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'Blank Slate' Opportunity: New Maine CDO Looks to Define Role

Ken Boykin’s plans to promote data-based decision-making start by convening a steering committee and advisory group, along with writing a charter for the recently revived role he now occupies.

Data
Maine recently appointed its first chief data officer in three years, the second person to ever hold the title. Now, new CDO Ken Boykin says he sees it as a “greenfield” opportunity to define the role.

Boykin enters the role with 40-plus years working with data “in one way, shape or form,” he said. That includes positions in the Air Force, as well as the financial, IT, service and automobile sectors. Most recently, he served as information security manager for Maine’s Department of Labor. Now, Boykin turns his focus to helping revamp Maine’s data management and governance practices.

“What I'm looking for, from myself — and from the relationships and partnerships that I build — is setting the solid foundation in place for us to really take advantage of data-driven decision-making across all aspects of state government,” Boykin told Government Technology.
headshot of Ken Boykin smiling
Courtesy of Ken Boykin

TACKLING THE SILOS


Getting to data-based decision-making means overcoming a variety of hurdles in the way of wider data sharing and use. Part of that is that agencies can be hesitant to share their data, and Boykin said he’ll need to built trust to encourage them to take a new approach.

“The challenges fall in a number of categories: they fall in the aspect of promoting data and information as strategic and operational assets that are usable and reusable,” he said. “And promoting or advocating that the data owners have the curiosity and the courage to actually share the data that they own for the greater good across the entire state of Maine government.”

It’s not all about getting agencies onboard, though. There are also technological and regulatory obstacles. For example, agencies’ different systems must be able to integrate to allow data to flow and be used in a timely manner.

Some agencies face regulatory restrictions, too; for example, federal government may share data with state entities on the condition that they only use it in specified ways and share it with a limited pool of people, Boykin said. Such limitations need to be respected, but there’s also potential for requesting reprieves, he said.

That could mean identifying all the data-use prohibitions and restrictions of each state government entity, determining the authorities responsible for setting those limitations and then advocating to them for broader permissions on that data’s use and reuse.

NEW CHARTERS AND LOOKING AHEAD


Some of Boykin's first priorities are bringing the right players to the table and formally defining the CDO’s work.

The state looks to establish a steering committee, which Boykin hopes to see include executive leaders from across state government entities who can share “guidance, counsel and wisdom” to influence the CDO office’s work. That body would give strategy-related insights, while a separate to-be-launched advisory group would provide guidance on more operational matters.

Charters for those two groups as well as for the CDO’s office itself have all been drafted. But the three documents won’t be finalized until they receive more feedback, including from impacted agencies and departments.

“There’s a lot of feedback that needs to be considered. There's a lot of information that needs to be reviewed and vetted,” Boykin said. “Once that is done, then we'll start to look at actual organizational structure. And making sure also that we have considerations for equity and inclusion … in the data governance and management framework.”

At a zoomed-out level, he aims to assess how the state currently uses data, identify what those practices would ideally look like to best support the state’s “mission-essential” processes and functions, and outline a road map to achieve this. Having a clear end goal is key to guiding efforts, but reaching it could take years — and the end goal itself will keep changing as opinions and technologies evolve, he said.

“The desired end state is going to move,” Boykin said. “As technology matures, as people's understanding of what data is, and the true adoption of data as a strategic asset — as well as an operational asset, and the fact that it's reusable — [matures,] that's going to change people's perspective, which will mean it'll change their desired outcomes, which will change the desired outcomes at the office of the CDO.”
Jule Pattison-Gordon is a staff writer for Government Technology. She previously wrote for PYMNTS and The Bay State Banner, and holds a B.A. in creative writing from Carnegie Mellon. She’s based outside Boston.