Data Driven Leadership

Leveraging Data to Modernize the Public Sector

Guest: Josh Wakefield, VP of Public Sector Services, Resultant

In this episode, we explore the challenges of data-driven leadership in the public sector. Along the way, you’ll learn ways to navigate the complex environment and still achieve meaningful, cumulative progress to leverage data more effectively and drive better outcomes for citizens.

Listen On



Data projects in the public sector are often complicated, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important or should be postponed.

Josh Wakefield, VP of public sector services at Resultant, has dedicated the last 15 years of his career to the public sector, helping agencies implement solutions and leverage data to inform decision-making and improve outcomes.

In this episode, Josh and Jess explore the challenges of data-driven leadership in the public sector. Along the way, you’ll learn ways to navigate the complex environment and still achieve meaningful, cumulative progress to leverage data more effectively and drive better outcomes for citizens.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • The importance of having a guiding light that ties to your mission while understanding intended outcomes
  • Why you must know the context of the public sector and the political environment to avoid any potential pitfalls
  • How to leverage data effectively to drive outcomes that benefit citizens

In this podcast:

  • [01:29-04:00] Josh’s background in public sector data projects
  • [04:00-06:43] Why public sector entities should invest in data solutions
  • [06:43-10:35] Using data to drive decision-making and impact
  • [10:35-13:05] Advice for leaders in the public sector
  • [13:05-14:08] Don’t let future-proofing delay the start of your project
  • [14:08-17:37] You have to have a guiding light and it has to tie to your mission
  • [17:37-21:35] Don't forget the people
  • [21:35-25:15] Know your context
  • [25:15-28:35] Understand the full story
  • [28:35-34:54] Final advice

Our Guest

Josh Wakefield

Josh Wakefield

Follow On  |  

Josh Wakefield leads the Digital Transformation, Government Services team in driving mission-critical outcomes for Resultant’s federal, state, and local clients.

With an extensive technical and business knowledge base, Josh’s skillful oversight has driven the successful completion of many large-scale modernization initiatives, including those previously considered abandoned or out-of-compliance. His leadership of the Public Sector Services team has driven the growth of the team and its contribution in governments across the United States. Passionate about professional development and innovation, Josh diligently supports the development of his team as they expand and deepen their expertise and ability to impact meaningful change.

Josh began his career in the IT industry, owning and operating his own consulting firm in downtown Indianapolis. He was the lead consultant on a multitude of network implementations where he provided ongoing support to clients through service contracts. With hands-on technical knowledge and advanced project management experience, Josh provides a unique and valuable perspective to Resultant clients and their projects.


Jess Carter: The power of data is undeniable and unharnessed, it's nothing but chaos.


The amount of data, it was crazy.

Can I trust it?

You will waste money.

Held together with duct tape.

Being defiant.

Jess Carter: This season we're solving problems in real time to reveal the art of the possible, making data your ally, using it to lead with confidence and clarity, helping communities and people thrive. This is Data Driven Leadership, a show by Resultant.

Welcome back to Data Driven Leadership. I'm your host, Jess Carter. On today's episode, we're diving into Data Driven Leadership in the public sector. Today, I've got with me Josh Wakefield, Resultant's VP of Public Sector Services, and we're going to discuss today what it looks like to be an excellent data-driven leader in the public sector based on our combined 20, 25 years of experience. So I just gave a little bit of a heads-up to people about your career that we've both had the privilege and honor of serving in the public sector as tech consultants and data consultants, but can you elaborate on what that's looked like for you?

Josh Wakefield: A lifelong technologist for sure, but a majority of my career, the last 15 years has been spent just dedicated to the public sector and trying to help them. A new IT implementation so they can serve their citizens better. And then more recently, in the last seven or eight years, is leveraging the vast goldmine of data that exists in the public sector to inform our decision makers and arm them with data to make better decisions and really improve the quality of outcomes from agencies and programs.

Jess Carter: Yeah. And I have to preface everybody who's listening. So Josh is largely responsible for a lot of my consulting skillsets. And so we've had the privilege of working together on projects in the public sector together largely. And so from workforce development, unemployment, re-employment, bureaus for motor vehicles, social services, and then again, data agencies. We've had this interesting career, in my opinion, of early 2000s to 2010s, helping agencies get maybe off a mainframe for the first time or get onto a custom solution or a COTS product, and help them stabilize their systems that they offer their services through or their programs through. And then recognizing that, to your point about this trove of treasures here, is how can they leverage their data more effectively to drive better outcomes for citizens?

And I think that's been, for me at least, the icing on top. It's one thing to make sure programs are running effectively. It's another thing to be able to provide insights on how they could better impact citizens. I think that has been such a cool turn of how public sector is pivoting. So Josh, we're going to start with solution on the spot segment. So we're on the spot together. You're not in this alone, but here's where I wanted to take our conversation today. So there's a lot of work that we have had the privilege of doing and I think there's major questions all the time from technologists to people who are technologists. What's the value? Why do it? Why pay for it? Especially in the public sector, right? We're stewarding citizen dollars, taxpayer funds, whatever. So what's the investment? What's the ROI?

So for this solution on the spot, I want to hear and collaborate with you on say we walk into a new state we've never been in and we're talking to not an agency leader, but the director of the budget for the state. Somebody who's looking at where all the dollars go and approving where those dollars go for the return on investment for citizens and taxpayers. If that person were to ask us, why invest in data solutions? Why invest in more than just keeping the lights on and making sure the programs are effective? Where do you begin to unpack the potential value there?

Josh Wakefield: It's a really easy one for me. So we'll use a term here and I'll probably say it throughout the segment, so longitudinal data is where it's at. If I'm an OMB director and trying to manage a budget, so finance resources, we only have so much money in taxpayer dollars, we have to use that to get the best outcome for citizens that we can. If you go back five years before states started to aggregate data the way they have, it was very myopic the way we looked at a program, which is, "Okay, you an individual, entered into this, we did some things for you and you exited. I have no idea what happened before that. I have no idea what happened after that." So there are huge insights to know what happened when you went off of unemployment and did you get a job and did you have higher wages?

And so if I'm not going to do an OMB director, I don't think you need to start big, you can start small here. The ability to aggregate data across state government to look at a whole human is enormously valuable to improving programs and understanding what levers we should pull to make them as impactful as possible. Before and right now, a lot of agencies, just I see this period of time, I don't see the whole human. That to me is the elevator pitch I would be talking about and thinking about if I'm that person and considering how to leverage data.

Jess Carter: Yeah. Public versus private is very similar functionally very different semantics, right? So if I was a private sector experienced leader, some of the language that you just used even can sound far away, right? But the reality is it's like, "Am I just funding my programs to keep running or do I want to innovate and make them better? Do I want to find ways that I can see you as better outcomes?" So to your point on unemployment workforce, right? I don't know, I think most people have a friend, they're one degree separation between them and unemployment. Somebody's been through it, family members experienced it. And I think when we start to understand the systems that help us run those programs and you realize what's federally funded and what does the state budget have to carry, if there are ways that we can leverage the data for each state uniquely to understand what their industries are doing and what's hot and how do we get people trained up or transferred their skills quickly and effectively, they can wage up, they can make more money, they can have a better life.

There's some of that regardless of red or blue, it's better outcomes for citizens. And so as an OMB director, regardless of your state, regardless of whether it's a Republican or Democrat, there's some reality to we can make lives better. That's what we're in the business of doing, not just administering programs.

Josh Wakefield: Yeah. And let's take that example of unemployment insurance. I know it's a federal program which maybe isn't top of consciousness for an OMB director, but there's tons of dollars that are invested in up-skilling and training individuals on the unemployment program. If we knew more, for example, what grades you got in high school and college and things you've done before in the workforce and if we're able to model your type of individual and we know what training works best for you to get a better outcome once you get back in the workforce or what gets you back to the workforce quicker, those were all things that helped the fed and the state on how they use dollars.

So get you off of unemployment sooner, gets that person to a better life sooner. And so that's a great example of using data to help drive decision-making and where you invest dollars in different places. So I think while that's a fed program, there's lots of state dollars that are around it and what's the highest and best use of those. And we can guess, we know that maybe we're a manufacturing state, but that isn't specific enough. And with the type of data I'm talking about longitudinally across state government, you can get very specific about what works best for an individual, and that's where the real power comes in.

Jess Carter: So experientially, right? We've had the privilege of meeting some people that follow this persona. And I think one of the most ignorant things I've ever asked anyone, and I'm just happy to explain on this, there was a OMB director that I had noticed had... I was like, "Are you into the hobby of corrections facilities? What's the deal? Why are we touring jails all the time?" And I asked, I just was curious enough to be like, "What's up with you got your next prison tour in a month?" And they were like, "Have you ever looked at a state budget? Have you ever really looked at a state budget to understand what are the highest costs of the state?"

And if we can reduce recidivism, yes, we would like less criminals. Yes, we want people out of jail. Also, it does make it more affordable for us to infuse better services to the state when we're spending less on the ones that we currently are already committed to solutioning for. So I think, thinking about the state a business was really helpful to be like, "Oh, if we help people out of that world, it's good for them and it's good for the whole state." Those are some of the things where I think I've seen private sector peoples come over to public sector and apply that framework to agencies or to the state and it's generated really good buy-in across, again, whatever party you're in to just say, "Turns out good citizen outcomes tend to help everybody. It's a win-win."

Josh Wakefield: Yeah, they're, they're not mutually exclusive. So it's not just cost savings and you can't get good outcomes. It can be both, and data's a good path to that.

Jess Carter: Awesome. Okay. Any last thoughts on this or parts before we walk out the door of the OMB director that you'd want to make sure you impress upon them?

Josh Wakefield: No, and I'll talk about this later in a segment too, but just start the journey and probably start small. We have states in the US that have done amazing jobs at this. California's on the journey right now to that. Indiana's done a good job with it where they've brought it all together. It doesn't have to be that. It can be an agency or a specific program where we try it. So find something that's impactful, find something that align to a governor's initiative and then try and make a difference and just start the journey.

Jess Carter: Awesome. Okay. Thank you for joining us on the solution on the spot. Okay. So we're going to pivot into probably something that I'm more excited about than I ought to be. Now Josh, if you didn't do this, I'm going to be disappointed in you, because usually you have really fun phrases when you're thinking about the topic of data driven leadership in the public sector. But what I did is I asked you and I did the same exercise to write down the top 10 things that you would say are important for data driven leadership in the public sector.

So this may be relevant to people in the private sector too, that might need a little crosswalk, but I don't want you to put your head in that space. Think about the public sector. That's where we've lived, and I want to riff together on what these things are. So the concept is, "Hey, if we had a buddy that was suddenly the CDO or the CIO of an agency or maybe again just a leader making decisions on data and tech, what are some of the things that you would advise them as they step into that role?" And so we'll take turns going back and forth and you may have more of a list than I do, but I'm going to make you go first.

Josh Wakefield: So I used this adage before and I'm going to use it again because I believe it. So starting the journey, so many times, I think there are pulling forces in government, you may be only there for four years, you don't have a lot of time. The biggest thing I see is like, "Oh, man, leveraging data, all this infrastructure, I got to change my organization." That's a lot. I don't want to start on that. And so, my first piece of advice would be like, "Wherever you're at in the maturity spectrum and data, just get started, push it forward." This isn't a thing that's going away. I don't care if you are reporting out of transactional databases right now to get insights on data, great. You can move it down the line a little bit. So just start doing something and start putting importance on data.

So many people, for a lot of reasons, in government don't want to start and it doesn't... I think the true test of a public servant is we are going to start efforts underway, we will not see the end of, and that's okay, that's a good thing. So as a leader in the public sector of an agency, I would say, "Get it started." Get it started in some way. And even if we just move it a micro inch something and too many people look at it as a daunting mountain climb. It's a journey that will never stop. I saw this in application development, in IT implementation 10 years ago where people were like, "Okay, we did it. We arrived at the app being live." And that's not the way it is. These things keep going. We keep enhancing them. Same with data. So you might as well get on the train.

Jess Carter: Yeah, that's a good one. That's a good place to start, because the other thing I don't think a lot of people know who aren't in public sector is the average length of a CIO's tenure is 18 months, right? Pray it the most. It's probably dropped since we last looked that stab. And so, if you're trying to finish something, which sometimes you are because maybe you've got a career path you're trying to chase down to, but making sure you're making meaningful incremental progress matters.

Technology is changing so fast and the public sector can be innately known as a little slower than that than the public private sector. So I've heard the analogy in the past of think about 10 to 15 years behind today is where public sector tends to sit, contract vehicles, movement, budget, et cetera, just causes that. Sometimes trying to future proof whatever you're building today can be in the way of progress. It's sometimes okay, just to recognize that in the context you have today, you're going to make the best decisions you can, and you should think about if you can future proof, but don't let that make you delay making progress today.

Josh Wakefield: Yeah, and it is a long term play because I want to be clear. Yes, we say government moves slow, but they have a lot going on, right? There are programs and sometimes very immediate urgent programs, unemployment, any the health human services areas, and so, they aren't not good reasons to not take the data journey, there are and it is a distraction and you only have a certain amount of resources. But even in just a little bit, I would just, like I said, get started in some way as a leader.

Jess Carter: It turns out you can't tell people that you can't fund their unemployment this week because you're doing deep dive on strategy for your dad. You still have to make sure people can buy groceries for their family and get their license renewed and whatever else they need to do, get their vouchers for daycare while you figure out this data pathway that you're on. One of mine was going to be you have to have a guiding light and has to tie to your mission. So can't just have a strategy that's like, "We need a data warehouse." Why? What do you want out of it? And how should that serve citizens?

So that was what of my, you can call it a vision, you can call it guiding light, but there it is real. It's not just fluff that if you can help people understand and mindfully contemplate what it would look like at the end of whatever you're trying to get done and how it will have an impact or I call those intended outcomes. Hey, we might need a warehouse. Great. Why? Why do you want the warehouse? So you can make better data decisions around what your budget, your program, new programs you want to put in place to help a group of people that maybe are underserved in the current programs. Just make sure you have the why.

Josh Wakefield: Yeah. So it's having worked so long, it's not surprising to me that our number two were very similar. I put start with use cases, which I think is not to your point. Yes, you have to connect it to the mission, but the other thing is don't forget. We're not out there to build the Taj Mahal of infrastructure around data and say we've arrived. It has to screw value in our purpose and get some use cases upfront that you can cling onto and show some really success with to get buy-in from your organization to prove that this works, to show yourself that it's valuable. And those don't have to be big. We are going to eradicate opioid overdose in this state. No. It can be efficiency, which is federal reporting needs to take us four weeks and now we are able to do it in three business days.

But find some easy wins that you're going to get try and tackle, and make sure, of course, for the side of your mission and vision where you're heading, but that that's something you can show up with. They don't have to be epic. Don't tackle the world, but do be able to show something and make sure that, "Hey, we're standing this up and the first couple of things we're going to do are X, Y, and Z." And so often I think people are like, "Yeah, we're from a data warehouse or we need something." And we don't think about that. So that's super important.

Jess Carter: Yeah, it's like you might come into your position with a passionate opinion about what you want to get done and how you want to get it done and you need to couch the when and what success looks like in some of the things around you. Do you have the right staff? Do you have the right budget? Do you have the right contracts and partners? But it's okay to have the vision. It's just also okay to recognize that progress needs to look like something that is achievable. If you throw some wild goal out there and everyone knows the second you say it that you can't hit, we're going to eradicate something. It's immediately demoralizing. It's like a human condition, right? We want to reach the goal and if we immediately decide or discern that it's not achievable, you will get distracted. It's almost like outcomes will be worse than today.

Your benchmark goes down, you cause confusion. People are disoriented, they don't believe in it, and then you have a bigger problem to fix. And so sometimes, I think, you have even given me this advice, Josh, personally, that's like, "Hey, you have to couch your pace as a leader or anchor it to everybody around you and the pace that they can keep up with." And sometimes if you've heard that analogy of in a wolf pack, the fastest wolf is always the last wolf. They make sure that they're keeping everybody together. I think that that analogy is pretty sound in this case.

Josh Wakefield: Totally.

Jess Carter: Okay, what's your-

Josh Wakefield: Should I get my third?

Jess Carter: Yeah. Yeah.

Josh Wakefield: Okay. So this one is big, and I think it happens way too much. And so my title for this was Don't Forget the People. So too often, in my opinion, we decide we're going to take this data journey and we start to do things like we're going to get a data warehouse or if we're going to get visualization. Remember, this is a cultural and organizational change. Don't go off building a whole bunch of infrastructure and we're going to build it and they will come once it's here, get them to come with you and build it. Don't go disparately and make sure the people are along with you for the journey. They're going to have to change their behaviors. I mean this down to the organizational level. We may need to reorg, we may need to redefine roles, we're going to have data stewards and data's going to be a part of my job.

Now, all of that has to be thought about, and I do not forget to bring those people along. On that note data literacy. So ask 50 people what data driven leadership is or what it means to leverage data and you'll get 50 different answers. You cannot overinvest enough and getting people up to speed on what we're doing, what we mean by leveraging data, what this journey's going to look like and how that works. And so, along with that note, once you've arrived at some level of maturity, don't forget to push decisions to where the data is.

So most people are get to people who are close to the data and this is not you at the top agency head with this huge dashboard, and now I can make data driven decisions. You need to arm your folks with that. And so they need to be along the way on the journey. And then they need to have the data in their hands to make decisions in their jobs. Spread it out. Do not make it this insular thing. And it's a cultural shift. We all know. Go change culture then or... Well, that's hard. How do I do that? And so make sure we're taking steps to make sure the org comes along with this change. It doesn't happen to them, it happens with you.

Jess Carter: So I don't think you read the book Leading Change. Is that familiar to you?

Josh Wakefield: I know.

Jess Carter: Okay. Because you're basically a masterclass on it at the moment. So that is a book I would put in the hands of anyone in this situation. If you want to do something innovative in state government, city municipality or federal government, you need to read the book Leading Change, because it is about all of those pieces and it's a little bit of a framework of how do you approach people, the tech, the data, the ops, the budget, how do you get all of it done? And it starts and ends with your people. And so I think from the context you just provided, recognizing too HR and talent tools at your disposal. So if you have people that need skilled up, do you have budget and a program for professional development and can you send them to school and then they feel invested in because they are, but you also get the skillsets you need out of the business.

And so how do you look at all those levers available to you also to influence your people? So if you have moments of frustration, sometimes with people, my recommendation is write down what's frustrating to you or how you wish they were behaving. And then anticipate what are things that could help them get there and find ways to advocate for your people. Are there going to be people that might be sticks in the mud? Yeah. And you're going to have to figure out how to manage or either around those people manage those people frankly out sometimes or manage them towards a better outcome. And you have to decide how long you're willing to try on any of those fronts.

But anything I've ever done in public sector, there's somebody who's nervous, scared, you could anchor to the past. And I think that I've seen all three of those outcomes where we've been able to get them to a better place. We've been able to navigate around some of those issues or they've self selected to go do something else. And so, I think your discernment on the best and an amount of time for you to focus on those outcomes in people is really, really important too for you to acknowledge your time is a constraint and you need to invest in the right outcomes, and read the room when stuff isn't going the way you need it to.

Josh Wakefield: 100%.

Jess Carter: Okay. Here's my next one. I'm really curious if this is on your list or if you're just going to riff with me, and I'm going to be real blunt about it. Know your context. So what I literally mean is in your state I'm going to stick with state because that's where we mostly have worked. Is it a session year? Meaning, are we doing budgets and are those getting approved? Some states do that annually. Some states do that biannually or whatever, but recognizing your place where you're walking in, did they just determine a budget and you're probably not going to get a net new thing that you really, really wanted because they just told everybody what they're getting. When is the next election cycle? So there's some realities to how it works at leadership levels in the state around the year before an election. They don't want a ton of movement in the current party's progress.

So they want you to opt in or out 12 months before and figure out when are we taking risks as a state? When are we really open to what an agency wants to do that's innovative. It depends on the reality of how close you are to an election, what your budget looks like, what are the hot topics in your state, what are new policies coming out? I don't think I've ever actually, this is bad probably, logged in to watch a full day of session or something, but I will log in at the right times for certain topics I care about that I think are probably impactful to agencies that I'm working with. So I think that whole, what is your context and not just state what's going on in the cities or municipalities, what's going on federally and anticipating how those things may or may not impact your work is a must-do. You have to do that.

Josh Wakefield: I think that ties back to one and two, which is one was start the journey. Now, I said whether it's small or big, I think you're right. Know your room across state government. And that may mean a small step because we are in an election year or it's a budget year or something else. And there are all kinds of forces that played in state government. And so, do we say we're going to go live with 20 million Data Lakehouse the year that the governor's trying to get reelected? Probably not, there's high risk there. So don't suggest that. And then similarly with the use cases discussion, that might pivoted for you depending on the type of agency you run. If the government is trying to be reelected or he's announced a new strategic plan, maybe we align those use cases to answer a question you would like to know the answer to it. I think for both of those, how do I start the journey? How big do I start? And then what are my first use cases are absolutely situational, and you've got to read that situation and adapt.

Jess Carter: Don't be naive about potential to your point on any election year for anything you're doing to become a political bullet potentially one way or another. And so if you're going to do something innovative on those years where things are... There's a lot of attention around what you're doing or there's a lot of attention around the political environment, your ducks in a freaking row, because you're going to get audited 1700 times more than usual. That's anecdotal experience talking. But you can still do cool stuff, but you need to recognize that people are going to look at it with a higher level of fidelity because they need it to work. It can't be an eyesore and it can't be something that makes people question government at that moment in time.

I think it's important to not to villainize the political process, it's just how it works. I think you have to be careful and not naive, but we all want great government. That's what everyone wants. And so there are just times where the reality is the impact of doing something poorly or it not going well will be a greater impact than at another time.

Josh Wakefield: Okay, that was good. My next one is you can't overinvest in data accuracy. So I just can't say this enough. We're on this journey, we know it's a cultural and organizational change as well. I mean, nothing erodes credibility and moves us back from data driven to just opinion oriented, hierarchy driven decision-making then, "Oh, we thought we had the full story from a data standpoint, but we didn't understand it. We don't have the full story of data, we don't trust it." And so, out of that gate with those use cases, that accuracy... And to be honest, the organization you put around what you do, the governance around it helps with that. You can't get that wrong. You have these shots where you're going to take on a use case and you're going to make a statement or make a decision based on something.

And if those you strike out three or four times the whole war, maybe the governor, maybe the others are like, "Is this even worth it that we can't even get the right answer?" And so data stewardship and data accuracy under thinking broadly about, "Okay, I'm taking on this use case and this problem. Yeah, I have a transactional system." That probably isn't the whole story. There's probably other systems I need to consider and data I need to bring in. And being precise and accurate with that data is paramount.

I can't stress enough that the wrong outcomes early or misinformed outcomes early could be a nail in the coffin. And so make sure you have people who are close to the data and understand what it's saying and what this means. And some of these programs we get really nuanced the type of data we're talking about and what it infers and what it needs. And so make sure you have that clearly defined, make sure you know it and make sure you have a complete story that your data is telling you feel good and confident about that. Jumping to a conclusion or knee jerking. Well, yeah, of course we are 1% unemployment state and being wrong, not great. That accuracy journey is early and often would be my advice.

Jess Carter: Again, back to great government, there isn't a ton of grace in the public when you get something wrong. And so literally some of the advice I would give, especially if someone's new to this kind of roles in the pub public sector is, if you think you need to make a decision based on data in a week, pretend the deadline is tomorrow because you are going to ask questions that your team will not be able to answer and they will need to go back and do some analysis and come back to you and you'll probably ask another great question that they can't answer and they'll have to go back and try again. And maybe by next week you'll have the answer you need, but you won't make a fool of yourself or the agency by saying the wrong thing and having to correct it. Because usually when that happens, it has to happen in the news or something and it's just not fun.

And so I said that differently where I said, "Don't get stuck in the weeds but be capable of getting into them when and how you need to." Now, every leader is different. So if you're not great up close in the weeds, then again, the critical nature of the success of your leadership in public sector is how good of a question you ask. So if you can't get into the weeds, you got to ask the right questions and you're accountable to make sure that you're getting the right information, demand the right answers and make sure you understand the context. Because if you just go ask for one data point and they give it to you, it may not be what you need. So round out, ask some questions, understand the curve, and then you can speak intelligently.

Josh Wakefield: 100% agree. Yep, that's exactly it. So this is probably my last one, and I mentioned it earlier in the segment and this we'll go again some of my other advice, but if you wanted an aspirational goal... And I say this, it's going to be a big thing. It doesn't have to be longitudinal data. Whatever your program is, understanding how you use data from other agencies, other systems and bring it together to get a more holistic view at your stakeholders that you're serving is really impactful. We talked about unemployment insurance, so I won't hit that again. You think about education, we're entering into a world where the traditional college path is being questioned and are there alternative paths, and what are the best ways to think about that? What are those pathways, and what's best for this individual?

State government data can answer that. We know a lot. We know the taxes that you paid. We know the grades that you got. We know where you live. We know where you work, the types of wages you have. What you got in chemistry, and we know how people like you, where they flourish and where they don't. That's a macro example, but use that longitudinal data to figure out a holistic view of your stakeholder and then impact, change your programs and then change how you interact with those stakeholders to give them better outcomes. That sounds big. And you could go get, gather data from across all of state government. It could even be systems within your own agency. But start that one picture of a human. That sounds easy on the surface. Well, yeah, of course, we look at Josh the same way no matter where he is in the state government, that's easy to say, deeper than that.

And really looking at what kind of levers impact Josh, what will Josh be best at if he used to go to college? What if he does that? What if he does an apprenticeship? What if he decides to go right into the workforce? What's the best job for him? To me, if I think about the next 10, 15 years of government, you're going to see that come to life in a huge way. And so if you want something innovative and neat to go after, you get some initial use cases and some wins, think about how to pull that in and leverage it in your context.

Jess Carter: Yeah. Okay. So we have to unpack a couple things there because it's big and good. So one, I think there are people who are going to hear you say that and think, "They know all of that about me?" So identity management is a major thing that I think you're also talking about longitudinal data, the ability to look at someone's data over time and watch how that human changes, what their needs are, what their realities are to predict if we help them with this program, what are the likely outcomes, or how does over time, how do our systems serve our citizens? I think that that is an important point.

One of the key ways that we do that is something called identity management, where we understand that Josh in unemployment is the same as Josh in Department of Revenue putting in their wages or whatever. And so, that is across the board in states not done well or consistently. And if it is done, there is usually high fidelity in security, in encryption, in not sharing PII, like it is very much think about healthcare and HIPAA. They've got their own version of that. And so, I giggle when people have these thoughts about what the state's doing with data. And I'm like, "Oh, it's cute that you think it runs that well." Right?

Josh Wakefield: You're not wrong to co-op that big brother thinking. And that will be something that you run into. And I've not to call it any specific examples. My solution with a couple of states where we've talked about, "Hey, we can suggest something through a program to you, but hey, if you wanted to say you were okay, give me us access to other data from round state government, we could really refine the answer. We think five to 10 times better than we could before. You okay with that?" Bringing access to that. That control over data is a huge topic. It's a huge topic in the world and it definitely is in state government. And I think that's something you have to consider is like, "Yeah, maybe you can get all the things in place, but what are the optics of that? And are people okay with it?" Because it's a topic.

And so how you handle that and how you address that is something you should consider. And I think that buy-in is a good way to do it, which is, "Hey, we can be pretty accurate with what we know right here. If you wanted to unlock the rest of it for us, we'd get way more accurate and give you way better outcomes and serve you better." And I think that's a straightforward way to present it to Joseph.

Jess Carter: And I think that's a good place to land to, which is, it's not something that I think I've focused a ton of my career on directly, but you can't take data and citizen data. Some of this is citizen data, some of it is federally owned data. It's not always yours that you're managing. You cannot take security lightly. So for any initiative you're doing, understanding how the data is protected, whose data it is, whether it's yours as an agency or it's the citizens or it's the federal aid governments that you're administrating, appreciating a rich understanding for you on how it's protected, how it's preserved, how you have access to it at all times. If you're doing a transactional system modernization, how do you make sure you're getting data dumps? It's a box you just have to check, you cannot afford to not check that box.

Josh Wakefield: That data integrity and security is super important, and it's a big hurdle. So you can have all the goodwill and use case brainstorming in the world. That's a big hurdle to cross. There are federal mandates of data, there's HIPAA, there's all kinds of things we have to adhere to. Making everyone okay and understanding really is a bigger part of the battle. So realizing you're going to go that route, getting everyone to play along and understand what's the art of the possible with data is going to be something you're going to have to do. And that's an organizational change management effort as well. And so, that's 100% something that needs to happen and should happen, and it's no small effort. Let alone coming up with the idea, but then getting everyone to play ball and making sure the data's okay with it from their different source agencies is a big part of doing that. That's part of what leveraging longitudinal data looks like for sure, a big part.

Jess Carter: So as you listen to this advice from Josh, whether you're in state government, municipality, city, federal government, or the private sector, my advice to you would be jot down some of what Josh says as advice and reflect on, is there one thing that you could take from this conversation and apply directly to the position you're in right now, the data driven decisions you have to make as a leader today. I guarantee you that there's some fodder here for something that you can grab onto and it will make your initiatives more successful by applying some of this advice.

Well, guys, thank you for listening. Don't forget to follow the Data Driven Leadership wherever you get your podcasts, and then review and let us know how these are helping transform your business or what you'd like to hear about next. We can't wait to hear from you and join us on the next episode.

Insights delivered to your inbox