Who Should Be on Your Open Data Team?

May 21, 2013 8:00 am PST | Data as a Service, Effective Governing
Open Data Team

An open data project is a large and exciting undertaking. One that can truly change the relationship between your agency and the public. It can also improve the efficiency of your internal operations. But to do it well, it’s essential to gather a team with the right skills to ensure success, from strategic planning to community outreach, not to mention technical expertise.

If your agency is just getting started, a small and enthusiastic team may be all you need to launch a successful pilot. With the right mix, this group can also provide the energy, leadership, and strategic planning to get your entire organization onboard for an ongoing effort toward data sharing and transparency.

Gathering this team is not always easy. Part of the process will likely require you to sell your program to the stakeholders who may not fully understand the value of open data yet.

Fortunately, there are many clear and direct benefits for each of the open data stakeholders on your team. The team building phase is your opportunity to teach and inspire them to think about these benefits and the many exciting ways open data can improve your agency’s work. The time you spend winning them over will pay for itself, as each stakeholder can then inspire their own teams for broad support down the road.

When putting together your open data team, keep the following five groups in mind – and what’s in it for them – to ensure the skills and input you need are at the table.

1. Chief Executives
City or County Managers, Chief Operating Officer, Head of Planning

What’s in it for them: Launching an open data program is an opportunity for your organization’s executive to make a big difference in improving transparency, citizen services, and overall performance in your organization.

Their role: The executive’s primary role in the initiative is to secure funding for the program and make sure it delivers on its goals. Once they’re onboard, they can also provide the organizational leadership and impetus for your entire agency to get involved. Read more advice about how to get your chief executive’s support.  

2. Internal IT and Data Teams
Chief Information/Technology/Data Officer, IT Leaders, Developers, Webmasters

What’s in it for them: This group will be excited by the opportunity to improve efficiencies and modernize information-sharing infrastructure. This will help them streamline their everyday work. It also allows them to produce tangible results in the form of apps and interactive visualizations that help improve life both at their workplace and in the greater community.

Their role: This part of your team provides the technical know-how needed to create your data publishing plan. The chief information officers along with other IT leaders should take charge of selecting and implementing the open data technology platform. These leaders, as well as others in your IT department, may also help rally the support of business users and program leaders to deliver their information and services through the open data portal. They will also be key players in reaching out to the private developer community for input.

3. Communications and Information Officers
Public Information Officers, Communication and Marketing Managers, Public Affairs

What’s in it for them: Communications teams will be enthusiastic about the opportunity to support and share the agency’s mission with easy-to-use information, and to use their skills to help promote community engagement.

Their role: This is the branch of your team that will help you create clear, concise, and targeted messages for the many different groups who can help with (and benefit from) an open data program. Their key roles include leading external communication, acting as the press contact, and supporting community evangelism. Learn more about how this team can help engage the community

4. Management and Team Leaders
Department Heads, Agency-Level Program Managers, City and County Clerks

What’s in it for them: This group will be able to benefit directly when open data sets allow their teams to do their work more efficiently. When published creatively, in the form of interactive charts or visualizations, team leaders and department heads will be able to see more clearly the effectiveness of their teams and point to data-driven results.

Their role: This group provides access points for each team at your organization. By engaging them, you will be able to more effectively boost each team’s ability to deliver data and information that supports programs, your mission, and improve organizational efficiency.

This group may be the smallest at the beginning of your initiative, or during a pilot. But as your initiative grows, expanding the amount of input from department heads and creating channels to listen to all levels of your organization will become increasingly important. Learn more about how and why it’s important to engage every department.  

5. Developers in the Community
Open Data/App Developers, Open Data and Open Government Advocates, GIS Professionals

What’s in it for them: Publishing data gives developers and advocates in the community the resources they need to do their own creative work. They will take the data you provide to create tools that improve life of their community.

Their role: From providing feedback about what data you should publish to taking that data and creating user-friendly applications, this group can be an invaluable asset to your open data program. They provide a broad base of expertise and professional perspectives that your organization alone, no matter how large, couldn’t provide. To help you get this group onboard, we’ve identified four essential things you can do: publish data, connect with civic developer organizations, host a hackathon, and be humble. Read more about the four essentials of developer evangelism

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