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Cross-Agency Data Sharing Promises Benefits for All

Former Ohio CIO Stu Davis on why building a framework for breaking down silos between government agencies optimizes services for all stakeholders — and why it’s kind of like making pizza.

Illustration of hands reaching through two computer screens to exchange files.
A wise man once said, “Ask not what you can do for your data, ask what your data can do for you.”

Wait, that’s not right, is it? But in the world of public-sector IT, this adage may be more relevant than the original. Bear with me as we unpack the concept of how sharing and utilizing data can completely transform the way government enterprises do business and ultimately provide improved value and services to citizens.

IT and business consultants are focused on optimizing the end-to-end digital value chain. This means breaking down the silos between business and IT and optimizing value delivered to stakeholders at every point in the supply chain. This concept is also true in the world of state and local government, but identifying those areas most in need of transformation can be tricky.


What if citizens thought of their state and local governments like a pizza delivery service?

In this scenario, the “enterprise” of state government IT — the centralized structure that manages a unified set of applications and IT services for its citizens — is the entire pizza, from crust to sauce to toppings. A vital component of the government structure is its agencies: the dozens of semi-autonomous departments and offices, such as veterans’ and children’s services. These are the slices of the pie that, together, make up the whole enterprise. Each slice (sometimes over 100 of them for a state) in and of itself isn’t its own mini pizza that can satisfy the consumer on its own. When customers order a pizza the expectation is that they will get an entire pie, hot and ready to eat, when it arrives at their door. Delivering on that promise to our citizens should be equally simple. But for most state and local governments, that kind of integrated service is pie in the sky: Too many slices. Too many toppings.

I’ve seen government structures with 2,600 applications spread across many agencies within one state system. This is kind of like having thousands of ingredients, owned by hundreds of chefs, on dozens of pizzas. But really they’re all pretty similar pies — we’re probably only talking about 10 core toppings shared on a common crust. In this pizza scenario, the complexity to deliver is high, and therefore the benefits to integrating and simplifying are also high.

We should think about the delivery of citizen services in the same way: Agencies delivering on their individual missions, but working together to meet the holistic needs of citizens and stakeholders. Is this a realistic outlook? I think so.


Much like pizza toppings are spread over the entire pie to optimize flavor and satisfaction, government enterprises could benefit from taking a holistic view of data collection, management and collaboration.

According to the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, CIOs across the U.S. have identified data and information management and consolidation/optimization among their top 10 priorities for 2022. This includes improving in areas of data governance and strategy, centralizing and/or consolidating services, data centers and more.

Some states have passed legislation regarding data sharing agreements among government agencies and have begun to realize the benefits of such agreements, including improved agency performance, course-correcting breakdowns in services and/or communication that impact the citizen end user, preventing fraud, waste and abuse, and more.

Despite the progress made on this front, however, many government enterprises continue to struggle with how to both give agencies autonomy to execute and deliver on vital citizen services, while staying within the legal parameters of collecting and sharing individual or agency-wide data needed for optimization.

For example, let’s say a social worker is working a case in which a child needs to be placed into foster care. The social worker could enter the case into the system and the data could show potential foster home placements. Subsequently, the system would do a thorough check of cross-agency data including the state’s law enforcement’s criminal record history, department of motor vehicles driving records, department of revenue tax records, etc. — any data that would be relevant to the process of placing a child in foster care all together in one system, streamlining the data sharing process, reducing the risk of oversight and providing a better end-user experience for the child, family, citizens and employees.

So, what’s next for government enterprises that want to advance their data sharing capabilities?


While the idea of mise en place (a culinary term that means “to put in place”) may be more applicable to fine dining than your local pizza joint, it certainly fits when talking about data insights. The key is to understand what data is being collected and begin to ask questions of that data to gain insights into how to optimize the information for peak performance. In government this should include consideration of more specific agency functions and needs; however, generally, one could start to build a data transformation framework by asking the following:

  • Value propositions: Which data points have the highest impact on citizen/stakeholder needs?
  • Channels: What is the optimum combination of agencies to obtain a holistic view of the issue and to engage with citizens?
  • Key activities: What are possible responses to a crisis, and what resources are foundational to those activities?
  • Key partners: Who are the best-fit partners and subject matter experts to provide insights and execute on necessary technology and business changes?
  • Revenue streams: Which investment will yield maximum benefits and increase productivity?

Over the last few years, governments have significantly shifted their way of doing business, mostly as a result of the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m encouraged by the agility many state and local leaders have exemplified in this process and think the momentum can certainly continue as we work together to transform their end-to-end enterprise operations. That transformation begins with asking the right questions of your data and optimizing that data to work for you and your stakeholders.

While this comparison of state and local government to pizza may seem odd, the analogy could be extended much further: Are the ovens (like aging IT infrastructure) working efficiently? Do you have the right people who know how to operate them well? How do you adjust your route to delivering pizza (or services) when obstacles pop up in your way?

Stu Davis is a VP consulting expert at CGI. Stu has more than 25 years of experience in the management of information technology and geographic information systems in the private and public sectors. Prior to CGI, Stu was the state of Ohio’s longest-serving CIO and led the statewide program to transform and optimize IT operations for 26 state agencies and over 80 boards and commissions.