The role of a Chief Data Officer (CDO) in the government and public sector space is multifaceted and evolving. CDOs are responsible for their organization’s data strategy development and implementation, fostering a data-driven culture, driving data usage, and leading the charge to modernize data assets within the organization for lasting efficiency, innovation, and collaboration gains.
As CDOs navigate their role and the complexities of working within a public service environment, they accumulate invaluable experiences and insights that can benefit others in similar roles. Within my role as the CDO for Deloitte Government and Public Sector, I have the privilege to work with several such government and public sector data leaders working tirelessly to design and implement their strategic data initiatives.
I have extracted through these experiences, combined with Deloitte’s deep industry insights, common focus areas for a CDO to successfully navigate the journey to innovate, transform, and modernize the use of data for their organization.
The playbook builds on an earlier document published in 2018 and aims to distill the collective insights from our team and CDOs across the government and public sector since then.
We present this learning as key focus areas from CDO experiences, derived from the real-world challenges and successes encountered by CDOs as they strive to unlock the transformative power of data for their organizations.
This playbook serves as a supportive resource for and valuable guidance to current and aspiring CDOs in the government, as well as other professionals and policymakers who recognize the significance of data-driven decision-making.
The challenges and lessons of focus in the playbook include, but are not limited to:
Our research found that CDOs had more success taking pragmatic steps, such as picking strategic pilots aligned to long-term mission needs and tying funding requests to business impact, when dealing with challenges for funding and staffing. Being clear about what key stakeholders “get” from their investment from sponsors and stakeholders. Learn more about this .
There is no one size fits all structure for all data offices. We have found that CDO offices tend to fit into one of three models: decentralized, federated, or centralized. Each model has its risks and benefits and CDOs can get caught up trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
Certain foundational steps, such as understanding and aligning stakeholder needs and quick wins aligned to mission goals, will help ease any office transformation that may be needed. Learn more about this .
Data strategies, like any other strategy, are at risk to sit on the shelf. We have found that a data strategy is most successful when designed to be actionable to drive the organization’s core mission, to align across organizational functions, to show clear progress, and bring in the right staff and leadership voices to make a clear case for change.
Data strategies today must also be designed for agility. To stay useful and relevant, data strategies must be responsive to emerging shifts in the mission, data, technology, and partner landscape in which an organization operates. Learn more about this .
We have found that prioritizing where to make data investments can prevent CDOs from biting off more than they can chew when setting strategic initiatives from their data strategy. Having a realistic approach and goals, including setting up for incremental implementation, will likely pay off when preparing to implement data strategies and focus on strategic initiatives.
Through (how data can help the mission objectives) and (how to protect against bad data risks) priorities, the CDO can identify and articulate the tradeoffs on where to focus data investments and synthesize their goals in a digestible and realized format.
CDOs today should bi-directionally share data native to their organization with data from external partners. This increased openness of data is both essential for a data-driven organization and can pose risks.
While focusing on technology to ease data sharing can help, CDOs must work to make the case for data sharing and establish commitment and trust across data owners. This can be through a focus on data ethics, privacy, and confidentiality, to make sure that members are comfortable with data sharing. Learn more about this .
Data literacy requires a comprehensive approach, and CDOs must find leadership support and sponsorship to get any vision for literacy off of the ground.
CDOs should take stock of the current state of their workforce, define targets for competencies, and develop a learning agenda and curriculum, among other tasks, to begin and implement their data literacy program. Learn more about this .
One area of particular interest in the new playbook and our conversations with CDOs is data products and data apps. Focusing on data products and data apps rather than data assets can be a great way for organizations to demystify data.
CDOs can focus on highlighting the broad applicability, openness for extension, and how data can be widely usable rather than by ownership. By doing this, CDOs can help take valuable first steps toward unlocking data value. Learn more about this .
About the author:
Adita Karkera serves as the Chief Data Officer for Deloitte Consulting LLP’s government and public services practice and is a fellow at the Deloitte AI Institute for Government. With more than 23 years of industry experience, Karkera is an award-winning executive, dedicated to improving public service. She serves on numerous industry boards and data management industry forums, including the CDO Magazine Editorial Board. She is a pioneer in articulating the importance of data literacy, especially in accelerating advanced analytics and trustworthy AI adoption in government.
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