Insight by Confluent

How agencies can make data an active asset to drive better outcomes

Data is the connective tissue across all agency mission areas. No matter if you are serving citizens at the Social Security Administration or the IRS, or defend...

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Data Strategy

“We've reimagined data from being a passive asset to an active asset. Putting it in motion — where the thing that happens, whether it's at the edge or whether it's in a call center — is the catalyst for taking really specific, targeted action.”
— Jason Schick, general manager for U.S. public sector, Confluent

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Addressing Data Lakes

“If you bring data to that point of impact, you can have a much more rewarding experience ... and also a more cost-effective experience.”
— Jason Schick, general manager for U.S. public sector, Confluent

As part of the Federal Data Strategy, agencies need to accelerate the value of their data to drive real-time decisions.

Data is the connective tissue across all agency missions. Whether serving citizens at the Social Security Administration and the IRS or defending the homeland at the departments of Defense and Homeland Security, data drives decisions.

The challenge, of course, is taking advantage of the right data at the right time — and the government is flush with data.

To help reign in this data monster, agencies have been using concepts outlined in the Federal Data Strategy. The action plan, released in the fall of 2021, outlines 11 goals for agencies to meet as part of setting a long-term foundation for using data in new and better ways.

The strategy emphasizes the need for enterprisewide data standards and coordination of data use across agencies, as well as using data to inform annual budget planning. The administration expects agencies to start addressing these enterprisewide goals beginning in 2023.

The Office of Management and Budget has directed agencies to optimize self-service data analytics capabilities starting in 2026. And by 2029, agencies are supposed to reach the final stage: making proactive, evidence-based decisions and automating data improvements.

Taking advantage of federal data now

While the strategy lays out a long-term plan to accelerate the value of data across government, there are things agencies can do today to take advantage of their information and inform decisions.

Jason Schick, general manager for U.S. public sector at Confluent, said many public and private sector organizations struggle to get their arms around their data because there is so much of it and it’s always changing. The growth of mobile computing, which has increased the push and pull of data to and from the network edge at most organizations, adds complexity to the effort, he said.

“Out there on the edge particularly, but anywhere in the real world, things are constantly changing. Data is just that digital representation of what’s happening in the real world. We want the data to change. We want the data to move to the people in the system, to the teams, that are responsible for taking action,” Schick said on the Innovation in Government show, sponsored by Carahsoft.

“We’ve reimagined data from being a passive asset to an active asset. Putting it in motion — where the thing that happens, whether it’s at the edge or whether it’s in a call center — is the catalyst for taking really specific, targeted action.”

The concept of data in motion focuses on making information the connective tissue between applications and people so that organizations can analyze the data, react and respond in real time.

Fine-tuning federal data

But too much data all at once isn’t helpful either. That is why Schick said the proactive nature of data in motion must be fine-tuned to the mission need and the user need.

That approach makes it possible for an organization to provide “a highly personalized experience for the citizen, the claimant, the call center operator, whoever it might be. The data itself is going to be a really good guide for what they care about,” he said. “If you bring data to that point of impact, you can have a much more rewarding experience. You can give them a much more personalized experience and also a more cost-effective experience.”

Schick offered the example of a civilian agency where Confluent is helping modernize claims processing.

“It requires a whole lot of steps, both internally and checking on data from other government agencies, to determine eligibility of the applicant. By modernizing and sharing that data in near real time, they’re able to offer a much better experience to the applicant. They’re able to act a lot faster. When there are fraudulent applications, they can take action,” he said.

He described it as a fairly straightforward effort that’s cool because it brings together multiple systems across different agencies. “It feels like we’re entering something of a golden age for data in the federal space, and it’s an exciting time to be here,” Schick said.

But it’s not just the ability to move and share data in real time that’s exciting. It’s also the ability to use artificial intelligence, machine learning and other capabilities to improve data analytics, which ultimately can lead to better decisions, he said.

Training models to drive decision-making

Bringing together large data lakes and databases can be difficult for any organization, but it’s necessary to develop and train AI models, Schick said.

“If you don’t have enough data to build a model, you’ve just got an opinion,” he said. “Once you’ve got those models, how do you operationalize them? How do you inject them into the business or into the mission? Well, you probably want to apply those AI and ML models to the data in motion, as it’s moving from wherever it’s captured to the people that are responsible for taking some action.”

Going forward, to achieve more data-centric and data-driven decisions, government IT teams should be injecting AI and ML models into their organizations’ data streams, Schick advised. But a key factor to make data in motion work well also requires decoupling data producers from data consumers, he added.

“By doing that, multiple agencies can share data freely, and the cost of that initial integration is a lot less,” Schick said.

It also creates an environment in which the participating organizations don’t impose restraints on one another, he explained. “They can continue to evolve as they would want to. They can continue to add other subscribers to this data service that they create, without creating this brittle interdependency between lots of different systems. We’re seeing customers start to recognize that that’s the case.”

To Learn More Contact Carahsoft or Confluent

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