The Foundational Four provides a strong basis to build data culture and capability. It establishes a leader to advocate for data, identifies a strategy to set an agency’s data directions, sets up programs to drive governance and better use of data, and identifies the data they have custodianship of.
As with any capability, on-going attention is needed to ensure programs and strategy remain functional and useful; they are not ‘set-and-forget’ activities. The Data Governance Program can be refined over time. A Data Inventory will need updating for new assets, or improving the metadata for existing assets. A secondphase Data Strategy can be established once the first has been completed. A Senior Data Leader will continue to grow into their role and enhance the status of data within an agency and can also provide leadership more broadly through the APS.
As the Foundational Four become operational, the next steps an agency takes will depend on the culture, context, priorities and business/policy drivers of that agency. What will be important for one may be less relevant for another agency. Some key questions to ask if you are thinking about next steps are:
- Is your agency driven by policy, service delivery or research outputs? What would help deliver these functions in a more joined up way?
- What outcomes is your agency trying to achieve and what role does data have in supporting those outcomes?
- How can you use data to help build trust in the services and policy your agency delivers?
While each agency’s next steps may be a little different, there are some core areas which every agency may consider. A framework that describes how to value your data assets can help define how you trade-off the effort of managing data against the benefit derived from the use and reuse of data. It can also help identify business critical data which can then help inform security and business continuity requirements.
Agencies could invest in further data awareness and education to ensure that all staff see the value of data in their agency and know how to best use it in their daily work. Part of understanding the value of data also requires consideration of the value of your agency’s data to others. Agencies can work towards increasing transparency of data holdings through releasing more data as open where appropriate or publishing details of the data assets so that other parties can seek access to data holdings. To do either of these steps, agencies will need to adopt metadata standards, remediate existing metadata and integrate metadata management into data management practices.
Agencies with a policy focus may need to increase capabilities to use data to better answer complex policy questions through advanced analytics or data integration. This would require assessing and improving the quality of data assets and investing in staff data and analytics capabilities. Agency activities will be complemented by the Australian Public Service Commission’s work to establish a data profession stream in 2020, an action which emerged from the APS review.
Agencies with a service delivery focus may need to increase capabilities to use data as an input into business intelligence to improve service delivery. This would require standardising data collection methods, improving data quality at the source of information capture and improving interoperability of data to ensure data can be exchanged easily and securely between service delivery agencies.
Agencies should reach out to their peers to gain insights into what others are doing, what current initiatives may be leveraged, or where agencies could collaborate to make cross-agency improvements. Working together in a whole of APS way, will continue to drive a shift in data culture, modernise the public service and enable the benefits of improving data practices to be realised.