State and municipal governments are struggling with a data deluge now more than ever. As they grapple with the multitude of data sources now available to draw from to successfully manage the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, they are discovering large gaps in their ability to holistically leverage this data for their desired outcomes.
Using spreadsheets and non-digital, manual mechanisms to roll up accurate and timely reporting from hospitals, urgent care providers, nursing homes, medical suppliers, and others is proving to be daunting. As a result, delayed or inaccurate data is feeding into the prediction models, artificial intelligence, advanced analytics tools, and dashboards that leaders use to make policy. Executive decisions are frequently based on old data, which itself is increasingly deficient in quality and comprehensiveness.
Adding to this challenging environment is the federal government’s reporting and monitoring requirements for the recently allocated emergency funding flowing down to states and municipalities through a variety of federal social programs via the two-trillion-dollar CARES Act. Several oversight and watchdog organizations are standing up and establishing operations to protect these essential funds from fraud, waste, and abuse, which is just as important as their dispersal. The organizations are meant to ensure that the funds are meeting their intended purpose to help citizens, businesses, and health providers engaged in the COVID-19 fight.
When routine data collection and flows rapidly became overwhelmed, state and municipal governments realized their legacy systems could not adequately respond. Of immediate concern was:
Enterprise-level data management programs aren’t established or fixed overnight. If you’re starting from scratch or with legacy systems based on siloed application-database environments, you need to address the fundamentals first. If you’re starting from some level of enterprise data management maturity but have neglected core functions, the challenges such as those faced by state and municipal governments now are just as painful.
While most are doing some level of data integration—or extract, transform, and load (ETL) operations—a neglect of data quality, data governance, and metadata management or data cataloging can create significant issues when a crisis erupts. Given the availability of data tools to automate these core functions, it’s hard to watch as organizations struggle through the current crisis and seek immediate corrections now.
That said, there are some quick fixes that some of the hardest hit state and municipal governments are implementing now. I encourage all government leaders to take similar steps as soon as possible. These include establishing the following capabilities:
Modern enterprise data management in the best of times is a difficult endeavor without the appropriate strategy, plans, and tools to leverage data as an asset. States and municipal governments are discovering that in a crisis, when the welfare of citizens and critical emergency infrastructure and resources are at stake, it’s an even tougher obstacle. Like all obstacles, however, these too can be overcome—some with immediate fixes, others with an eye to lessons learned for the long term, for in every crisis lies an opportunity to make changes of lasting and positive impact.