As agencies become increasingly data-driven, the rapid acceleration of the volume of data available has generally exceeded the pace of growth in the ability of government to manage and use that data to make decisions. Many government agencies are awash in data but struggling to analyze and make sense of it. The exception is in cases where a government agency has appointed a leader to manage the transition to a data-driven culture.
While there are many roles in government that relate to data—data analysts, data scientists, performance officers, evaluation officers, etc.—one key role is becoming increasingly common but is not yet well-studied: the Chief Data Officer (CDO).
The past few years have witnessed the appointments of an increasing number of CDOs in government. As their ranks grow, there is little roadmap for success—both for how these key drivers of data-driven government should successfully execute their missions and how they should support an ecosystem of government excellence and innovation.
The purpose of this report is to advance the use of data in government by describing the work of pioneering federal CDOs and providing a framework for thinking about how a new data leader might establish his or her office and use data to advance the mission of the agency. While the focus of this report is on those with the official title CDO, the insights apply as well to all leaders seeking to advance data-driven government.
With the possible passage of legislation requiring every federal agency to hire a CDO, and with the 2018 President’s Management Agenda calling for a federal data strategy, it is timely to gather existing best practices and promising approaches to inform the data-driven government efforts of any future CDOs in the U. S. federal government.