How to Modernize Data Systems, Processes

February 14, 2022 by Meredith Trimble

How to Modernize Data Systems, Processes

Government leaders have long recognized the value of leveraging data to address some of their most pressing challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced data’s strategic value in making decisions in a rapidly changing environment. It also exposed gaps in state and local governments’ abilities to access siloed information from disparate systems in real time.

“Most state and local government agencies still use legacy IT systems and processes that struggle to move the large amounts of data needed for evidence-based policymaking,” noted Corinna Turbes, policy director of the nonpartisan research organization Data Foundation, in a recently released paper, “New Directions With Data.” “They’re looking for effective ways to leverage data in an evidence-based system, identifying skill gaps where they need to scale up their human capital and facing privacy concerns about what it means to have so much data.”

The new paper, from Tyler and the Center for Digital Government, explores specific strategies to help government leaders maximize their investments in data to achieve their policy goals.

Building Data Maturity

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, many state and local governments focused their data consolidation efforts on improving transparency. Moving forward with a problem-solving lens requires governments to break out of burdensome silos. Tackling problems and advancing data sharing and use across agencies and departments involves the following key steps outlined in detail in “New Directions With Data:”

  • Evaluate existing data assets and existing staff skillsets
  • Identify promising use cases and desired outcomes
  • Cultivate trust and address cultural barriers to data-sharing
  • Strengthen data governance to protect sensitive data
  • Focus on equity in data system planning
  • Ensure data quality, standardize common data types, and address data lifecycles
  • Provide staff support and documentation
  • Evaluate technology needs to support data-driven decision-making

These efforts tend to snowball in a positive way, creating a data culture within agencies that drives innovation and pushes data initiatives forward.

Experience Talks

Agencies agree. “The COVID response played a huge role in getting the word out about why it’s so important to get the data where it needs to be in a well-governed way,” said former Virginia CDO Carlos Rivero in the paper. “It’s about the trust you engender to bring together the data assets.” Virginia used a groundbreaking data-sharing alliance to address the opioid epidemic head on by connecting hospitals, social service agencies, and law enforcement.

In New Jersey, a platform approach to open data simplified and encouraged participation in creating the largest dataset currently on the state’s portal, covering more than $40 billion in CARES Act disbursements. “It’s the key to it all,” said state CDO Poonam Soans. “People were apprehensive about how much work it will involve. They saw that the ask is not that big on this low code platform.”

Agencies in Oregon conduct a maturity assessment and refine their open data plans every two years. This practice generates opportunities to share data with the public and across agencies. “Open data is a byproduct of doing data governance well in the first place,” said CDO Kathryn Helms. “Data is now embedded into some of the foundational conversations legislators have and the information that citizens want.”

Advancements in technology and the post-pandemic impetus for modernization provide new opportunities to justify investments in data systems that can transform how governments operate. Read the full piece, “New Directions With Data,” for actionable insight and inspiration from agencies already on their transformation journeys.

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