The Virtuous Cycle of Data Use

January 13, 2020 by Oliver Wise

The Virtuous Cycle of Data Use

Photo credit: Rawpixel Ltd/Flickr

As the public sector workforce shifts with retiring baby boomers and incoming millennials, data is emerging as a critical asset for seamless transition and ongoing organizational sustainability.

Especially in periods of change, moving raw data to actionable insights will create efficiencies and help governments solve problems and achieve strategic goals faster, with less waste.

But, if the data is there and the technology is there, but people can’t bridge the gap between the two, the organization cannot capitalize on the data’s potential.

A Virtuous Cycle

Effectively using technology to leverage data for those useful insights requires leveling-up of new and existing employees so the skills to bridge the gap between attrition and adaptation are solidly present.

The ability of government organizations to effectively use data to weather challenges and improve program outcomes rests on a three-legged stool: data, technology, and skills.

The first leg is the data itself, which is always going to be there. The second leg is the technology that is in place for staff to access, manage, clean, analyze, and communicate around. The third leg — the leg that Socrata Data Academy provides — is employee skills.

Once all three legs of the stool are firmly in place, employees can access and reuse data easily. With even foundational skills in place for employees to know how to work with data, a virtuous cycle begins: people using data; people asking for more data; people contributing to the maintenance and cleanliness of data; and, finally, people using data to analyze and identify insights for programs or policies.

The Socrata Data Academy and the Data Culture

The existing skills gap in public sector organizations is the impetus behind data literacy training at all levels for all positions. For governments to leverage the potential of data, we must look beyond 20th century public administration skills. Leaders need to address skills that enable staff to contextualize, analyze, glean insights from, and share data. These skills empower employees to frame problems and goals in a data-driven context.

The successes and effect of data knowledge stretch across demographics — everyone, regardless of career longevity, can demonstrate in their own way an interest in data.

The Socrata Data Academy exists to empower government leaders to leverage data using the right tools to boost their program delivery and outcomes. The academy also contributes to knocking down the notion that data analysis is for IT staff only.

Federal agencies, for example, are facing a key tenant of the new data strategy to upskill employees and equip them with the skills to better use data. When organizations invest in learning, they develop data leaders and build the cultural elements to be successful.

The underlying philosophy is that data is a resource for every team, department, division, and agency. Through Socrata Data Academy, people gain the skills and know-how to execute analysis and gain insight.

As staff across an organization learn, build, and practice skills, they enhance their own individual career movement and contribute meaningful results back to the organization. An added benefit is the emergence of a shared data culture once training begins. When employees across departments start using the same vocabulary and operate in the same context with similar frameworks and resources, collaboration increases and the organizational data culture flourishes.

This data culture can extend beyond an organization for broader benefit, a notion that is seeing momentum across the country. Agencies that previously operated independently are better able to collaborate on problems and issues facing their collective constituents when they look through a data lens with shared terminology, similar tools, and related experience.

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