Data Leaders in Government: These Best Practices Will Take Your Strategy to the Next Level

November 16, 2021

Contributor: Jordan Turner

By leveraging analytics for evidence-based policy and operations, you can become a more data-driven public-sector organization.

Governments and their agencies must respond to significant and highly uncertain shifts in economic, political and societal conditions, and as their technology leaders, you have to adapt, evolve and learn when using data.

“Government is systemically a lot more complex than other environments,” says Ben Kaner, Senior Director Analyst at Gartner. “Governments should be in the position to model future impacts, rather than measure progress along a linear path.” 

Let’s examine best practices and reminders for public-sector organizations that want to take their data and digital business initiatives to the next level. 

Watch now: Optimize Your Digital Government Data & Analytics Strategy

Approach your data strategy like a coach

In any organization, but especially in the public sector, securing executive buy-in is a large hurdle. Process and structure are pervasive, but think of yourself as a strategic advisor. It’s important to change the dynamics of the discussions you’re having, which requires acting as a coach or mentor.

As a data leader, it’s your responsibility to continually facilitate and enable leadership to take an evidence-based view. Successful data leaders are skilled at navigating and influencing conversations on the strategy of the organization. Ask yourself and your colleagues: What should the measurable objectives and goals be?

Data leaders elicit value from other leaders, so you need both people and change management skills. Empower government leaders to become analytical thinkers and to ultimately make data-backed decisions.

Download now: Design a Data and Analytics Strategy

Data analytics is the top game-changing technology in government.

Acknowledge that data isn’t perfect 

“One of the biggest countercultural challenges in government is getting used to the idea that any data-backed decision we make is a best approximation for what we know, rather than being a deterministic answer,” says Alan D. Duncan, Distinguished VP Analyst at Gartner. “Government agencies are set up operationally to be for a specific purpose, initiative or task. We have to get more comfortable with a probabilistic approach to make decisions, adapt quickly and respond.”

Another tip? Government leaders in data and analytics and IT need to realize that there may be data sources — if you just ask. Data sharing and data exchange are more prevalent than you think. You may have access to more data than you realize.

Enlist diverse talent 

A diverse pool of talent becomes especially critical during crisis response or prediction. Marginalized populations, for example, may be better understood by someone with personal experience. Also, when looking at the pool of candidates for data and analytics competencies, perform a rigorous assessment of the individual’s skills.

Data compliance is an opportunity to obtain trust

Legislation and compliance need not be constraints. The disciplines and capabilities that come from good data management, quality and governance become enablers of speed, resilience and innovation — rather than inhibitors.

“Data governance is a critical aspect of your data strategy,” says Donna Medeiros, Senior Director Analyst at Gartner. “Policy and technical guidance exist, otherwise the process will break down.”

Leverage compliance as a mechanism to prioritize quality. 

Data and analytics leaders keep an ethical eye on data

Chief data officers have become the conscience of the organization, plugged into all the ways in which their agencies use data. 

Successful data leaders deploy best practices to cultivate an ethical data-driven culture and establish the organizational capabilities needed to optimize their digital government data and analytics strategy.

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