Agencies are just seeing the tip of the iceberg regarding data. They know there’s value that lies beneath the surface, with some mining required, and they understand the hype.
The Federal Data Strategy, created to support agencies in managing, analyzing and sharing data, underscores the importance of data for federal agencies. Making data assets more widely available fosters a positive citizen experience. It also improves the flow of business operations and spurs innovation in digital services.
That all sounds good, but when it comes to actually putting data to use, it’s a whole different story. Instead of a calm, strategic approach, the reality is chaotic. There’s a great amount of data wrangling, coordination and analysis that has to occur before data is turned into useful information.
This is true for several reasons.
Let’s look at a simple example to illustrate the problem. Think of the contact list you access from your computer. Now, imagine you have 10 other lists from different computers using different email clients. Let’s say you want to combine all of them into a master list.
Each existing list has fields for names, addresses, phone numbers and so on. But they all have their own quirks too. Maybe a few have a combined field for name, whereas others break out names into first name and last name. Maybe some lists have separate fields for business, home and mobile phone numbers and others don’t. How do you combine them? How much time will that take?
Now imagine you have thousands of entries across all these lists, many of which are duplicates or old. Pretty ugly, huh? Agencies are dealing with this same head-scratching conundrum at scales hundreds or thousands of times greater.
To overcome data silos, they need a three-pronged approach.
The first is a cohesive set of data management tools that flexibly span all critical data assets and supporting metadata in a secured and governed way across environments. This ensures consistency and authority across all data and metadata.
Next are data virtualization and master data management, which simplify data access, making agency data easier to understand and use regardless of its source.
Finally, agencies must make their data easier to find via a well-governed, user-friendly catalog that matches the data to the mission and can trace lineage all the way back to the source.
United, these abilities address all of the four core objectives of the Federal Data Strategy.