A top official from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said today that the Federal government is currently on track in the second phase of the Federal Data Strategy OMB released in 2020.

Parth Tikiwala, acting director of technology, modernization and data at OMB, said that his team is currently working to iterate the strategy, which sets the longstanding framework for how agencies should utilize Federal data through 2030.

The Federal Data Strategy sets 40 finalized practices, alongside an action plan that sets the short-term actions agencies need to implement. However, action plans were only released by OMB in 2020 and 2021. There are no guidelines from OMB for the strategy for 2022 or 2023.

Despite a lack of more recent executive branch guidance, OMB’s Tikiwala said during NextGov’s Data and Analytics Summit in Washington today that agencies are still headed on the right path.

“Within these action plans that we’ve had and published, each practice has been hit at least once across different actions,” Tikiwala said. “So where does implementation actually lay? It lays within those 40 practices, but also the guidelines that we give with iterative action plans that we’ve published.”

He added, “We are actively working to iterate on the strategy, even absent the iterative annual action plans.”

The Chief Data Officer (CDO) at the General Services Administration (GSA), Zach Whitman, joined Tikiwala on the panel and praised the Federal Data Strategy, noting that OMB’s strategy allows individual agencies to move within it.

“In terms of building the structure, we can make our own,” Whitman said. “The infrastructure is there for us to figure out how best to go about it without it being too prescriptive, which I think is really critical for good policy.”

The CDO explained that the biggest barriers to implementing the Federal Data Strategy are not the tech itself, but the people and processes.

GSA has a “number of different challenges, and technical is never really the big one,” Whitman said.

“It’s always about the people and processes,” he continued. “How can we ensure that the budget climbs up so that everyone’s getting their fair share? How do we make sure that the infrastructure is supportive for the business cases? How do we make sure that everything is equitable and accessible?”

“That’s one of the nice things about the data strategy is it really all cascades up into insight. It’s not about building dashboards. It’s not about building infrastructure. It’s not about setting policy. It’s all trying to get to a better business outcome,” Whitman said.

OMB’s Tikiwala explained that the government is currently in the second phase of the Federal Data Strategy.

“The idea that we had with a 10-year vision was to have four different phases,” Tikiwala said. “We’ve pretty much gone through the foundational activities phase, and now we’re into the enterprise-wide stage of things.”

“What does that actually look like? Well, every agency is at different stages of their data journey,” he said. “But it’s our play to make sure that we can identify the best gameplay, guidebook, action plan, that can actually put forward and capture not only the priorities of what’s at play right now with the administration … but also what’s actually of need for the community.”

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.