By Joel Riphagen, FI$Cal Senior Advisor

We live in a world in which data has taken on an outsized role. Unprecedented volumes of information are transmitted around the world each day, driving decisions in every industry. Data analysis skills are in high demand, with the Harvard Business Review declaring data scientist the “sexiest” job of the 21st century. Government and private industry have created numerous chief data officer positions, and private citizens have taken on the role of “civic technologist” to promote the use of government data for the benefit of the public. The biggest danger many of us fear from the companies we interact with daily is not harmful chemicals or physical injury, but the misuse of our personal data.

As an organization built primarily around the collection, storage and usage of public data owned by other entities, the Department of FISCal (FISCal) has important responsibilities in this data-driven world. Those responsibilities include balancing the security and privacy needs of our users against their ability to conveniently use data for their business needs against the public’s right to see how government spends its money. They also include better use of data across FISCal to improve our efficiency and effectiveness as an organization.

We take these responsibilities seriously, and as such we are continuously working to improve our use of data across the organization. In order to highlight our efforts in this area, we are dedicating several articles in the month of August to the data-related initiatives FISCal is currently undertaking. We cannot cover all of our data-related efforts in a few articles over the course of one month, but we’ll hit several of the high points. Our data-related initiatives, some of which will be covered in separate articles, include:

  • Improving data reporting to our customers through the use of Business Intelligence software and working with our Customer Impact Committee to convene a Business Intelligence Working Group to advise us on the development of this tool;
  • Improving our communications with users by better tracking their needs through the use of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software.
  • Convening an internal working group on data governance to improve how FISCal manages data-related issues.
  • Continuing to expand and improve our Open FI$Cal transparency site, to give Californians a clearer view of state spending.
  • Engaging with the civic technology community on International Open Data Day to promote the use of FI$Cal system data.
  • Collaborating with the Department of Finance to create a standard methodology for tracking COVID-19-related expenditures in FI$Cal.
  • Strategizing with the California Government Operations Agency to improve the reporting of COVID-19-related expenditures to the public.

Our diverse efforts in this area reflect the extent to which data permeates our organization and its importance to the services we provide. Among our core values as an organization are innovation, integrity and a focus on the customer, and our usage of data must be done with an eye to these values.

As we continue to mature our data governance, reporting and analytic capabilities, we hope your experience with your data in FI$Cal continues to improve at the same time. And if you have ideas for how we can continue to improve our use of data, we hope you will share them with us.