GCIO Focus: 4 Steps to a Solid Data Strategy

You'll need a plan that supports building bricks (services) out of clay (data).

If you follow the trail of any trend in government IT, you will ultimately arrive at the same place that will determine your relative success — data. Whether it is current initiatives like cybersecurity, citizen experience or IT transformation or emerging capabilities like artificial intelligence, data is the foundation.  

To execute these or any other initiative efficiently and effectively, you need to begin with clean, available and current data. To build this foundation, every organization needs a data strategy that not only meets the needs of the business today, but also provides the flexibility to adapt as business needs change in the future.

The right data strategy must provide your business with rapid and comprehensive access to all of the data it needs. Every organization starts from a different place in the process, but all must develop a data strategy that clearly determines where you are today, where you need to go and a road map for how you are going to get there. If you follow the steps below, you can build a data strategy that will serve as the foundation for all of the current and future capabilities that will drive business results:

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Build the team: As in the great strides being made in areas like agile and DevOps, you need to assemble a team that spans the organization, assembling and coordinating the “owners” of the data and the “users” of the data. This cross-functional working group of subject matter experts will serve to help the organization understand both the business requirements and the ownership across the organization.

Assess the needs: While this certainly includes traditional requirements gathering, it must go a step further to understand and document the business capabilities and processes that create, transform and use the data. This includes current use cases, future use cases, mapping the data needs and aligning the identified capabilities to the overall business strategy.

Analyze the options: In analyzing the options, it is important to identify changes that should be made to the processes for managing data to support the key business objectives. Of course, you also need to settle on a target data architecture that supports the objectives and the new or modified processes. Finally, you need a plan to implement the selected architecture options.

Prioritize the options: This critical step requires you share the selected options and associated implementation plans with the key business leaders you will need on board for short and long-term support and funding. It is also valuable to test your options with others not as yet involved in the process to get an outsider’s feedback. Final prioritization should be done leveraging a framework that can “score” each option via agreed upon criteria, focused on the business value each will deliver.

To build efficient and effective services — for today and the future — you need to have a data strategy that supports building bricks (services) out of clay (data). Following these four steps will help you get there.

Read Mark Western's previous columns:

Driving Your Strategy Through the Data Mountain

Prioritization Key to American Technology Council's Plan to Modernize Government IT

5 Steps to Digital Business Transformation

Customer Experience Act Focuses on Outside-in Approach

Measure the Wrong Things, Get the Wrong Outcomes

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