My son is in sixth grade and he’s taking a foreign language for the first time. Among the first phrases his teacher taught his class were the common greetings, including the classic interpersonal question — How are you? How are you doing?
Hearing him practice at home reminded me of the vital importance of this question. When we ask, “How are you doing?” we might be just being polite, but we might also truly want to know how you are doing!
At GovEx we happen to care a lot about how governments are doing. We want the staff working with us to feel like they’re able to work efficiently, have their questions answered, and feel confident they are using information as effectively as possible. So when we ask, “how are you doing?” we really do want to know what they’re thinking and how they’re feeling about their efforts to manage data, to integrate insights into decisions, and to maximize benefits for their residents.
It’s probably not only us who’d like to know this. You may also want to know how you’re doing! We’ve found that governments who learn about the data management and data use practices we share sometimes don’t know the extent of their own data practices. Sometimes this is because they they don’t know the full scope of the practices they could implement in their organization. Sometimes it’s because knowledge about the state of data practices is spread across the organization and different people know different parts of the picture. Sometimes it’s just curiosity about the framework, and seeing how they stack up against an experienced third-party’s definition of best practice.
For all of these reasons, we have developed the GovEx Survey of Data Practices. It’s a comprehensive online assessment tool based on the effective methods we’ve seen work for organizations. Questions are arrayed across twelve areas of data practice:
- Data governance
- Maintaining a data inventory
- Prioritizing data
- Publishing open data
- Sharing data internally or with trusted partners
- Improving data quality and usability
- Reducing data-associated harm
- Articulating problems for data projects
- Tracking priority metrics
- Analyzing data
- Holding performance meetings
- Using data in communication
The assessment contains a series of questions about your processes, documentation, resourcing, and internal and external outreach around each of these data practice areas. In total, it offers a good picture of both what an organization is doing in these areas, as well as what an organization might do next in order to deepen and mature its management and use of data. We take the information from this assessment to produce a report that gives respondents a high-level picture of the state of their data practices, as well as some suggestions for next steps they might want to take for improvement.
Now, because we really would like to know how you’re doing, we’re making the GovEx Survey of Data Practices available for anyone who would like to take it.
We recommend looking at all of the questions in the assessment before you begin, available to download as a spreadsheet here. Reviewing the list will give you a sense of what kinds of things you’ll need to know about. You can choose to answer questions for as few or as many data practice areas as you would like. However, also be aware that the actual assessment is built with “skip logic” to let you avoid detailed questions about practices you haven’t implemented. Answering “no” or “I don’t know” to the first questions in each section will let you simply jump ahead to the next data practice.
We also encourage you to talk to other people in your organization to learn about data practices within their area of expertise. For example, if you are a budget analyst you might want to talk with someone in your communications department to learn about how they use data in their work with the public.
Finally, don’t worry about knowing everything — it’s possible to answer every substantive question with the response, “I don’t know.” One of the values of an assessment like this is learning what you don’t yet know about. Knowing what you don’t know a useful piece of information in and of itself.
Once you’re ready to take the survey, you can access it here. It can take up to an hour to complete, but we’re hoping that the value it provides makes that time investment well worth it. If you leave your email address we will provide within a couple of weeks a report on your score and next steps you might want to take to strengthen your practice.
So go ahead and take the survey to find out how you’re doing. Then make sure you tell us at GovEx. No really, we’d love to know!