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Why the US Government is Desperately Seeking Data Integration

As covered by Loraine Lawson, “When it comes to data, the U.S. federal government is a bit of a glutton. Federal agencies manage on average 209 million records, or approximately 8.4 billion records for the entire federal government, according to Steve O’Keeffe, founder of the government IT network site, MeriTalk.”

Check out these stats, in a December 2013 MeriTalk survey of 100 federal records and information management professionals. Among the findings:

  • Only 18 percent said their agency had made significant progress toward managing records and email in electronic format, and are ready to report.
  • One in five federal records management professionals say they are “completely prepared” to handle the growing volume of government records.
  • 92 percent say their agency “has a lot of work to do to meet the direction.”
  • 46 percent say they do not believe or are unsure about whether the deadlines are realistic and obtainable.
  • Three out of four say the Presidential Directive on Managing Government Records will enable “modern, high-quality records and information management.”

I’ve been working with the US government for years, and I can tell that these facts are pretty accurate.  Indeed, the paper glut is killing productivity.  Even the way they manage digital data needs a great deal of improvement.

The problem is that the issues are so massive that’s it’s difficult to get your arms around it.  Just the DOD alone has hundreds of thousands of databases on-line, and most of them need to exchange data with other systems.  Typically this is done using old fashion approaches, including “sneaker-net,” Federal Express, FTP, and creaky batching extracts and updates.

The “digital data diet,” as Loraine calls it, really needs to start with a core understanding of most of the data under management.  That task alone will take years, but, at the same time, form an effective data integration strategy that considers the dozens of data integration strategies you likely formed in the past that did not work.

The path to better data management in the government is one where you have to map out a clear path from here to there.  Moreover, you need to make sure you define some successes along the way.  For example, the simple reduction of manual and paper processes by 5 or 10 percent would be a great start.  It’s something that would save the tax payers billions in a short period of time.

Too many times the government gets too ambitious around data integration, and attempts to do too much in too short an amount of time.  Repeat this pattern and you’ll find yourself running in quicksand, and really set yourself up for failure.

Data integration is game-changing technology.  Indeed, the larger you are, the more game-changing it is.  You can’t get much larger than the US government.  Time to get to work.

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