Improving citizen experience with proper data management

By harnessing data-driven decision-making, agencies can significantly enhance the quality and efficiency of services provided to citizens.

The White House’s recent FY25 budget proposal emphasizes improved citizen services and quality of life and includes initiatives such as lowering the cost of childcare, increasing affordable housing, decreasing the cost of healthcare and more.  

 To accomplish these goals, the budget proposal focuses on utilizing evidence-driven policies and programs, highlighting the need for additional personnel to collect and analyze evidence, such as data, to properly inform agency initiatives.  

 Most agencies currently collect different types of data, but there is variation in the extent to which it is used to inform decision-making processes. The Office of Management and Budget published an evidence-based policymaking guide to encourage and support agencies in making more data-driven decisions. 

 While this is one of several pieces of support that the federal government has offered agencies, a critical piece is missing from the primary discussion – the role of proper data management and how it can impact citizen services and their experiences. 

Data management for CX success

As federal agencies look to leverage data to inform policies, decisions and programs, they are under-valuing data hygiene, failing to recognize the benefits of processes including lineage and testing protocols. If done incorrectly, the government will fail to meet crucial citizen needs.  

For example, during an analysis of the Internal Revenue Service’s legacy IT, the Government Accountability Office found the agency lacked regular evaluations of customer experiences and needs during the implementation of OMB’s cloud computing strategy. As a result, the agency has spent over a decade trying to replace the legacy Individual Master File (IMF) system, which is the authoritative data source for individual tax account data – this lack of responsiveness to CX needs is compounded with data and other challenges, significantly affecting citizen services.  

To ensure employees understand the true value of data and the benefits it can provide when used correctly, it’s important for agencies to foster a culture of data literacy, or the ability to read, write and communicate data in context. This is a foundational aspect of enhancing government’s data capabilities. 

Data plays a pivotal role in the quality of services provided to citizens. Before it can be used to inform such programs, agencies must ensure their data is organized and accessible according to proper data management protocols. 

Data management is defined as a set of practices, techniques and tools for achieving consistent access to and delivery of data across the spectrum of data subject areas and types in an agency. In the federal government’s case, having access to organized data, regardless of location, provides insights to decision makers that enable them to act according to relevant stats and information. 

This level of insight helps the government greatly when working to meet the requirements needed to correctly inform citizen programs and bolster citizen services, as the process may include migrating large data sets from legacy systems.  

When agencies successfully adhere to proper data hygiene and management, valuable resources for citizen use are made available, ranging from updated payment systems to public safety information such as crime rate data. Once the data has been properly stored and organized, business intelligence and analytics software tools such as ServiceNow or Tableau can help agencies make informed decisions. 

Impact on citizen services

The government provides a variety of services that citizens rely on daily, including health benefits, food assistance, social security and more. But as the economic landscape changes, the government’s citizen services must also change. 

To help individuals and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress allotted $2.6 trillion to support vulnerable populations, public health needs and unemployment assistance – when agencies can access readily-available data that has been adequately managed, it makes it easier to provide the services that citizens need in a timely manner. Additionally, by ensuring internal data is ready for use, agencies can provide for all citizens despite factors such as race, location or age. 

Suppose the government decides to increase the amount of food assistance provided across the country and disperses an equal amount to every state without knowing population density, unemployment rates and other essential factors. In that case, they risk significantly decreasing the level of impact of such an initiative. While a simple example, this showcases the importance of data when making decisions that impact the lives of millions of individuals. 

Given the focus of the White House’s FY25 budget proposal, the federal government will see an increased need for proper data management to improve citizen services. Agencies must return to the foundational aspects of data hygiene to be successful. 

By harnessing the power of data-driven decision-making, adopting innovative technologies and fostering a culture of data literacy, agencies can significantly enhance the quality and efficiency of services provided to citizens. 

This transformation not only meets the evolving needs and expectations of the public but also represents a fundamental commitment to transparency, efficiency and accountability in governance. In this digital age, effective data management is not just a strategic asset but a cornerstone of democratic engagement and public trust. 

Laura Stash is executive vice president of solutions architecture at iTech AG. 

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