Every day more companies benefit from the data explosion by using data as a product or service. Governmental organizations own large amounts of data that could be used to create new value. In order to increase their social relevance, this ‘hidden’ value should be unlocked by participating in the recently emerging information ecosystems.
Data as a strategic asset
Over the past two decades practically every organization has in some way dealt with digitization, which has led to significant adjustments in business models. Recent developments prove that we are at the beginning of a new digital era. Because of the explosive growth of the number of ‘sensors’ like machines, smartphones and cameras, the amount of structured and unstructured data has grown exponentially. Neelie Kroes (European Commissioner responsible for the Digital Agenda) even calls data the new oil for the digital age.
Every day more organizations find ways to benefit from the fading lines between data collection and distribution. New technologies that convert collected data into valuable assets become more accessible and result in more bang for the buck. By combining internal and external sources, organizations are able to unlock value from the new information ecosystem leading to opportunities beyond your imagination.
Governments are on a great pile of data
Governmental organizations can use information and communications technology to increase efficiency in order to better people’s lives. The Dutch WRR report iOverheid describes the impact of extensive digitization of society and the role of the government. Thanks to the use of IT, the government will transform from an e-Government to an i-Government which is based on data processes like collection, enrichment and distribution of information. A boost for this transformation is the Open Data legislation which is introduced throughout the world. This legislation holds that once government tasks are completed, government data will become public in order to stimulate re-use by other parties. The creation of social value by opening up government data (Open Data) is estimated by the EU at €70 billion. Already in 2009, the US government made the transition to an organization aiming to unlock as much value from data as possible with the Open Government Directive.
Just sitting back and wait for data to be unlocked by others will, in many cases, not suffice for governments to actually create this social value. Governments need to facilitate and interact with other public and private organizations and citizens. Governments from 56 countries already launched a joined platform. A next step would be to create an interactive (Open Data) community stimulating innovation. The latter is under construction in the Netherlands under the government policy regarding top sectors. It can be seen as another incentive for governmental bodies to become active in the data arena. However, government organizations are doubtful about how an active role regarding data should be approached, and, consequently, for which needs and customer groups. In fact, government organizations are actually confronted with a classical positioning question in a whole new ballgame.
Consciously building a position instead of waiting on the sidelines
The success of government organizations is largely determined by their social impact and their visibility in the marketplace. Data provides the opportunity to increase this impact since it can help improve current tasks and/or provide in more needs. Off course, data can also be re-used by other parties. The EU Commission hopes data to be a catalyst for change. By building an external positioning around data, government organizations could focus on specific needs in order to increase their social impact and its visibility.
Nolan, Norton & Co. developed a widely applicable model for governments to build an external positioning based on data. A number of elements are important to build an external positioning based on data.
The first element consists of guiding principles based on the organization’s mission, (ministry-wide) policy goals, values and formal tasks. The second element contains the role that can be chosen. A role describes the way in which information could meet the needs in the market. The optimal role is determined by the market needs (Demand) and the extent to which the market itself can provide in those needs (Supply). The fourth and last element includes all preconditions including legislation and policies.
Four different roles for a governmental organization
The center element on which an external positioning regarding data is based, is the choice of a particular role. Definition of a role is based on two dimensions, the attitude towards fulfillment of needs and the degree of enrichment of the provided data products and services. In other words, the attitude describes ‘how?’ and the degree of data enrichment ‘what?’.
Given the position on the horizontal and vertical axis, four archetypal roles can be identified. Each role describes in behavioral characteristics the way in which the needs in the market are met. Organizations are able to choose a role as ‘Controller’, ‘Connector’, ‘Enricher’ or ‘Entrepreneur’. The choice of a particular role depends on the market demand and the extent to which the market itself can provide in those needs. For each need and each customer group a different role can be considered. In fact, the optimal role could change through time due to dynamics in demand and supply.
It not just a new perspective, it’s a disruption
The development of a traditional organization to an organization in which data is used as a strategic asset confronts organizations with radical changes regarding, strategy, organization, culture and technology. Significant barriers must be overcome like ‘unit’ thinking and the lack of right skills and technological/analytical knowledge. Emphasis should be placed on thinking and acting in ecosystems. This requires both Public-Public as Public-Private Partnerships. Therefore it is advisable to start the positioning on small scale and on experimental basis. By doing so, it can be directly shown that government organizations can increase their social relevance with data. Ready to pick up your game?