand stakeholder support. With the benefit of data quantity and the energy of creative, problem-solving leaders, the public sector is ready to catapult forward in using data as a transformative asset for improved operations and better service delivery.