How do I stand up an enterprise data and analytics platform during a pandemic? This question may sound ridiculous at first, but many state and local governments are realizing the necessity for data-driven decision-making as a result of COVID-19. We’ve seen governors and health officials pointing using data to justify closing schools, shuttering restaurants, delaying primaries and extending tax filing. This crisis is impacting many functions of governments across the enterprise.
If you’re an executive at a state or local government and you must continue making critical decisions in this new environment, how do you get access to and leverage the key data you need to inform crucial decisions?
The good news is that COVID-19 will be the catalyst that propels analytic capabilities in government. The timing is right with the technology advancements in cloud, distributed data storage and visualization capabilities to move quickly using the time limited funding available through the CARES Act.
When building an enterprise data analytics platform, our teams at Ernst & Young encourage clients to prioritize leadership, emphasize privacy and security, and create purpose-built solutions.
Leadership is the most important aspect of standing up a data platform in a pandemic. In states and cities with robust data platforms, this has been driven by the governor or mayor. The executive in charge must provide the vision to get it done and the leadership to overcome challenges related to people, technology, processes and governance. Often overlooked, leadership is the key success factor in state and local government data platforms that are providing insights impacting decision-making. Leadership ultimately impacts all technical, legal, policy and personnel considerations for developing a data platform.
The top executive must make analytics a priority and empower the project leader to build analytics capacity quickly. The project leader may be the chief data officer or the chief information officer or leadership could be outsourced to a firm. The key is that the executive empowers the project leader to move quickly and break through administrative red tape. Once the project leader is selected, that individual should align working groups across three critical areas: agency heads and executives, data and technical resources, and legal and policy resources.
Privacy and security
Few things can derail a data initiative like a data breach. The various datasets gathered will be impacted by a patchwork of privacy and security laws, rules and recommendations. For the data analytics team privacy and security must be paramount. Organizations can leverage frameworks developed for these purposes and rely on outside entities to assist the enterprise with these critical decisions. Make sure to engage legal and policy resources often to work through the proper processes for using and sharing data.
Built for purpose
One of the biggest challenges to standing up a data and analytics platform quickly will be aligning your decisions from an outcome perspective with the problem you are trying to address or the questions you are trying to answer. It is important to build for a purpose, have a specific mission in mind for the project.
The tendency to over-analyze and pull data sets can create scope creep with diminishing returns. The goal should be to rapidly deploy a new analytic capability the administration can use to manage key aspects of the pandemic response, such as metrics on finance, health, human resources, unemployment and CARES Act traceability.
Practical considerations for determining whether a solution has been built for purpose include leveraging existing projects and technology for data and analytics; determining the impact for data access in a working-from-home paradigm and any new legislation, executive order, or policies.
Using a built-for-purpose approach should address monitoring and spending across the enterprise related to the pandemic and try to anticipate and solve some of the future enterprise data needs of the organization.
In the recent past, waterfall technology deployments would take years and often frustrate the business as it attempted to meet requirements. Because most states have a cloud-first focus and improved project delivery using agile like methodologies, it is possible to set up an enterprise analytics capability during a pandemic. Deploying the technology will be easier with careful consideration around leadership, privacy and security and built-for-purpose alignment.
Chris Estes is the U.S. state and local finance, operations and technology leader at Ernst & Young. He was formerly the chief information officer for the State of North Carolina and before that held executive-level positions at Booz Allen Hamilton, IBM and PricewaterhouseCoopers.