Agencies want data to make a difference for their missions, but leveraging this information is easier said than done.
For starters, collecting and managing data grows harder every time new devices create more of it. Next, sensitive data must be kept private and secure. Most importantly, no data can inform people if they cannot share or collaborate on it.
On Thursday, during GovLoop’s latest online training, four government thought leaders discussed what makes data ready for decision-making. The group included:
- David Spett, Chief Data Officer (CDO) at the Bureau of Primary Health Care (BPHC) in the Health and Human Services Department’s (HHS) Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).
- Andrew Horton, Big Data Lead Engineer for General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT), an IT service management provider.
- Tom Gooden, Enterprise Strategist at Amazon Web Services (AWS), an on-demand cloud computing platform provider.
- Paul Horan, Principal Sales Engineer at Snowflake, Inc., a cloud-based data warehousing provider.
Thursday’s speakers explained four steps agencies can take when preparing their data for quality decision-making:
1. Start with sharing
Knowledge is power, so agencies should share insightful data with their partners whenever possible. Whether the recipient is an internal or external ally, data will only collect dust if no one sees it.
“We need to shift to a mindset where sharing data is the default,” Spett said.
Before sharing data, agencies should identify and remove the silos separating it from potential collaborators.
2. Avoid boiling oceans
No one can handle all data all at once. Governments are no exception, and agencies looking to leverage data effectively should start with narrow goals. For example, law enforcement agencies may want to start with their criminal data before approaching other varieties.
“I would encourage you not to invest time up front trying to make data shareable for others unless you’re trying to solve a specific business problem,” Gooden said.
3. Strengthen security
Government data often involves sensitive details about constituents, so agencies cannot afford to lose this valuable resource. Consequently, privacy and security are two of the biggest concerns facing agencies at every level.
“All of us need to be thinking about how we can improve our data posture,” Horton said.
4. Build trust
Trust links agencies and constituents, so the public sector cannot survive without it. With data, agencies must be certain the information they are utilizing is accurate or their choices may harm citizens.
“If agencies are working with stale or outdated data, those decisions are not based on the foundation of truth,” Horan said.
The main takeaway
Data is not going anywhere, so tomorrow’s agencies must be comfortable basing decisions on this powerful commodity.
“We need data more than ever to justify our requests,” Spett said. “Data has gone from very important to unbelievably important.”
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