The Importance of Data Strategy
Virtually all guidance on establishing high performing and effective data governance programs relies on critical components such as executive support and effective data stewardship networks. One of the most significant components is establishing meaningful strategy. An effective data strategy functions as a pole star, guiding various programs, missions, and management approaches towards more optimal, consistent, and useful processes and products. Building consensus around an effective strategy is particularly important in cases where little data consolidation will occur, data are heavily siloed in their definition, collection and use, and governance will be established under a federated model.
Within DOL, data strategy was developed with broad consensus and implemented to:
- Clearly articulate enterprise goals for data and the expected value of improved operations;
- Appropriately prioritize the importance of data in major lines of business including IT, budget, performance management, goal setting, training, and personnel management;
- Align local data management decisions to enterprise goals, methods, and standards; and
- Integrate strategic goals for data into existing planning, administration, budget, and management systems.
DOL’s Enterprise Data Strategy
DOL formalized its first Enterprise Data Strategy in April of 2022. The Enterprise Data Strategy is informed by the numerous laws, policies and guidance on Federal data management, prior assessments of data management maturity and data skills to objectively describe areas in need of improvement, and recognition of the diverse set of stakeholders who are central to this work and will benefit from enhancements.
The framework for the strategy builds off the foundation of missions and laws that guide the Department, and is composed of four guiding principles (the FAIR principles) and five goals that can develop more consistent and effective data governance and align Departmental and agency planning to improve data management and use capabilities. Taken together, the foundation, principles, and goals form a strategy that should guide decision-making, project planning, and data governance, and incrementally improve the state of data at DOL.
The strategy concludes with focused areas for improvement at the agency and Departmental level including:
- ensuring data quality;
- building and maintaining data talent;
- integration of data into existing agency management and planning systems to create a practical and realizable path forward; and
- expanding the data capabilities for producing sophisticated analytics.
Link to DOL’s Enterprise Data Strategy.
Implementing Improved Data Governance
Secretary’s Order 02-2019 described the state of DOL data when the Office of Data Governance was established in the following way:
“Across the agencies within the Department of Labor, data—which are essential to setting policy and delivering efficiently and effectively on the Department's mission of serving America's workforce—are collected every day. However, these data may not be leveraged, housed, formatted, or made public in ways that best serve the needs of DOL or its stakeholders. There needs to be a more central focus on the quality, consistency, and availability of data to inform and influence how DOL carries out its mission.”
DOL’s Data Board confirmed this in 2020 through two assessments of data infrastructure, culture, and use, with results broadly indicating lower levels of maturity (informal to evolving). Data management assessments identified specific areas for improvement including: data documentation; data governance and access; prototyping new analytics; identifying, obtaining and retaining data talent; and better leadership for data projects. Data skills assessment identified specific areas for improvement including building data talent, and developing more efficient and effective methods for accessing, visualizing, and analyzing data. The assessment results have helped inform DOL’s transition towards creating data that better supports agency and Departmental priorities, creates more effective analytical products, more time and cost-efficient sharing and use, and brings the greatest value to the broadest set of stakeholders.
DOL’s data strategy recognizes agency ownership of data, seeking to align individual agency activities towards more effective enterprise governance and management. Instead of creating additional and potentially burdensome management systems, DOL has pursued a strategy for prioritizing and integrating data into existing strategic planning, budget, performance, and personnel management systems. In some cases, agencies are already taking actions to review and leverage their data, and building teams that can further these abilities. In other cases, new agency or Departmental priorities have identified needs to create and manage new data, examine existing data, or repurpose external data to guide projects and planning.
In preparation for 2023 and beyond, DOL’s Enterprise Data Strategy will serve as a major input and theme in agency management plans, formally integrates it into agency systems, describes improved data governance in a way that links it to agency or Departmental mission and goals, and documents the transition towards better data stewardship; more research, analytical use, and innovation in the use of internal and external data; and better use and development of data talent.
The principles and goals in Secretary’s Order 02-2019, and the DOL’s Enterprise Data Strategy will guide current and prospective efforts across agencies to create and improve capabilities, support better alignment of data operations, develop more effective data management, and encourage greater use of data to inform program administration and decision-making.
Geospatial Data Strategy
DOL formalized its first Geospatial Data Strategy in April of 2021 and is the first of 13 requirements for covered agencies detailed at 43 USC 46 Sec. 2808(a)(1). While DOL’s mission does not involve or require geospatial data generation, management, or use, the Department would directly benefit from developing more systematic data governance of any address or location data it does collect, and aligning such governance around appropriate enterprise data management policy. The Department’s primary approach to implementation is to create a shared service for address standardization, address validation and geocoding of location data, and to start integrating this service into legacy and prospective data collections to begin building geospatial data capacity. As the Department establishes data that can be leveraged in geospatial application and analysis, DOL’s data governance body will work to identify training, opportunities, and tools to leverage the strategic value in that data for program administration, policymaking, and resource allocation.
Link to DOL’s Geospatial Data Strategy.