The Commerce Data Advisory Council's 2nd Meeting: Storytelling, Staff Recruiting, and Complex Processes
Yesterday’s Commerce Data Advisory Council (CDAC) meeting, chaired by the Department of Commerce’s Chief Data Officer Ian Kalin, was streamed online. For anyone interested in the digital transformation of government services it was a very interesting and informative meeting.
Reflecting the initial steps in CDO Kalin’s evolving plan to improve Commerce Department data management and accessibility, the meeting’s agenda included some of the major challenges and opportunities associated with data governance at that sprawling agency. Here are some of the high points:
- Storytelling. Decisions about the kinds of services (including “storytelling) that should accompany “raw data” when data are made available have significant marketing, cost, technical, and policy implications. This appears to be a fundamental issue common to many, if not most, open data and data accessibility projects.
- Commerce is establishing a “Commerce Data Corps” internally to support development of data intensive, innovative, and cost-saving systems and services. Modeled on GSA’s 18F program the Corp’s first challenge will be recruitment of top talent. Much of the discussion about the Corps at yesterday’s meeting focused on staff recruitment.
- Presentations by representatives of Census, PTO, and 18F emphasized the need for effective management starting with a clear definition of goals, objectives, stakeholders, and costs. How this is accomplished varies:
- Census has a long history as well as established channels and requirements for gathering and publishing Census and population data. Currently how data on individuals and households are collected is changing as direct surveys are replaced by data supplied by administrative and third-party systems. This transformation has implications for how data are managed and distributed.
- PTO has a complex patent process to manage from legal, technical, and administrative perspectives. Exposing information content and transaction data at any step in the process for public access must take this process complexity into account along with ongoing patent content searchability initiatives. A key challenge: quickly determining the “status” of any given patent application.
- 18F, while following an Agile model for delivering usable code quickly, emphasized the importance of well-defined statements of work and the commitment of the client agency’s senior staff to availability and collaboration. 18F has turned down projects when these conditions were not met. (Speaking as a consultant I can attest to the value of being able to carefully select one’s clients!)
Given the size and complexity of the Commerce Department it is refreshing to see attention being paid to data management and accessibility at this level. There’s an understanding represented by this group that the data resources being stewarded by Commerce programs both reflect and are critical inputs to U.S. technical and industrial competitiveness. Here’s hoping this group will be able to facilitate an exchange of useful “lessons learned” and resources across the varied Commerce programs!
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Copyright (c) 2015 by Dennis D. McDonald, Ph.D. Dr. McDonald’s consulting, project management, and research focus on planning and managing data intensive projects. His consulting services include preproposal research and analysis, technical and business proposal development and costing, marketing and sales support including collateral and website content preparation, presentation development, blogging, and “white paper” preparation. His project management services include project and program management, PMO setup and administration, project schedule development, and resource planning. His web site is located atwww.ddmcd.com and his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter he is @ddmcd.