Get a Head Start on Your Data Strategy Action Plan this FFYE

The end of the federal fiscal year is a great time for public sector decision-makers to consider how their respective organizations can get a head start on supporting the Federal Data Strategy Action Plan. The current draft of the plan, which is scheduled to be finalized by September, contains several recommendations required to be completed within a 3-, 6- or 12-month timeframe. As you will read below, many of these requirements are overlapping and can be accomplished by focusing on a logical sequence of activities that will in the end (1) add value towards accomplishing mission priorities, (2) help scale and mature your organizations data management capabilities and (3) accelerate innovation and cost-savings across your organization.

Fundamental to many of the actions in the Federal Data Strategy Action Plan is the need to understand how and where data can add value to your organization.

Sounds easy, right? This is tougher than it seems.

In many of my conversations with public sector executives, leaders know they need to jump-start (or mature) their data programs, but the details of where and how to begin are complicated by organizational dynamics, funding, and in many instances, identifying and gaining alignment around the best place to start. Moreover, for many agencies, lack of trained data scientists, a CDO to create “data-driven” culture and governance to guide discussions further complicates the situation.

So where and how to begin?

The best advice for any organization embarking on the development of a data program is to start with a pilot or proof-of-concept (POC). Starting with an initiative that is, among other aspects, narrow in scope and set up for success can create a virtuous cycle to accomplish many of the action items in the Federal Data Strategy Action Plan. Let’s take for example “Action 15” listed below and related practices and how progress will be measured (all of which is to be accomplished within 12 months):

Action 15: Identify Data Needs to Answer Key Agency Questions. By August 2020, all agencies will take initial steps to identify the data needed to answer key questions of interest to the agency.
Supported practice(s): Identify Data Needs to Answer Key Agency Questions; Champion Data Use; Prioritize Data Governance; Govern Data to Protect Confidentiality and Privacy.
Measurement: Agency has engaged stakeholders and consulted with key leaders, such as Chief Data Officers, to begin identifying the data needed to answer key agency questions (Y/N) Agency has categorized data needs for key questions by data type (Y/N) Timeline: Completed within 12 months.

“Key agency questions” could be strategic in nature, operational or tactical. Regardless of type, critical to yielding success for the development of a data program is that they render great value to the organization. For example, from an operational perspective, a “key question” should focus on what key agency business processes (or functions) could be optimized with an enabling data solution. Identifying these opportunities is typically easy and the list is long. However, identifying the right ones to tackle first is where the complexity comes into play. As leaders assess which opportunities to embark upon – they should be asking and evaluating three key items: (1) what value does the business process (function) contribute to accomplishing mission objectives (hopefully this can be taken straight from a strategic plan), (2) how easily accessible is the data needed to develop the solution and (3) how does it compare relative to other opportunities.

Using this approach, a list of opportunities can be pulled into a matrix and scored according to their value and ability to deliver value quickly (the so-called low hanging fruit!). A pilot or POC will enable a 6-9-month approach to start building the foundations of your data program by starting small and landing with success. This will go far to build momentum and support for the program and slowly start to impact the culture of your organization – to be data driven! Use an OTA to jump-start funding so that you can accelerate innovation and take requisite steps to mature your organization's data program as well as meet the Federal Data Strategy Action Plan timelines.

DLT can help develop your federal data program – no matter where your organization falls within the federal data maturity model. We can help assess, plan and identify those opportunities that will deliver high value to your agency’s mission. Moreover, we have technology partners that can enable and help accelerate your data program. There is no time like the present to use FYE to get a jump start on your data action plan!