As cloud computing advancements make data more accessible, federal agencies are driving improvements in services, efficiency of operations, and effectiveness of government programs. The ability to make faster, more informed decisions is transformative, and the next step is delivering data at the fingertips of all levels of agency operations - not just to the data engineers and scientists.

The question remains: Are agencies ready to support a workforce fully armed with data, or could they experience too much of a good thing?

While the value proposition of data analytics is clear, agencies have yet to take full advantage. Agency leaders continue to encounter existing roadblocks to a shift toward this data-first mindset, including hesitancy to transition away from legacy systems, lack of accessible and comprehensible data across operations, and fear and confusion around the unknown of new processes like DataOps.

In order for agencies to experience true modernization and learn to embrace emerging tech such as AI, machine learning and predictive analytics, they must take a more strategic approach to maximizing their most valuable asset: their data. And ensuring their agency’s “data readiness” will be the first step.

Setting up for Success: Enabling Data Readiness

As evidenced by the priorities set forth by the Federal Chief Data Officers Council’s Federal Data Strategy, there is a real need to address the obstacles that are preventing agencies from making better use of their data. Agency leaders can effectively navigate this widespread adoption and ensure their personnel are ready to act upon available data, using a few key tactics:

Seek low-code platforms. Using low-code alternatives to current data analysis efforts removes the need to engage more advanced software engineers and data scientists. Seek platforms that are user friendly and effective. As more employees are onboarded to the platform, the organization can steadily make its ways towards being data centric.

Make data more accessible to the right people. In order for a workforce to take full advantage of the power of data, they must first have access to the data. However, this accessibility must be appropriately tailored to the user’s job function and needs of the role. The right data means nothing if it’s not applicable to the person who has it.

Start small. Making the shift to utilizing data to its full potential can be daunting to some. To start the transition, identify small, incremental opportunities where data use could alleviate pain points or solve basic functions. Once employees are able to confidently use data for simple operations, slowly begin to introduce the use of data in larger projects and objectives.

Establish data literacy programs. To properly upskill existing employees, provide mandatory data literacy training to ensure employees are confident in their ability to read, understand and apply data to their everyday tasks. Require sessions throughout the fiscal year to prevent loss of skills.

Seek continuous improvement. It’s important to ask employees to assess their own data readiness throughout the process. Welcome their thoughts on what can be improved about your agency’s data program and how they think that might best be accomplished. Following data literacy programs, implement firm-wide data assessments to identify problem areas to address, and adjust the training accordingly.

Moving from Data-Ready to DataOps

While being “data ready” sorts the pieces of the puzzle, implementing DataOps helps your agency put the pieces together. Great data enables great DataOps. In fact, great data requires it.

DataOps, aka data operations, is an agile, process-oriented approach to improve the quality and reduce the cycle time of realizing value from data analytics. Similar to its better-known sister concept DevOps, it removes friction and accelerates how organizations deliver and maximize the value of key IT assets. In this case, those assets lie within the organization’s data. All in all, DataOps is a strategic mindset that encompasses people, processes and technology to streamline decision-making.

Becoming data ready is an ongoing process, and it may take years for an agency to develop a data strategy that works for its personnel and mission. But with a clear goal for the organization and a roadmap to get there, the transition can be streamlined, helping agency personnel take full advantage of all that data can offer once it’s accessible and comprehensible.

Andrew Churchill is Vice President of Federal at Qlik, where he leads the company’s Federal go-to-market strategy and customer initiatives. Prior to joining Qlik, he led sales efforts at Informatica and has worked at Network General, Plumtree Software, and Platinum Technology.

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This article is an Op-Ed and as such, the opinions expressed are those of the authors. If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please email Federal Times Senior Managing Editor Cary O’Reilly.

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