Government agencies are trying to move beyond simply managing data to analyzing and using data to inform decisions.

“We have a lot of information and that information needs to be tied together,” said Michael Peckham, Data Act Project Management Office executive director for Health and Human Services, at Software AG’s Innovation Tour on Nov. 2.

Peckham said that bringing data together in one readable format on the USAspending site is a good first step because it allows people to use the data. However, Peckham said that there are concerns that not all of the data is accurate.

“We’re a long way from perfect,” Peckham said. “But it’s interesting to look at it now because it tells a story that we haven’t been able to do before.”

Peckham said that the best way to start using the data that agencies have is to know what questions the data should answer and how it will help the mission of the agencies.

“We need to get that small ball rolling and turn it into a bigger ball,” Peckham said.

Thomas Sasala, chief data officer for the Army, said that he started by making certain data accessible only to those who needed to see it. After that, the Army has been working on how to analyze and integrate the data into decision-making processes. This has enforced the roles of data scientists who understand the data they have.

“The reality is that they’re probably experts in manipulating the data but not in the data itself,” Sasala said. “It’s really quite challenging, the breadth and the depth of the data we have.”

Sasala said that his advice for data managers within agencies is to focus on one task at a time and go for “quick wins.”

“We don’t want to get sucked into a situation where all we’re doing is throwing data into one database and we really don’t understand any of it,” Sasala said.

Sasala said that he has thought about incorporating shared services for data management.

“Data is the new bacon,” Sasala said.

Mark Krzysko, deputy director for Enterprise Information for the Department of Defense, said that data access should be a commodity.

“I think data is the shared service,” Krzysko said.

Krzysko said that when he begins a data project, he asks what does the agency want to see, what does it have, and what does it need. Krzysko said that it’s important for the CIO and the business side of the agency to work together to show the value of data management.

“The value is in the business of what you do,” Krzysko said. “It’s not the technology. It’s not the business process.”

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Morgan Lynch
Morgan Lynch
Morgan Lynch is a Staff Reporter for MeriTalk covering Federal IT and K-12 Education.