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Key takeaways from NASWA 2017

Last week, I had the opportunity of attending the NASWA UI Directors’ Conference and IT/Legal Issues Forum in Orlando, Florida. The conference was a forum to collaborate and discuss innovative ways to improve customer service and business decision making, while fighting fraud within state workforce agencies. At this conference, I had the ability to connect with leadership to discuss the impact that quality data can have on their systems and processes.

In my conversations, I was especially curious about how the people in these leadership positions characterized their approach to data management. It was interesting to learn that an overwhelming number of the people I spoke with said their approach was reactive. This means that the organization waits until issues arise before identifying the source of the problem and then resolving them. By having a reactive approach to data quality, agencies are wasting time, money, and resources solving issues that could have been avoided. This is especially true when considering how bad data affects agencies’ business processes. Without high quality data, workforce agencies face challenges reporting to the federal government, allocating resources properly, and providing a positive customer experience. To avoid these challenges, there is a definite focus on prioritizing and improving data quality.

Looking back, I was left with two key takeaways after the NASWA Conference. First one being that labor agencies right now are facing staffing challenges. Over half (56%) of the staff working at these agencies (who have high institutional knowledge) could retire right now. The concern here is that agencies are not only facing potentially massive overturn, but their data (and therefore, business insight) is being stored in legacy and siloed systems. This means that there is a current focus for agencies to get the right people, processes, and technology in place sooner rather than later, as not to lose out on valuable insight.

It is clear that workforce agencies are facing future challenges head-on which brings me to my next key takeaway. There is now an increasing view of data as an asset that agencies can leverage for business objectives. This means that agencies are specifically looking at data quality and data modernizations to make the most of this valuable asset. Many of my conversations focused on how agencies shouldn’t underestimate their data, and how to streamline and improve their business operations. To support the goal of leveraging data as an asset, agencies spoke a lot about the Workforce Data Quality Initiative funded by the federal government. This is an initiative that supports improving the quality of workforce systems. Despite current challenges, the efforts that agencies and the federal government are making are promising. Because of these efforts, I think that the future for state workforce agencies is filled with opportunity.

Overall, I had a valuable experience at the NASWA Conference this past week. State labor agencies have been collecting data for decades, and now there is the recognition that they need to implement processes to effectively improve, analyze, and control their data, before they can leverage it to drive business decisions. I’m grateful that NASWA, in partnership with the Sunshine State of Florida, orchestrated a week filled with amazing speakers and productive sessions.

Taking a proactive approach to data quality is now top of mind for many state agencies. Learn how the Idaho Transportation Department took control of its data quality.

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