Data Quality and Data-Driven Decision Making

How reliable are your data? The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (DATA Act) caused many federal agencies to focus on data-driven decision-making. The benefits do sound promising, but the risks can be significant. Not every piece of data is relevant. Not every data source is reliable. Opinions and biases can cloud analyses. The same set of data run through different analysis tools can appear to produce contrasting results. The quality of your data is directly related to the validity of the insights it reveals.

Data-driven decisions are only as sound as the quality of the data they are based on.

Remember the order of operations?

Correct Incorrect
7 – 2 + 3 7 – 2 + 3
5 + 3 7 – 5
8 2


Despite its simplicity, this equation demonstrates how guidelines ensure consistent and reliable results. This principle applies equally to data gathering, verification, and analysis. Think about what would happen if the times, costs, or levels of effort for federal projects and programs were based on inconsistent methods and flawed data. The results could be disastrous.

Accurate data-driven decisions are based on data that has been gathered, verified, cleaned, and analyzed as a standard practice.

The Federal Data Strategy (FDS) was established to “accelerate the use of data to deliver on mission, serve the public, and steward resources while protecting security, privacy, and confidentiality.” It provides numerous valuable resources, including why and how to establish a data governance body to ensure data quality. The following summaries of the FDS principles and best practices provide an overview of every aspect of data management.


  • Ethical Governance – Uphold ethics, exercise responsibility, and promote transparency.
  • Conscious Design – Ensure relevance, harness existing data, anticipate future uses, and demonstrate responsiveness.
  • Learning Culture – Invest in learning, develop data leaders, and practice accountability.

Best Practices

  • Build a Culture that Values Data and Promotes Public Use – Articulate data uses for agency decision-making and accountability while supporting commercialization, innovation, and public use.
  • Govern, Manage, and Protect Data – Bring leaders with diverse perspectives and expertise together to plan appropriate and responsible data use.
  • Promote Efficient and Appropriate Data Use – Provide access to data resources, promote appropriate use of data resources, and provide guidance on approaches for data augmentation.

Additional Resources

Does your organization leverage data as a strategic asset? Are you on schedule, ahead of schedule, or lagging behind? While data literacy is challenging, there are numerous resources available to you. provides a valuable collection of policies, tools, case studies, and other resources that support data governance, management, exchange, and use throughout the federal government. The FDS Data Governance Playbook provides a detailed explanation of the process of establishing a data governance body, data maturity assessments, and agency data architecture. And, lists 30 Communities of Practice where you can collaborate and share resources with others across the federal government.

Management Concepts has numerous options for support. In addition to courses on analytics and data-driven decision making, we offer custom learning solutions and human capital advisory services.

How can we help you use data to support your mission?

Written by:
Natalie Komitsky
Media Type:

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