States aren’t using data effectively. With access to massive caches of data, states could be true data-driven decision makers. However, many states have mixed success in using administrative data to drive decisions, according to a recent Pew Charitable Trusts report.

To help states move from struggling to succeeding, Amber Ivy, an officer at the Pew Charitable Trusts, shared five key actions states can take to promote data-driven decision-making.

Plan Ahead

When it comes to planning, states need to accomplish three things to set themselves up for success, Ivey said.

For a first step, Ivey said states must have a written, formal data strategy.

IT leaders must also establish governance structures to guide data use and access. As part of this process, Ivey said it’s essential to prioritize citizen privacy.

Since states can only plan for and govern the data that they know about, Ivey encouraged all states to perform a complete inventory of all data sets. She explained many states have no idea what data they actually have.

Build Capacity

Data analytics requires competent analysts. This doesn’t mean states need to rush out and hire new employees, Ivey said. While hiring is one option, Ivey also encouraged states to offer training and workshops for existing employees. Keeping an eye on the future, states should also grow their talent pipeline by expanding internship programs.

Share Data

For data to be useful, stakeholders need to have access to it. Ivey shared two ways states can improve data sharing practices.

First off, states must make sure their data is high quality, meaning it’s complete, accurate, and in readable and usable format.

Second, agencies need to change the way they view data. “The data isn’t mine,” Ivey explained. By taking an enterprise view of data, states can move past a silo effect where data is locked to an agency and not shared across government. States should implement a centralized data system to avoid silos.

Analyze Data

Ivey explained that many states struggle with actually analyzing their data due to a lack of knowledge about how to begin, or a lack of analytical expertise.

“Most states start small with simple calculations, and then progress to more complicated predictive analytics projects–but even simple analyses can provide important insights into a state program or policy,” the report explained.

Ivey also recommended going visual–charts, online dashboards, and reports are ways states can turn data into a useful decision-making tool. States then need to bring data into meetings and legislative sessions so the information can be used to make better decisions.

Sustain Support

Investing in an initiative once isn’t enough. Resources invested in increasing data use could be lost without policies or structures in place to make sure the initiative continues, the report explained.

What’s standing in the way? Political gridlock, resistant staff, a lack of resources, and regular disruptions in government leadership.

How can government IT leaders overcome obstacles in their path? By encouraging legislation and codified policies to support data use. That way, a change in governor or state house doesn’t mean a data initiative is dropped.

Five steps to improve the state of state data analytics–let’s get on with it.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs