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How to prepare to launch a data sharing portal

Prepare data portal

Launching a data sharing portal can seem like a huge task. There are many questions to answer, a variety of stakeholders to engage, and of course a lot of data to prepare. But the effort is worthwhile in the end to help your organization improve transparency, accountability, efficiency in the long-run.

Eric Reese
Data analyst, Opendatasoft
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One of the biggest hurdles to overcome in launching a data sharing portal is organizational readiness. Do you have the political will to make the launch a success? What resources will support data sharing after launch? Do you have policies and procedures to help facilitate data sharing across the organization? Are departments and staff within the organization prepared to share data more regularly and proactively?

To help you answer those questions and more as you prepare to launch your own data sharing portal, check out the guidance below. I’d also recommend reviewing this blog post from the Open Data Institute, which walks through a variety of steps that organizations typically take before, during, and after the rollout of a new portal. Finally, we included a few tips from the data team (Rodney and Rick) in Morrisville, North Carolina, who were generous enough to share their learnings as they go through the process to launch their own data portal!

It is critical to take your time to define your purpose in launching a data sharing portal. Whether it’s improving transparency, creating better services, or increasing engagement with your data, clearly stating the purpose for data sharing in your organization will guide all your efforts moving forward. A clear purpose can also help you get others in your organization on board to support your efforts moving forward.

Advice from Morrisville: Take your time to establish governance and structure first or in conjunction with the development of the portal, so there is clear direction and guidance from the beginning. Rick Ralph, our CIO has been taking the lead on getting buy-in as well by talking to senior management and the department heads and explaining the open data portal and talking about potential data sets.

One of the biggest questions to answer as you launch a data sharing portal is “How much data should we release?” While the answer to that question depends on the priorities of each organization, starting small with a few high-quality and high-demand datasets can allow you to test and adjust your data sharing program based on early learnings. 

No matter how many data sets you plan to release, having data governance guidance ready to deploy is key to ensuring a smooth portal launch. Data governance guidance should help answer key questions around data quality, access and privacy, and protocols for maintaining and updating data as you go forward (among others). Having a data governance plan ready, and then adjusting as needed, can help you overcome barriers when you hit any rough spots as you launch.

Advice from Morrisville: biggest obstacle was determining how many and which data sets to launch in the initial phase. We decided to keep the number of data sets we launched small (4-5) and focused on those we use more often (zoning and land use). By keeping the number small and manageable, in our opinion, the launch should go smoother. Additionally, fewer data sets will be easier to quality check and keep current as we get started. Finally, we are establishing data governance for workflow and sign off for adding data sets to the open data portal, quality control, expectations and standards for updating and adding new data sets, and more. We are currently working on the data governance document that will be reviewed and signed off before we launch the data portal!

Launching a data sharing portal is a lot of work, so make sure you celebrate when data is shared! Celebrating the launch and other successes not only acknowledges the hard work of people in your organization but can also serve as a platform to increase engagement with your data. This can help build momentum, expand the numbers of people you work with, and help ensure that sharing data is worthwhile and fun.

Finally, build in processes to adjust your policies and data as you go. There will always be small adjustments, quality improvements, and policy changes to deal with over time and building in a plan to react to those changes will ensure consistent quality and data over time.

Advice from Morrisville: This is an initiative that Town Council and staff have wanted to pursue for several years; however, due to lack of funding and personnel the idea never progressed. We’re excited to celebrate our launch soon!

Good luck with your launch!

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