Three Lessons Learned in Data Governance at DOTs

In January, members of the North Highland transportation team had the opportunity to attend the annual meeting for the Transportation Research Board. It was an information-packed program with more than 13,000 transportation professionals from around the world. One of the key topics discussed was data governance, particularly for Departments of Transportation.

Data is one of any organization’s most strategic assets and this is no different for DOTs. Just like DOTs physical assets (roads, bridges, etc.), data must be maintained. Having poor data quality is like having a pothole in your road. As we look to the future of transportation and things like autonomous vehicles, Smart Cities, and LiDar data collection, the amount of data that transportation organizations have will only be exponentially increasing. Three key trends we are seeing in data governance include:

  • Just like in the private sector, DOTs are recognizing the need to establish a Chief Data Office and/or hire a Chief Data Officer. These new roles/organizations help advance data strategy, policy, governance, and architecture. They establish the data governance framework and set the standards for things like Master Data Management, Metadata, etc.
  • Utilizing other strategic initiatives to drive the adoption of data governance. Many DOTs see success in incorporating data governance as part of larger priority initiatives like asset management or safety. For example, the Ohio DOT has included data governance in its asset management initiatives and even calls out data governance in their Transportation Asset Management Plan (TAMP).
  • People are the key to data governance. This includes getting leadership to prioritize data governance and data quality all the way down to the staff that collects and manages the data. Data governance is not a solution you implement, but it is more like a process or journey that will evolve and mature over time. Many DOTs are realizing this requires a change in culture to be successful and sustainable. Florida DOT has set up a formal data governance organization with representation across all of its seven districts, the Florida Turnpike Enterprise, as well as within their Central Office.

How is your organization approaching data governance? Is it a priority, or are you still trying to find the right framework?