In our data-powered world, government agencies must develop a holistic approach to building a foundation of data capabilities and assets. But what does that really mean?
A quick search for the word holistic on Google yields a handful of results. There’s a holistic approach to just about everything these days: health, student success, customer service, and cybersecurity. Even fitness, financial planning, writing, and water management have co-opted the buzzword.
Much more than jargon, though, the word holistic isn’t necessarily bad nor has it lost its meaning. But to avoid confusion or misunderstanding, let’s start by clearly defining what holistic means, specifically as it relates to data and knowledge management.
What is a holistic approach to data?
Data is the beating heart of government agencies today. Just like managing sleep, nutrition, exercise, and other positive lifestyle choices leads to better physical health, managing data holistically means better organizational outcomes in the long run. Agencies, therefore, must consider the entire data lifecycle at every level of the organization and how it feeds into the decision-making process.
A holistic approach to designing and building a foundation of data capabilities and assets means everything and everyone works in tandem to achieve policy outcomes.
Holistic data management in action
When monitoring team effectiveness, metrics matter. They must align with what a government office is trying to achieve. Let’s look at how this approach might be applied in a real, boots-on-the-ground scenario.
Say you are an agency responsible for evaluating a polio vaccination clinic in a foreign country. The question the team might ask itself is: how many total vaccinations are we giving? But a better question is: What populations are underserverved, and how does our program work with those populations? Because the bottom line is you can ship a bunch of vaccinations overseas, but if they’re not reaching the people who need them the most, your efforts are not achieving your policy outcomes.
Pulling back and looking at the data holistically, we see that asking the right questions and feeding the answers in the direction that achieves policy objectives allows this program to be a success. If more government agencies applied this approach to their metrics of effectiveness, their programs, too, would be a success.
What prevents government agencies from adopting a holistic approach to data?
We all know the value of living a healthy lifestyle. So why don’t more of us…just do it? Similarly, why don’t government agencies just adopt a better, more holistic approach to data management?
The problem isn’t generating data. Just like the problem with healthy living isn’t a lack of resources. The challenge comes in the form of consistency, particularly in government agencies, where every office has its own budget and its own way of organizing its data. On top of that, policy objectives often change, and agencies need to tweak and adjust their data collection and data sets to meet new challenges.
The unfortunate result is that critical data and knowledge is kept in separate, disconnected systems with little to no agility, oversight, and visibility. This means that the data and knowledge needed to make decisions is inaccessible, disparate or so widely scattered that it is unusable.
So how can government agencies move toward developing a holistic data management approach?
Creating a data-infused decision-making process
Data is only as valuable as the actionable insights you gain from it. When government agencies implement a holistic approach to data and knowledge management, they boost their data fluency. In other words, they strengthen their ability to understand information and garner insight from this information to enhance their decision-making abilities. When gathered, stored, and analyzed holistically, data informs and guides decision-making at every level of a government agency.
For government agencies who want to start taking a more data-driven, holistic approach, here are a few of the fundamentals.
Connect data to mission success
As mentioned earlier, the ability to leverage data effectively leads to better organizational and agency outcomes. But the data has to be relevant! It starts with asking and answering the right questions. Agencies should structure their data collection to align with their objectives. Then using the right digital tools (platform, AI, machine learning, etc.) that can easily collect data and interact with it in meaningful ways, actually enables government agencies to make faster, more intelligent decisions, positively impacting mission objectives and priorities at every level.
Lead with data architecture
Spend time building an information infrastructure that thinks about problems in measurable ways so agencies can tie their data to what they’re specifically trying to accomplish. Once you have a strong foundation, embracing automation and machine intelligence, and including analytical and digital experts in your data process, leads to agencies not only achieving policy outcomes but also efficiency, contextual knowledge, and accountability at every level.
Train existing employees to understand how data drives decisions
Strengthening data fluency is a process that takes time and training. There is no software silver bullet nor can you hire your way out of a data management problem. Training can include learning about metrics of effectiveness, analytics, and how to drive actionable insights from information.
Take advantage of expert guidance
When we want to get in better physical shape, many of us hire a personal trainer. Someone who will meet us where we’re at, keep us accountable, and stick with us on our journey toward a healthier lifestyle. At Tesla Government, we take on a similar role. We provide government agencies with a consistent workspace and platform where data can be tweaked and modified to suit specific agency requirements. And our data curators act like personal trainers through the whole process.
Tesla Government can help you develop a holistic approach.
Data is at the center of your agency. Let us help you create a healthy, holistic data foundation that drives decision making and unleashes mission success.