A Playbook for the Federal Data Strategy

Published: July 31, 2019

Big DataInformation TechnologyPolicy and Legislation

In conjunction with the finalized Federal Data Strategy, a playbook is released for agencies to begin establishing sufficient data roles and authorities, as well as evaluating agency data maturity to identify strategic priorities.

Now that the Federal Data Strategy has been finalized, the strategy’s team is focusing its attention on helping agencies implement the strategy and related legislation such as the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018. The recently released Playbook aims to support agencies in developing the infrastructure, both organizationally and technologically, needed to enhance the use of data “to deliver on mission, serve the public, and steward resources while respecting privacy and confidentiality.”

The document provides two “plays” directly related to the following practices from the data strategy:

  • Practice 11 - Prioritize Data Governance: Ensure there are sufficient authorities, roles, organizational structures, policies, and resources in place to transparently support the management, maintenance, and use of strategic data assets
  • Practice 15 - Assess Maturity: Evaluate the maturity of all aspects of agency data capabilities to inform priorities for strategic resource investment

Play #1: Data Governance

This play consists of two steps: establishing a data governance and setting a vision. The guide explains that the data governance body should be chaired by the CDO and include senior staff and program managers as well as positions such as the CIO, CAO and CFO. The duties of the body include, identifying the scope of data that needs to be managed, the key data-related priorities to be achieved, and the policies and standards needed to properly manage the data. To do this, the body should use maturity models to assess the agency’s capabilities, seek stakeholder input, and recommend data investment priorities.

Each agency should set a vision on how it will leverage data as a strategic asset to address key agency missions and meet stakeholder needs. In addition to outlining agency leadership goals and expectations for using the data, the vision should also address the values that will drive data governance and management.

Play #2: Data and Related Infrastructure Maturity

The second play is more conducive to contractors. In it, the two steps identified by the playbook include, conducting a data maturity assessment, and establishing an agency data architecture guidance. According to the playbook a maturity assessment “analyzes all aspects of agency policies, procedures, and operations related to data and data infrastructure, including data governance, data management, data culture, data systems and tools, data analytics, staff skills and capacity, resource capacity, and compliance with law and policy.” The results of the assessment will help determine the gaps in agency data infrastructure and pave the way to identifying investment opportunities to enhance data management processes. In order to conduct the assessment, the playbook advises agencies to select a data maturity assessment model, for example open-source or proprietary models, that align to current agency capacities and over time, move to more complex models to achieve higher levels of maturity. The playbook hints that in the future, agencies may be offered a suite of standardized government-wide maturity assessments to streamline government reporting.

A data architecture guidance is defined as ensuring “data systems have consistent metadata to promote interoperability, minimize redundancy, and improve the user experience.” In order to establish the guidance, agencies must have a good inventory of data assets, data elements included with each asset, and storage criteria. The data governance body is instructed to work with all agency stakeholders to ensure the identification of common data elements, establish guidance for related metadata and designate authoritative data systems for common elements.