Gathering a Team

Planning a successful open data program requires choosing the right leaders to help. Communicators, lawyers, line managers, and technologists must collaborate effectively with the public to develop the best policies and practices. Like any other initiative, civil servants need to understand how open data can make them more successful and what they can contribute to the process. Buy in and participation in the opening of data is critical, so It is important to gather key players and engage them from the outset. A city needs certain people to lead with a bird’s eye view of the entire initiative, while others will get into the day-to-day details of releasing and managing data.

The following list provides a description of each key player. Depending on a city’s resources, a single person may take on multiple roles. Many of these team members will form the program’s governance committee, once it is formalized.

Program Sponsorship

  • Mayor or City Manager: Executive level support and encouragement of the open data process is critical to gaining buy in citywide. The mayor need not be engaged all the time, however, it is extremely valuable for he or she to publicly announce a new open data program or policy, as well as provide encouragement and support to the city’s open data governance committee.
  • Deputy Mayor or Assistant City Manager or Other Senior Executive: Responsible for overall program leadership; ensures alignment with overall city and administration goals; creates accountability for agency heads and delegated agency staff; helps set and approve priorities for data releases; reports to the Mayor or City Manager on program activities.
  • Chief Counsel: Assists in developing policy and guidance materials for releasing datasets; develops terms of service and licensing for data access and usage; helps resolve legal considerations for complex datasets; connects dataset publishing to freedom of information requests.
  • Press or Communications Manager: Ensures public datasets have messaging consistent with other city goals and programs; assists other senior executives with potential responses to public input on published datasets; oversees public engagement activities and events.
  • Chief Information Officer, Chief Technology Officer, or Chief Data Officer: Oversees the technical aspects of open data, such as maintaining the public data catalog, extracting data from internal IT systems, and ensuring public data is kept up to date.

Program Execution

  • Project Manager: Coordinates the open data program; plans and oversees data releases; plans daily activities for the team members; reports on progress to program sponsors.
  • Data Evangelist: Works with the public and important partners to foster the consumption of data; handles questions about data on behalf of data owners; presents open data at appropriate community events; provides technical assistance to data consumers.
  • Data Owner(s): Usually the person or team in an agency who uses the data to carry out their daily business, data owners work with the project manager, data analysts (see below,) and others to ensure the publicly released data is accurate, well documented, and up to date.
  • Data Analyst(s): Reviews source data systems; recommends specific data elements for release approval; helps develop public documentation; handles manual data publishing if needed.
  • Programming or Database Engineers: Build and configure the tools needed to routinely copy data from city technology systems to the open data website.
  • Internal Users: Agency staff who are important consumers of open data and use data to make decisions, streamline processes, and improve operations; offer perspectives on using data for cross-agency and cross-organizational collaboration.
  • Community: External stakeholders validate the utility of datasets being opened; the community offers perspective to the city on how the open data program is perceived and employed. Involvement from community members can be formalized through creation of a public advisory group to the open data program, if so desired.

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