The Story of Public Sector Data Optimization: It’s Not Just (Pizza) Pie in the Sky

Sep 7, 2021 | Corporate Member News

A wise man once said “Ask not what you can do for your data, ask what your data can do for you” …wait, that’s not right, is it? But in the world of public sector IT, this statement may be more relevant than the original. Bear with me as we unpack the concept of how sharing and utilizing data can completely transform the way government enterprises do business and ultimately, provide improved value and services to citizens.

At CGI we’re focused on helping clients optimize their end-to-end digital value chain – this means breaking down the silos between business and IT and optimizing value delivered to stakeholders at every point in the supply chain. In the world of state and local government, this concept holds true, however, identifying those areas most in need of transformation can be tricky…here’s why.

Government by the slice, or the whole pie?
What if citizens thought of their state and local governments like a pizza delivery service? In this scenario, the “enterprise” of state government – the centralized IT structure that manages a unified set of applications and services for its citizens – as if it were the entire pie – crust, sauce, cheese, toppings – the whole shebang. A vital component of the government structure is its agencies – the dozens of semi-autonomous departments and offices such as veterans’ and children’s services – these are the slices of the pie that, together, make up the entire enterprise. Each slice (sometimes over 100 of them for a state) in and of itself isn’t its own mini pizza, comprised of crust, sauce, toppings, etc. they are eaten individually and can satisfy the hunger of the consumer one slice at a time. However, when customers order a pizza the expectation is that they will get an entire pie – hot and ready to eat – when it arrives at their door. Delivering on that promise to our citizens should be equally simple. But for most state and local governments, that kind of integrated service is pie in the sky. (See what I did there?) Too many slices. Too many toppings.

I’ve seen structures with 2600 applications spread across agencies within one state government system; this is kind of like having thousands of ingredients, owned by hundreds of chefs, but we’re really only talking about 10 core toppings shared on a common crust.  In this scenario, the complexity to deliver is high, and therefore the benefits to integrating and simplifying is also high.

We should think about the delivery of citizen services in the same way…agencies delivering on their individual missions, but working together to meet the holistic needs of citizens and stakeholders. Is this a realistic outlook? We think so.

The challenge of sharing that special sauce: data
Much like pizza toppings are spread throughout the entire pie to optimize flavor and satisfaction, we believe government enterprises could benefit from taking a holistic view of data collection, management, and collaboration.

According to the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, CIOs across the U.S. have identified data management and analytics and optimization among their top ten priorities for 2021. This includes improving in areas of data governance, strategy, centralizing and/or consolidating services, data centers, and more.

Some states across the U.S. have passed legislation regarding data-sharing agreements among government agencies, and have begun to realize the benefits of such agreements, including improved agency performance, course-correcting breakdowns in services, and/or communication that impacts the citizen end-user, preventing fraud, waste, and abuse and more.

Despite the progress made on this front, many government enterprises continue to struggle with how to both give agencies autonomy to execute and deliver on vital citizen services, while staying within the legal parameters of collecting and sharing individual or agency-wide data needed for optimization.

Hypothetical case in point: A social worker is working a case in which a child needs to be placed into foster care. The social worker could enter the case into the system and the data could show potential foster home placements. Subsequently, the system would do a thorough check of cross-agency data including the state’s law enforcement’s criminal record history, Department of Motor Vehicles driving record, Department of Revenue’s tax records, etc. – any data that would be relevant to the process of placing a child in foster care all together in one system, streamlining the data sharing process, reducing the risk of oversight and providing a better end-user experience for the child, family, citizens, and employees.

So, what’s next for government enterprises that want to advance their data sharing capabilities?

Mise en place for data insights
While the idea of mise en place (a preparation style where everything is in its place) may be more applicable to fine dining than your local pizza joint, it certainly fits when talking about data insights. The key is to understand what data is being collected and begin to ask questions of that data to gain insights into how to optimize the information for peak performance. In our new viewpoint paper Getting Unstuck: Accelerating results from digital transformation we outline a set of questions clients should consider regarding unlocking data to maximize value. In government this should include consideration of more specific agency functions and needs, however, generally, one could start to build their data transformation framework by asking the following:  

  • Value propositions – Which data points has the highest impact on citizen/stakeholder needs?
  • Channels – What is the optimum combination of agencies obtain a holistic view of the issue and to engage with citizens?
  • Key activities – What are possible responses to a crisis, and what resources are foundational to those activities?
  • Key partners – Who are the best-fit partners and subject matter experts to provide insights and execute on necessary technology and business changes?
  • Revenue streams – Which investment will yield maximum benefits and increase productivity?

Over the course of the last year and a half, governments have significantly shifted their way of doing business, mostly as a result of the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m encouraged by the agility many state and local leaders have exemplified in this process and think the momentum can certainly continue as we work together to transformation their end-to-end enterprise operations. That transformation begins with asking the right questions of your data and optimizing that data to work for you and your stakeholders.

While this comparison of state and local government to pizza may seem odd, the analogy could be extended much further: are the ovens (like aging IT infrastructure) working efficiently? Do you have the right people who know how to operate them efficiently? How do you adjust your route to delivering pizza (or services) when obstacles pop up in your way? I could go on, and perhaps I’ll explore these themes in an upcoming blog. But for now? Well, suddenly I’m feeling a bit hungry for pizza!

Want to learn more? Download our latest viewpoint today: Getting Unstuck: Accelerating results from digital transformation.

By Stuart Davis, Director, Consulting Services

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