The Golden Rule of Successful Data Programs

March 11, 2019 by Oliver Wise

The Golden Rule of Successful Data Programs

Photo: John Morgan/Flickr

The success criteria for a government data program is not measured in API calls or rows of data in your data portal.

The true measure of success of a data-driven organization occurs when government employees at all levels of the organization are enabled and empowered to leverage data to drive impact in their work.

Recently, I had the fortune to host a series of conversations with inspirational government leaders who understand that sustainable data programs are fundamentally about people, not just technology.

Leveraging data analytics and literacy trainings, these leaders have created a culture of data literacy among their employees, and in doing so, are creating more intelligent, effective public organizations.

In our first conversation, I spoke with Merav Yuravkliver, who is from our partner Data Society, as well as two analysts from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services about their work developing a data science training program in their agency. In a capstone project, HHS staff were able create a machine learning model that automatically categorized grant proposals by type, freeing up hours of menial labor.

In a second conversation with City of Los Angeles Chief Data Officer Sari Ladin-Sienne and Municipality of Anchorage Chief Innovation Officer Brendan Babb, we discussed tactics to enable employees to identify home run data analytics use cases that show near-term impact and that leave behind long-term benefits in enhanced capacity. For example, Sari discussed Los Angeles street clean index, which resulted in improved deployment of resources and reduced the number of dirty streets by 85 percent across the city.

Finally, in a third conversation with City of Austin Business Process Consultant Jamila Siller and City of Little Rock Performance and Innovation Coordinator Melissa Bridges, we discussed strategies to build employee buy-in on the potential of data to unlock insights to cross-cutting challenges.

The common thread tying all of these government data programs together is that each program is founded on culture, education, and people.

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