Your 2018 Goal: Proactive Data Analysis Education

January 19, 2018 by Melissa Crowe

Your 2018 Goal: Proactive Data Analysis Education

Gaining insights from data is quickly becoming everyone's job. As a government leader, it's wise to consider providing data analysis training for all staff, not just a few analysts in each department. 

There has been a dramatic increase in the awareness of available data in the public sector and opportunities to use it to improve government program delivery. Along with this increase of data, there has been a subsequent increase in the number of data analysis technology tools available to derive insight from that data: Tableau, Microsoft, AWS, and Qlik are just a few of the most prominent vendors of modern data analysis tools. But, even though there's been a rise in the availability of data and tools to analyze it, there has not been a corresponding rise in the third key element to leverage data to its fullest: data analysis skills.

The need for more data literacy is not unique to government. Many industries are moving more and more to real-time data and data analysis. The potential impact of increased data use among government staff, though, is massive — from better health care services to public assistance apps to smoother traffic flow.

Leaders of government municipalities are therefore presented with an opportunity. There exists a massive number of government information workers who have the raw talent, qualitative awareness, and motivation to use data to make an impact on their programs. They simply need to be equipped with the opportunity to develop and sharpen critical data analysis skills to realize that benefit.

Examples of Success

Many government organizations have taken concrete steps to bridge the data literacy gap. Both the city and county of San Francisco and Kansas City have developed their own internal "Data Academy" programs to upskill their employees. The Department of Commerce has done something similar for their employees, as well.

Alternatively, the cities of Boise, Greensboro, and Denton were recently featured in a blog post by the Center for Government Excellence as having partnered with GovEx to kickoff their data analysis education programs. Similarly, the Socrata Data Academy has recently launched and showcased the work we've been doing with Metro Nashville & Davidson County to raise the data analysis skills there.

In general, these programs share a few qualities:

  1. Learning is available to all. You may be surprised by which staffer proves a great problem solver with data. Allow all staff to participate in classes.
  2. A step-by-step approach. Lessons are broken down into phases so everyone can take the initial courses and then those who want to do more advanced work can self-select to participate in later classes.
  3. Courses are tailored to learning outcomes. A common pitfall is to focus on having courses that address popular topics. However, this approach puts the emphasis on process rather than results. Create and utilize curriculum that is focused on enabling students to complete a job-to-be-done to see the best results.

Get Started Now

There are numerous different approaches municipalities can take to data analysis education. The key is simply to be proactive: find ways to educate and track the learning of government information workers in your organization. The Socrata Data Academy also offers free online courses as a starting place for organizations to begin their data analysis education programs.

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