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3 Data Trends for Leaders in Public Sector in 2021

24-Jun-2021 05:53:51 / by Dean Richardson

Dean Richardson

There is a lot of hype around data. It is billed as a route to better citizen service, faster business decisions and overcoming enterprise silos. But it’s not that easy; every data decision is dependent on resolving the lack of trust, misalignment and data silos.

Data blog

Gartner predicts that in 2021, 3 trends in data and analytics will impact public sector leaders: 

• The need to embed data and analytics in mission and strategy
• Improvements in data literacy
• Change management in data and analytics

Data is not enough to provide better citizen services—it has to be a strategic initiative that champions data literacy and evolves with business demands. Gartner defines data literacy “as the ability to read, write and communicate data in context, including an understanding of data trends, sources and constructs, analytical methods and techniques applied – and the ability to describe the use case, application and resulting value.”

We look at the top 3 data trends defining data in the public sector in 2021.

1. Embedding data  and analytics in misison strategy

The role of the Chief Data Officer (CDO) is to link data with strategy across governance, operations, innovation and analytics. Tech Target takes this further and defines the main function of the CDO as “to guide the organization in its ability to derive maximum value from the data available to the enterprise.” The CDO can move the organisation from a technology focus to a data focus where the mission strategy is linked to the data strategy.

So, the data or data trends you’re collecting needs to achieve your business goals, not simply local and tactical strategies that work at a department level. The Big Data Framework identifies a five-step approach to formulating a data strategy that supports business outcomes:

  • 1) Define business objectives
  • 2) Assess your current state
  • 3) Identify your use cases
  • 4) Formulate a roadmap
  • 5) Embed through change management
By following these steps, you can drive enterprise stakeholder ownership and move data away from IT and into the business domain. But once you’ve done that, you need to support cultural change through data literacy.

2. Increasing data literacy

The problem is, that if your employees aren’t data literate, then your ability to interpret data and its data trends into business value will be hampered. Worse, low data literacy can be a key blocker behind new initiatives and strategies. In the 2020 report, The Human Impact of Data Literacy, it says that 74% of employees report feeling overwhelmed or unhappy when working with data, 36% would find a different task and 14% would avoid it entirely.

Bernard Marr identifies 6 steps to building data literacy which include creating a data literacy programme that starts small and builds out. You don’t need to turn all of your employees into high end data geeks; the goal is to create a shared understanding of data so that you can start to build strategic alignment. The Harvard Business Review reports that businesses are increasingly taking on the responsibility of educating their employees in data where they lack the skills to:

  • Ask the right questions
  • Understand which data is relevant
  • Interpret data to generate actionable results
  • Test hypotheses using A/B tests
  • Generate visualisations to share with key stakeholders
  • Frame a story to enable stakeholders to act on analysis

By upskilling in these soft skills, you can lay the foundations for strategic alignment and stronger data analytics to drive value in the public sector

3. Change management in data and analytics

Change management is essential to the successful alignment of data with strategic goals, especially in the public sector where silos risk cross-functional collaboration. Whilst CDOs tackle business buy-in, there needs to be an enterprise-wide focus on change management to manage organisational resistance. Mary Gregory, the renowned leadership coach and consultant on change management, says that “the challenge of every change project is making it stick.”

A change management plan supports strategic initiatives and should include:
  • An education and upskilling plan
  • Clear expectations for stakeholder involvement
  • Understanding the factors that will drive change
  • Analysis of the factors that are holding back change
It is the success or failure of change management that will make or break your data strategy; after all, it’s people who move ideas from paper to action. There’s no point in carefully outlining a technical strategy if it doesn’t take into account internal data maturity and ability to progress changes. So, make sure that your change management includes education, participation, support roles and channels for negotiation and agreement. Then, data can be shown to work for everyone, not just IT.

Final thoughts

Enabling the efficient use of data is essential to improving citizen service; the more datasets that can be accessed, analysed and shared, the more evidential government decisions will be. To achieve this, data needs to be considered an integral part of strategy, moving away from IT and into the business. The OECD suggests that a data-driven public sector:

  • Sees data as a key strategic asset with defined value and impact
  • Removes barriers to managing, sharing and re-using data
  • Uses data to transform the design, delivery and monitoring of public services
  • Values the use of data between public sector organisations

However, this is not possible until the public sector has embedded data into its strategic goals across departments and local government. And the route to that future state is through embedding data and analytics into strategy, increasing data literacy and driving change management in data and analytics.


Topics: Government, Data, analytics, governance, strategy, change

Dean Richardson

Written by Dean Richardson

Dean Richardson has worked in IT for 30 years starting in development and for the last 15 years has held senior IT leadership roles for major high street brands and well known technology giants. Since joining Mastek, Dean has lead the Architecture team, building Mastek's architecture function while helping to develop strong connections with new and existing senior customer contacts.

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