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Tennessee's Evolution to Banking on Data
Christin Lotz, Director, Tennessee Office of Evidence and Impact
Governments possess a lot of administrative data, and when it comes to that data, the first responsibility is to ensure it is safe, secure, and that privacy is maintained. The second responsibility is to ensure that data is being used to inform decisions. Too often, there is disconnect between businesses—in this case state agencies and IT. That disconnect hamstrings the ability of governments to make the best use of their data. Meaningful advances can only be made when the two are in harmony, with the business needs driving the technology.
In Tennessee, state government leaders have prioritized the use of data and evidence in decision-making. This resulted in the creation of the office of evidence and impact (OEI) in 2019. OEI works across state government to advance data and evidence-based policymaking and budgeting.
The office has implemented evidence-based budgeting, requiring all executive branch agencies to submit data and evidence that support their annual funding requests. With the creation of the chief evaluation officer position and new funding for program evaluation, OEI is laying out a path to develop new evidence that will enable better insights into what’s working and what’s not.
OEI is also increasing the state’s ability to gain actionable insights from data. Since its creation, OEI has partnered with Tennessee’s Strategic Technology Solutions office, the state’s central IT organization, to advance the sharing of data between state departments and support enterprise data analytics. Through this partnership, OEI is centering the policy and practical needs of the business to identify and advance technology solutions that address those needs. These efforts have resulted in the identification of use cases that have originated at the department level. By focusing on specific policy questions that are important to the departments, strong partnerships have been created.
When it comes to the administrative data possessed by governments, the first responsibility is to ensure safety, security, and maintenance of privacy. The second responsibility is to ensure that data is being used to inform decisions
Tennessee is now beginning the implementation phase of its first ever enterprise data analytics platform and will soon begin development of five use cases that will be completed in the first year of operation. There have been challenges along the way, and some that remain, but with the support of state leaders and a commitment to improving the use of cross-functional data to drive decisions, success is within sight.
What does success look like? For Tennessee, it is a first-of-its kind environment that produces previously unattainable insights from data that enhance our ability to make better policy, program, and budget decisions that improve outcomes for Tennesseans. It is a sense of ownership at the department level that can only be attained by a business-led initiative. It is program, policy, fiscal and IT teams, all working together with a common goal of fulfilling our obligation to the folks who fund the state’s programs by making data-driven decisions.