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2021 Action Plan

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2020 Action Plan Successes and Lessons Learned

Major successes of the 2020 Action Plan1 in the areas of foundational governance, planning, and infrastructure activities lay the groundwork for implementing the FDS by 2030.

Governance

The 2020 Action Plan empowered CDOs to develop their agencies’ internal governance structures for the management and use of data. At each agency, the CDO worked across business lines to establish a Data Governance Body and began critical steps to build data strategy road maps, develop plans for enterprise data assets and infrastructure capital planning, and adopt master data-management programs.

Collectively, the CDOs formed the first-ever Federal Chief Data Officer (CDO) Council to promote best practices in leveraging data for decision-making and operations. In addition to its regular meetings, the CDO Council encouraged a vibrant learning community by holding regular information sharing sessions between CDOs on best practices to fulfill the FDS. Additionally, the CDO Council began working collaboratively to solve emerging cross-cutting data challenges, such as through the creation of the COVID-19 Working Group. The establishment of responsive and effective governance structures at individual agencies and across the entire federal enterprise provides the framework for continued government success for the 10-year FDS vision.

Planning

Throughout 2020, CDOs examined their agencies’ mission requirements, infrastructure, and workforce in order to develop effective plans for the future. Specifically, agency CDOs, working with Evaluation Officers (EO) and Statistical Officials (SO), helped to identify and determine how to access the data needed to answer priority agency questions. Agencies also selected and implemented operational maturity assessment models to establish a baseline for future improvements related to their data infrastructure. Finally, agencies assessed the data literacy and skills of their current staff to determine what gaps must be bridged to ensure the workforce can implement data-driven and evidence-building activities.

Both the Chief Information Officer (CIO) Council and CDO Council have begun creating tools to assist agencies with increasing their staff data skills, and the Interagency Council on Statistical Policy (ICSP) continues its training and mentoring programs. In addition, the General Services Administration (GSA) issued a Staff Data Skills Catalog of agency program offerings as highlighted in the 2020 Action Plan.2 In 2020, agencies nominated 61 federal employees for an interagency pilot in data upskilling, and this cohort completed their capstone projects and graduated from the program in April 2021. Additionally, the CIO Council released materials for agencies to build their own data-science training program. Likewise, the CDO Council established a Data Skills Development Working Group. The CDO Council is exploring joint hiring initiatives with the United States Digital Service to improve access to professionals with advanced data-science skills.

The 2020 Action Plan also tracked progress made by other federal councils to plan interagency data-related initiatives. For example, federal councils launched planning products to improve financial data standards and established a geospatial data infrastructure strategic plan. The federal government also investigated access and quality topics associated with artificial intelligence (AI) research and development.

Infrastructure

An agency’s data inventory establishes the foundational structure for data access and can allow for further technological innovation, policymaking insights, and economic development. Agencies made significant progress in indexing data assets in their inventories on data.gov, and identified certain data assets related to a broad range of critical issues such as COVID-19 and AI research and development.

The 2020 Action Plan also involved several initiatives to establish uniform resources, pilots, and tools for the benefit of all agencies. Data.gov served as a hub of information to assist all federal agencies in building a data-driven organization.3 Specifically, newly developed guides that CDOs can access and use were added to the site, such as a Data Skills Catalog, Data Ethics Framework, Data Protection Toolkit, and Data Quality Toolkit. In other cases, federal organizations piloted new infrastructure to improve the management of and access to data through a One-Stop Researcher Application, an Information Collection Review Tool from the U.S. Department of Education, and an Enhanced Data Management Tool, incorporating user input throughout the development of these pilots.

Lessons Learned

Many lessons learned during the implementation of the first FDS Action Plan have informed the 2021 Action Plan. Those lessons include:

In 2020 we learned… Therefore, in 2021 we will…
Agencies’ diverse needs, resources, and missions make a universal qualitative evaluation of milestone execution challenging Promote information sharing through interagency councils, such as the CDO Council, to identify and share what practices work best for different use cases
Including statutory requirements in the action plan is helpful for comprehensive awareness and oversight, and minimizes potentially duplicative data-related activities Continue to include statutory requirements
Coordination of actions undertaken by all federal data communities and stakeholders can be challenging, and it is unclear what benefit it adds to performance or knowledge sharing Track and highlight Community of Practice and Shared Solution Actions that have the greatest potential value to achieving the FDS
Some milestone dates were unachievable because of a lack of published guidance Ensure 2021 Actions and milestone target dates support existing guidance or the timelines for new guidance as it pertains to the FDS
Milestone target dates should align with budget cycles Encourage involvement of the CDOs in strategic planning and budget development activities for their agencies

Footnotes

  1. The 2020 Action Plan is available at strategy.data.gov/2020/action-plan

  2. The Staff Data Skills Catalog of agency program offerings is available at resources.data.gov

  3. The resources on Data.gov are available at resources.data.gov