4 Considerations When Building Your Government Data Strategy

If you’ve followed Cloudera for a while, you know we’ve long been singing the praises—or harping on the importance, depending on perspective—of a solid, standalone enterprise data strategy. While certainly not a new concept, Government missions are wholly dependent on real time access/analysis of data (wherever it may be (legacy data centers or public cloud) to render insight to support operational decisions. The ways data strategies are implemented, the resulting outcomes and the lessons learned along the way provide important guardrails. They also serve to sharpen our tools and help offer steady, knowledgeable guidance as agencies continue to trudge toward the cloud.

I don’t call it a “trudge” because the cloud is an unwanted destination, but rather because it’s an arduous journey (remember “Cloud First”…from 2009…yes 2009!).  A long one that isn’t always easy or linear. One that can feel like you’re being bypassed on a prescribed trajectory that’s actually anything but one-size-fits-all. 

The reality is we’ve been and most likely will always be, a hybrid environment. Most government agencies have a foot in each one—legacy, on-premises environments and a combination of public and private cloud options—and they will likely remain hybrid for some time. This is to be expected, given the challenges that come with classified data and operations, legacy data of uncertain location and provenance, and thorny application rationalization processes that often uncover more, unexpected data problems, among other hurdles.

But this is exactly the reason why a thoughtful application and data strategy comes in. As more agencies buckle down on IT modernization efforts, fueled by new funding and impending deadlines, more of these complexities are coming to the fore. The good news is these tangles can be tamed with strategic rationale and updated, systematic frameworks that help bring order to the data chaos. 

To ensure your Department’s data strategy is as effective and comprehensive as possible, there are some important keys to consider—keys we’ve honed in our work with agencies in recent years—whether you’re reevaluating your current strategy or starting from scratch.

  • Have a clear understanding of data attributes: How often do you use your data? Will your chosen solution allow you to secure your data? Will it support role-based access? Which applications are engaging which data? Having a thorough understanding of these attributes help tailor your data strategy to specific requirements and preferences—and ensure you’re making the right choice in cloud solutions.
  • Tackle configuration approach as the first bite at the apple: The seemingly endless cloud options, combined with the sheer magnitude of agency data and legacy applications, can be overwhelming to determine where to start. Employing a smart data strategy can distill the many elements that must be considered and prioritized, filter what assets should be migrated to the cloud, and align these decisions under broader goals.
  • Build, use and constantly adjust a cloud migration checklist: Having a plan that consists of an ordered, sequential list of steps and milestones can dramatically elevate the usefulness of your data, as well as the efficiency of how that data is used and the context that makes it into useful information. Allowing that checklist to bend to shifting needs, requirements, offerings, discoveries and other developments gives you a competitive advantage in agility and nimble response.
  • Use the right tools: Organizations must command and control the entire data lifecycle, from initial data ingest to AI/ML based analysis to acting decisively on data-driven intelligence derived from newfound, cloud-enabled impact, the right capabilities produce the holistic, coherent view that drives organizations to the cloud in the first place. Artificial intelligence and machine learning, for example, provide precise data analysis—and if your data strategy is right, those tools can be used to achieve targeted goals for how data is used as well as novel applications that maybe weren’t the original intent, but turn out to be dynamic, multifaceted and highly useful.

 This list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s an important pulse check. In the end, the individual mission should serve as an agency’s north star in cloud migration and data applications—and should be foundational in a tailored data strategy. It’s that mission that dictates what for and how data is used; it’s the mission that determines what data is relevant for decision-making; and ultimately it’s the mission that requires decisions rendered at the speed of operational tempo.

Command of your data is command of your mission. Your data strategy, evolving amid lessons and advances, now helps underpin that command, accelerating your agency’s trajectory right through the inevitable speed bumps. 

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