Data.org's free assessment survey measures data practices across 10 areas, including infrastructure, security and strategy.
Government agencies can use a new online tool from data.org called the Data Maturity Assessment to get a baseline understanding of where they are with data and how they could take better advantage of the data they have.
The organization, which focuses on cultivating data science through partnerships and collaboration, released the assessment this month for entities to use at no cost. Users start by answering questions about their agency before spending 12 to 13 minutes answering data-specific questions grouped into three main competencies: purpose, practice and people.
Within those, the assessment measures data practices across 10 areas, including infrastructure, security and strategy. At the end, users see a results page with a benchmark score plus specific resource recommendations from data.org’s Resource Library based on the survey answers. The assessment and library, which launched last month, use a shared taxonomy on the back end and draw from each other through an application programming interface. What’s more, the library resources and guides are labeled for organizations at beginner, intermediate and advanced data stages.
“It is the snapshot that helps you understand in relative terms where you are in your data journey and provides applicable resources about how you may want to invest or prioritize next best steps,” Ginger Zielinskie, chief strategy officer at data.org, said of the assessment tool.
For instance, if the assessment shows that an agency's cybersecurity is lacking and its infrastructure is outdated, it might return resources on how to build a secure data stack and suggest 10 tools or platforms to consider using.
“I can guarantee you that our Data Maturity Assessment cannot currently assess an enterprise, but it’s inputs to help make better decisions,” Zielinskie said.
Additionally, the results page is shareable so employees can pass it along to supervisors or coworkers to get buy-in for data-based projects.
Data.org has published six or seven guides so far and plans to publish one to two a month, said Perry Hewitt, chief marketing officer at the organization. Topics are based on interviews with partners, the website’s search engine referral terms and conference topics.
“We’re trying to present a universe of curated resources -- not to replicate Google or incorporate so much content that it’s overwhelming,” Hewitt said. “We’re trying to organize the content by the problems to be solved, and there’s a lot of tagging and action that goes on in the back end.”
During a webinar about the assessment tool on Feb. 16, Zielinskie said that of the three competencies, people is the hardest one because it takes time, dedication and leadership to bring data scientists and subject-matter experts together, but at the same time partnership is crucial.
The purpose component is about making data science part of strategy and program implementation, while practice is about routines and investment prioritization, she added.
Tenille Metti, the vice president of communications at Swipe Out Hunger, a national nonprofit working to end college students’ food insecurity, said during the webinar that the assessment facilitates using data. Since it started 12 years ago, the organization has relied on data, but the tool helped them see room for improvement.
“The language is accessible. You don’t have to be a data scientist to understand what it’s asking,” Metti said. “It really just held a mirror to our data collection process.”
Paul Sorenson, director of the St. Louis Regional Data Alliance (RDA), said his organization runs a data collaborative in which more than 360 members are looking to understand what skills and tools they need to have a data-informed practice focused on racial equity and community well-being. They also share data known as community data, which RDA defines as “organized information about community health and development — including but not limited to data from government, healthcare, and the nonprofit sector — that is used to understand a local situation and plan for action.”
“Regardless of whether you’re working with a small social service organization or a larger local government or a university of varying sizes … the conversation is heating up, but people are on dramatically different pages,” Sorenson said, adding that the assessment can help level the playing field. “One of the things that excites me is how this tool can be used as a common language to help people across organizations and across sectors identify and co-develop how they end up addressing data maturity together.”
Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.