Having large quantities of data is like receiving multiple free cups of coffee: At first, it seems great, but then it takes up too much space.
During a recent GovLoop training, 4 Things Your Agency Needs In Its Data, experts discussed the advice you and your agency need to assess these large quantities of data in a meaningful way.
Since we promised four things your agency needs in the training’s title, here’s our quartet of takeaways.
1. Security first
You’ve seen way too many examples of hacking and ransomware to believe that security can receive the cold shoulder. Especially when dealing with an entity as important as data.
“When we’re dealing with all this data, security needs to be a part of this as well,” said Lenny Isler, Business Development Manager of Data Science, Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Virtual Reality (VR) at HP.
A lack of secure data not only places you at risk with unsavory actors but also harms the credibility of your agency.
“The bad guys know which corners you are going to cut, and they are waiting for you to cut those corners,” said Isler.
Make sure to prioritize the security of your data for the sake of your agency and your end users.
2. Quantity is not quality
This rule applies to friends, suitors and data. Amassing a large volume of something does not measure success. What matters is how you utilize it.
“If you speak to a data scientist, they will tell you that 80% of their time is spent with data cleansing,” said Tommy Gardner, Chief Technology Officer for HP Federal.
Data cleansing helps teams ensure that their data is accurate and helpful. Worthless and incorrect data takes up valuable space and can cause more harm than good.
How do you know if your data is useful? Glad you asked.
Let’s teleport back to your first college writing course. Using data is like writing a research paper; you start with a question (or thesis), narrow the question and then you select data that answers the question and refine the argument. Following this method will ensure you have great results, preventing you from getting lost in a sea of data.
“The results are only as good as the data they come from,” said Gardner
3. Embrace change
As agencies acquire more data, it is important to embrace change and ensure that one is not using legacy systems to store their information.
Sometimes when an agency wants to move in a different direction, employees can develop cold feet, in fear that their job will drastically change or worse, they’ll be fired.
“There’s a fear issue,” said Gardner. “It takes leadership to [promote] change.”
The panel recommended coordinating equipment, training and processes with your entire team to make sure everyone is on the same page and no one falls through the cracks.
4. Don’t be a tool (use them instead)
One way to ease your employees into embracing change and understanding data is to give them the tools and skills to process data. Gardner mentioned that there are three skills one needs to master to understand data science: an understanding of math (statistics), a knowledge of coding and an ability to communicate effectively.
While understanding data is important, communicating it properly matters even more.
The trio also touched on the importance of high computing when it comes to processing data.
“Convert data into a way that can be consumed by high-speed processes,” advised Joe Raetano, a government AI researcher.
If you are already overwhelmed by data, we have some bad news for you: it’s here to stay and growing.
“Data isn’t going anywhere. It’s going not shrinking,” said Isler. “There’s going to be more data than we have the bandwidth to go around.”
So, why not learn how to manage it today.
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