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By Eric Bosco

Barney Krucoff, Washington, D.C.’s first-ever Chief Data Officer (CDO), recalls a somewhat surprising scene from the office he witnessed just a couple of months into the job.

 

Some members of the District’s pile driving union stopped by the office to tell Krucoff and his crew how much they appreciate the data available on D.C.’s open data portal. The union had been able to use the building permit data available in the portal to find out where jobs might be available next.

 

“Not your typical data user, I’d think,” Krucoff said of the union in a recent interview with Data-Smart. “They made a point of stopping by our office to tell us how much they liked the data, so I thought that was pretty cool; the data is a lead generator for them.”

 

And Krucoff, who was hired in June as the first CDO in the nation’s capital, has a vision for the city’s data infrastructure that he hopes will make union members, citizens, and officials alike appreciative for years to come.

 

The majority of his time at present has been spent on organizing staffing and budget lines for the end of the federal fiscal year in October and on drafting a new data policy for the District. The data policy sets out to define “data” and set classifications for what datasets are made public, entered into the portal for internal use, or left to be subject to FOIA. But Krucoff also has his sights set on improving the data capacity of one area of city government in particular.

 

Priority one: building up business intelligence capacity

 

After the budget is in line and the policy, which is now in the draft stage, is in place, Krucoff said one of his main goals is to “do for business intelligence what D.C. has done for geospatial and mapping” technologies. The District has a longstanding GIS infrastructure; it makes training available to city employees, there are standards in place, and a multitude of datasets available for manipulation.

 

Krucoff knows the GIS capacity well — he ran D.C.’s geospatial shop from 2004 to 2011, before leaving to work in the same capacity for the state of Maryland — and believes now is the time to focus on expanding the abilities for business intelligence.

 

“Business intelligence is sort of the wild west within the government,” Krucoff said. “We have a lot of different vendors, lots of different interests, we don’t have a user group, we don’t have base standards for user exchange, we don’t have enterprise agreements with any vendors, but on the GIS side we have all of the above.”

 

Overall, he said he wants to make it more efficient for agencies to use the technology and eliminate some of the existing redundancies within the business intelligence infrastructure. The process has yet to begin in earnest, but Krucoff said a main focus will be on making sure the city administrator's office is empowered.

 

“We want to make sure the Office of City Administrator has the tools and data it needs to hold agencies accountable for performance,” Krucoff said. “Also that the agencies have the tools to respond to the [administrator’s] request. Of course this is an administrative burden on the agencies but we think we’d be minimizing that.”

 

The role of CDO as a “tool provider”

 

Krucoff started his career angling to be a city planner, earning a master’s degree from Georgia Institute of Technology in city planning in the early 1990’s. While many city planners lean toward the architecture side of urban planning, Krucoff noticed right away he had an affinity for data.

 

“I was always asking, how many people will live in this city in 10 years, what will the traffic generation look like,” Krucoff recalled.

 

He delved heavily into GIS after graduate school and now, even with a more prestigious job title, Krucoff believes he’s been doing the same thing all along — working with the goal of using data to make city government more efficient.

 

“We want to be the catalyst; we get the data out there, make sure the tools and training are in place,” Krucoff said. “And the ultimate measure is has the data been used to do something good? Are services more efficient? Are agencies saving money or getting more for the money they do spend?”

 

Krucoff noted that as an executive directing data policy and managing the District’s data office, he is separated from the on-the-ground improvements that come with the use of data and analytics. But he also knows he plays an integral role in facilitating that process.

 

“I’m a sort of a tool provider, data provider, standards provider,” Krucoff said. “The actual efficiencies, hopefully our customers generate for themselves in a sense. We want to see the data helping civic causes, helping people start businesses, even. The outcomes are one degree removed from me as CDO but they are very important.”

About the Author

Eric Bosco

Eric Bosco is a Research Assistant and Writer for the Ash Center’s Civic Analytics Network. Prior to joining the Ash Center, Eric worked as a journalist and research assistant with the Boston Globe Spotlight Team and as a staff writer at a regional newspaper in southern Massachusetts. As an undergraduate journalism student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, his investigative reporting for the Globe on the university’s controversial confidential informant program earned him appearances on national television and radio.

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