Chief data officers are a relatively recent addition at most agencies, but they all face an enormous task – taking inventory of all of their agency’s data and figuring out how to get the most use out of it.
Large agencies have a harder time moving ahead on that inventory, but smaller agencies like the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are getting started by focusing on building out the data community, and making sure it has data stewards up maintain data quality.
That groundwork, however, is allowing the agency to stand up a modernized data infrastructure. FERC CDO Kirsten Dalboe said an interview that her office is building a cloud data science and analytics platform, and taking steps to modernize its data footprint.
“We want to make sure that we’re offering capabilities across that full data value chain where we have storage tools, we have modeling tools, we have analytics tools, we have collaboration tools, or we’re building out that whole roadmap of capabilities into our cloud based analytics platform,” Dalboe said.
In order to modernize the data footprint and get that data platform running, FERC has spent the past two years on building out the team of officials focused on maintaining data quality.
“Our big focus really has been on building our data governance community. I often talk about building the muscle memory of data governance because those conversations are often new to people. The first year of our data governance body was just building the community. Figuring out what we needed to talk about, how we needed to talk about it,” Dalboe said. “Some of that included the foundational things that needed to occur before we can really start doing the inventory. While none of those things actually had us building [the] inventory, they were incredibly important, because without those conversations starting early on, we would have come out with an inventory that was potentially not very meaningful.”
To facilitate FERC’s ongoing data inventory work, Dalboe said she works closely with agency chief information officer Mittal Desai, who also sits on the agency’s data governance council.
“We do have to rely on each other. Unless a CDO is largely more in kind of the policy and compliance space, you’re going to have to have a very strong partnership with the CIO … because at the end of the day, data does live in and sit on technology, so making sure there’s that that’s being managed in a way that facilitates the data strategy is important, she said.
Beyond building out a data community at FERC, Dalboe said the agency’s new data platform will give rise to greater sharing and collaboration among employees.
“The first step is making sure we have a strong kind of enterprise data thinking strategy into our analytics environment, so that we have that live access of data available. This also improves our sharing ability, in terms of analytics being able to build out their data products through the analytics platform, and easily share that with their peers,” Dalboe said. “Pre-modern data platform, people were building off of static data sets on their desktops or their laptops … so if the person they wanted to share their data product with didn’t have the same tools on their desktop, then they’d be kind of dead in the water in the ability to share. So some of the first steps in having that modern data platform are we want to make sure that we’re bringing our people, our data and our capabilities as close together as possible.”
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