CDO board sees ‘unique opportunity’ to elevate data talent across government

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The Biden administration is calling on agency chief data officers to collectively tackle some major projects under the federal data strategy.

CDO goals in the strategy’s latest action plan include accelerating the government’s use of artificial intelligence and mitigating the impact of wildfires.

CDOs also focus on improving the overall data literacy of the federal workforce and providing opportunities for federal employees to develop new data skills.

Despite all this work, CDOs are still new to many agencies. The Chief Data Officers Council now includes nearly 90 members across the federal government and has spent much of the past year developing a community of practice for its members.

Ted Kaouk, chairman of the CDO Council, as well as the CDO of the Office of Personnel Management and deputy director for human capital data management and modernization, said the council had also published a CDO handbook to help standardize some elements of work across government.

“We recognize and believe that we have a unique opportunity to develop what is essentially a new profession within the federal government,” Kaouk said on the latest episode of All about data. “We believe that the position of Federal CDO is a central and truly transformative role that can significantly benefit the collection, organization, analysis and use of data in agencies, as well as improve its overall value to society.

The board took several fundamental steps last year, including launching a website, holding its first public meeting and issuing a request for information seeking feedback on how to handle management challenges. currents.

At the agency level, many CDOs have been busy setting up data dashboards, creating data inventories, and training agency staff in data skills.

“We think CDOs really need to seize this opportunity to leverage data as a strategic asset. They need to do things like build critical relationships to show their short-term value. Things like quick wins will help them to create that momentum,” Kaouk said.

Agencies, however, are at different stages in terms of data maturity. Kaouk said some agency CDOs work with large data science teams and already have advanced analytical capabilities, while other CDOs are still struggling to secure budget and staff to carry out their work. .

“Many CDOs have been in their roles for less than a year, and many enter the role, finding data silos that have been in place for decades throughout their agency,” Kaouk said.

The CDO Council has also taken several steps to integrate in-demand data skills into the federal workforce.

The council partnered with OPM and the US Digital Service last year to launch a government-wide hiring effort to bring data scientists to government. The team received more than 500 applications in less than two days and hired more than 50 data scientists in 10 agencies.

The CDO Board also created a data skills working group focused on ensuring agencies have a workforce with the necessary data skills. As part of this work, the council has released a collection of data skills training programs across government.

“We’re trying to build a community where we can leverage best practices that are happening across government so we can accelerate this work,” Kaouk said.

Agencies, on the other hand, have a clearer standard of what a qualified data science candidate should bring to the job.

OPM at the end of last year released its new Professional Series for Data Scientists in Governmenta project in development for more than two years.

Kaouk said the professional series will help agencies attract data experts to government departments.

“It helps send the signal that this is an area of ​​need within government, and it is an area of ​​focus. This is really going to help federal agencies better recruit these professional data scientists. It will provide a common language on requirements. It’s going to create some consistency around the expectations for the job,” he said.

OPM as “Human Capital Data Analytics Hub”

As Deputy Director of Human Capital Data Management and Modernization, Kaouk helps oversee the OPM’s wealth of data on federal employees and retirees.

Working with David Padrino, OPM’s Executive Director for Human Capital Data Management and Modernization, Kaouk helps manage the company’s Human Resources Onboarding Data Warehouse (EHRI DW) which serves central point for providing statistical data on the federal civilian workforce.

This data warehouse is the basis of tools intended for the public such as FedScopewhich allows users to extract data on elements of the federal workforce.

The OPM holds data on 2.1 million current federal employees, 8.2 million enrolled in the federal employee health benefits program, and 2.7 federal retirees and annuitants.

Kaouk also oversees the human resources business lines, which are developing common human capital data standards that can improve data quality and interoperability between agencies and shared service providers.

“We really feel we have a historic opportunity to become a leading hub for human capital data analytics by providing things like advanced and self-service analytics, data standards, digital and data solutions that, when appropriately aligned, enable strategic management of the human capital glands of the federal government,” he said.

The CDO Council supports fairness, valuation engagements

CDOs, and the CDO Council more broadly, play a key role in many of the Biden administration’s top priorities, such as promoting diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility in the workplace. within the government.

As part of that mission, the council provided input to the Biden administration’s Fair Data Task Force.

At the agency level, Kaouk, formerly CDO of the Department of Agriculture, said he helped lead an equity data assessment.

“This provides a real major opportunity for these data managers and their teams to help help agency leaders better understand how they operate. Do agencies have the right strategies in place to recruit and reach out to all key demographics, across all essential professions? ” he said.

The council also works with the Council of Assessment Officers and its members who are responsible for creating learning programs for the agencies.

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