To many, the value of appointing a Chief Data Officer or Chief Analytics Officer (CDO or CAO) is clear. In fact, a recent study found that 88% of Federal agencies with a CDO or CAO in place are reporting a positive impact on their Big Data and analytics strategies. At the same time, 90% of agencies without a CDO or CAO believe that they would benefit from creating the role. However, whilst the positive perception is clear, the journey for a government – whether Federal, State or Local – CDO or CAO is much more problematic and, quite often, their success depends on their ability to overcome legacy systems and to implement new, modern and agile technologies and processes.
We spoke with three data and analytics executives from Freddie Mac, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Government of Ontario to understand how they’re actively addressing the issue of legacy systems to drive their data and analytics strategies.
For Michael Peckham of the HHS, securing funding is the primary challenge when it comes to overcoming legacy systems and implementing new technological tools: ‘There isn’t always funding for these activities and without the funding nothing even starts’. Jodi Morton from Freddie Mac concurs, saying that ‘defining the target state and getting support and funding to move from legacy to target state’ is the most critical hurdle in her organization. There is an important distinction – in some organizations, the funds simply do not exist; however, in others, the money is there but such is the demand for it and the necessity to allocate it sparingly and sensibly, a great amount of support is required. One of the key ways to acquire this support, as explored at this year’s upcoming Chief Data & Analytics Officer Government (Washington D.C, June 6-7), is to secure quick, cheap wins in your first 90 days to demonstrate value and, crucially, prove the benefits to the organization. If you can do this, budget will be easier to come by, where available.
Overcoming Cultural Obstacles
For any CDO or CAO, in any industry, overcoming cultural resistance is a day-to-day occurrence and it’s no different in Government when it comes to rolling out new technologies and creating new processes. As Manu Sud of the Government of Ontario explains, ‘change is hard and people need to be made familiar with that’. Jodi Morton also suggests that a great challenge occurs when, ‘the cultural change of the legacy environment where staff may have built careers on their deep and exclusive knowledge of the legacy systems… you reduce reliance on the legacy subject matter experts and that fear of being needed less can cause them to become blockers of the target state vs advocates for it’. Likewise, Michael Peckham believes that, many folks don’t understand why you would change anything if it is not broken, which means you have to be able to show and convince them of the value you are adding for them to make the investment or change’. Whilst this ties back to the argument about proving value for investment is key, it also touches on another critical element of any CDO or CAO role – winning the hearts and minds of stakeholders. This is a key discussion at CDAO Government 2017 with executives from HHS, John Hopkins University, Ginnie Mae, FCC and the U.S. Department of Commerce discussing successful strategies for overcoming internal reluctance to data-driven change, as well as how to increase the influence of your data function within your organization and communicating and proving the value of your work to key stakeholders.
Ensuring Suitable Functionality
The final stage of overcoming challenging legacy systems, as agreed by all 3 of our interviewees, is to ensure that the end goal meets multiple requirements. As Michael Peckham mentioned, if people do not believe the current process or tool is broken, then they will be resistant to change; therefore, the solution must ensure it meets not just existing demands and needs but also future requirements. Manu Sud argues that the ‘system need to be modern and able to withstand changes in market, whilst also avoiding the ‘risk of losing key functionality in the systems’. Again, Michael Peckham goes one step further, saying: ‘We are asking questions about the data from systems where generally the systems were designed focused on a functional need and we are in an era where users are demanding that systems meet multi-functional needs, immediately – a simple example would be to look at what you smart phone can do today’. One of the key ways that a CDO or CAO can avoid this trap is by ensuring internal coherence and collaboration, in particular with IT. In this respect, the relationship between the CDO/CAO and CIO becomes critical and, when the relationship works well, both can collaborate to drive successful and positive change within their agency.
You can hear more from Michael Peckham, Jodi Morton, Manu Sud and many, many more by joining us at the second annual Chief Data & Analytics Officer, Government 2017 in Washington D.C. on June 6-7. Over two days, 75+ leaders from Federal, State and Local Government, as well as NGOs and Not-for-Profit organizations, will come together to address the key challenges facing data and analytics in the public sector and how, in collaboration, data can be used to change and save lives. The event is free-to-attend for Government attendees and you can sign-up here: https://corsrv.net/chiefdataofficergovernment/register/.
By Adam Plom:
Adam Plom is the Managing Director, Americas at Corinium Intelligence and specialises in creating platforms for the emerging c-suite to converge, address and overcome their most pressing challenges in the ever-evolving digital era.