Industry pushes agencies on automating data governance under Federal Data Strategy

Software companies want the Federal Data Strategy Year 2 action plan to mandate agencies use platforms like the ones they offer to address their data duplication, integration and privacy challenges.
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Industry wants the Federal Data Strategy’s 2021 Action Plan to require agencies to use technology that automates data governance.

Most agencies haven’t implemented a data governance program, despite appointing chief data officers and standing up data governance boards, said Mike Anderson, chief strategist for public sector at Informatica. But scalable, automated platforms could help agencies establish data quality controls, monitor assets via dashboards, share information, and monitor compliance with regulations, Anderson said.

“With the exponential growth of data collection and creation — and this with increasingly complex data in structured and unstructured formats — this data chaos becomes literally untenable to govern at the enterprise level,” he said during a Data Coalition forum on the upcoming action plan Monday.

Naturally, software companies like Informatica sell the very platforms they’re proposing government use, but the fact remains agencies continue to struggle with multiple versions of data, integration errors and consistently administering privacy protections.


Anderson proposed the Office of Management and Budget pilot a data governance platform at the governmentwide oversight level.

“Most organizations don’t know what data they’ve got,” said Peter Baumann, founder and CEO of ActiveNav. “They don’t know who owns it, and they don’t know where it’s stored.”

For that, agencies need an accurate data inventory, which was proposed in the 2020 Action Plan but should be mandated in the Year 2 plan, industry representatives said.

A master data management (MDM) program goes hand-in-hand with data governance and serves as a single reference point for priority data on employees, facilities and programs, Anderson said.

Agencies collect new data from a multitude of sources hourly without validating, matching or merging to prevent duplication.


“Finding a single source of truth is nearly impossible without a massive number of hours manually sifting through the petabytes,” Anderson said. “During the current COVID crisis, an inability to master data at scale is arguably one of the primary contributors of many organizational failures to report accurately and in a timely manner on data associated with the crisis.”

As a result policy decisions are “poorly informed and often too late for positive impacts,” Anderson said.

In contrast the Food and Drug Administration established an MDM program prior to the pandemic and now has the ability to monitor and report on the entire supply chain of every approved prescription drug. Sources, ingredient location, drug assembly, manufacturing, distribution, shipping, and stock location are all covered.

The FDA MDM could serve as an example for other agencies lacking data inventories.

“Our Department of Justice inventory is seven years old, so we clearly have some agencies that have a long ways to go in making progress here,” said Nick Hart, CEO of the Data Coalition.

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