Bojan Duric, Chief Data Officer, City of Virginia Beach
Bojan Duric is a strong proponent of data-driven and citizen-centric culture and leads with the same fashion as the Chief Data Officer at the City of Virginia. As the CDO, he delivers his responsibilities of implementing data and information strategies across the enterprise, diligently. He has further played a major role in initiating the highly demanded Data Academy program to assist employees in supporting the evidence-based decision-making process.
In conversation with Government CIO Outlook, Duric shares his expertise in bringing improvement and enhancement in the City of Virginia and reinstates his belief that data is an asset to empower employees, boost citizen engagement, and increase transparency.
It has been said data is the new oil. Over the past couple of years, we have often heard debates about the relevance and accuracy of this phrase. Companies such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google all benefit tremendously from massive amounts of data at their digital fingertips. However, it seems the public sector rarely capitalizes on data in any remotely comparable way. Whether risk mitigation, operational efficiency, or value add in general, the public sector as whole falls short when it comes to leveraging data as a true asset. One could point to several disadvantages that stifle progress and innovation in government organizations. Frequently cited issues include data quality, siloed data management, talent shortages, insufficient budgets, long hiring processes, and slow, underbudgeted technology procurement processes.
At first glance, it appears most bottlenecks stem primarily from an organization’s procedural and structural challenges. Thus, public and large-to-medium organizations start structurally defining teams responsible for enterprise data and information strategy in hopes of removing or alleviating challenges which ironically, results in inadequate or poor data capitalization. As chief data officer (CDO) for the City of Virginia Beach, the largest city in Virginia, I found myself in a similar position as many of my counterparts who take that route.
During our discussions, the terms “data governance” and “data democratization” were tossed about like they’re magic wands designed to solve all our problems. But it’s not that simple. Data governance refers to a set of processes and procedures which ensure proper data management and utilization. Data democratization involves making data readily available across an organization. If executed properly, it can empower users at all levels of proficiency and reduce dependence on IT staff. Data governance and data democratization are products of an organization’s culture. Viewed through this lens, suddenly, most challenges and bottlenecks are no longer automatically tied to a lack of processes or skills, but rather to long-time data negligence that has become embedded in organizational culture. In other words, an organization’s attitude toward data governance and data democratization is reflected in its culture. If inadequate data capitalization is part of the culture, attempts to implement ‘data as an asset strategy’ will fail. A cultural shift is essential.
We defined our “purpose statement” to help guide our efforts to introduce an enterprise data strategy and a stepwise approach with quick wins and small yet constant changes to fuel our momentum
During my first days as CDO, I worked closely with my team and internal customers to understand our purpose. We delved into customer expectations as well as the organization’s perception of data responsibilities. We defined our “purpose statement” to help guide our efforts to introduce an enterprise data strategy and a stepwise approach with quick wins and small yet constant changes to fuel our momentum.
City of Virginia Beach Data and Information Management Office Purpose:
“Our purpose is to promote a data-driven culture at all levels of the decision-making process by engaging and enabling business capabilities with relevant and accurate information accessible anytime, anywhere on any platform.”
This statement has given us parameters to promote better and continuously refine our role as cultural change agents who collaborate across business units to support their strategic imperatives. It inspires our governance. Our first step in creating data democratization and governance was to launch a formal Data Academy program. The City of Virginia Beach aspires to become a data-driven organization where every member is empowered, enabled, and supported to seek data, identify patterns, and share with others. As part of the Data Academy initiative, the Data and Information Management team offers upskilling sessions to equip city employees with resources and knowledge that will enrich their current role while emphasizing the importance of data and digital literacy. Analytics and business intelligence trainings are available to all employees interested in learning how to gain actionable insights from their data. We believe true data governance and data democratization can only be achieved through a successful data literacy program. In our experience, expanding access to these critical skills increases literacy, reduces reliance on data scientists, and provides the highest return on investment.
Along our data-driven journey, we partnered with other departments to host the city’s first internal hackathon, an ideal event for reinforcing the significance of data. In the City of Virginia Beach, we deliberately chose the path of building a data-driven organization by improving organizational literacy across every level of our decision-making process. It is a gradual transition that requires time, effort, and transparency, but ultimately has catalyzed much-needed cultural transformation. Nearly two years after my arrival, our data-driven approach continues to gain traction. Admittedly, data governance and data democratization are ongoing activities that we are committed to evolving in the months and years to come. Every organization has a data culture—what’s yours?