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How to Assemble a Winning Team

A broadly successful open data initiative requires a team effort. The key to success is to start with a small, passionate group who will champion the idea, develop a plan, and win support throughout the organization and in the surrounding community.

Your Team

Sometimes your open data initiative will start as a bare bones project supported by a few key people. Over time, however, your success will depend on your ability to get buy-in and participation from more of your co-workers. Use the table below to identify needed collaborators and start rallying your organization to support your initiative.

Download Open Data Field Kit
Complete the Open Data A-Team Workbook to build the team for your open data program.

The Open Data Stakeholders

Key role What’s in it for them? Their role in an open data program
Chief Administrative Officer
(City/County Manager, COO, Head of Planning)
This is an opportunity for the chief administrative officer to improve transparency, citizen services, and overall performance in your organization. Their primary role is to secure funding for the program and ensure it delivers on its promise.
CIO or other IT Leader

Support the chief executive’s transparency agenda, or the mayor or governor’s legislation.

Open data provides an opportunity to drive efficiencies and modernize information-sharing infrastructure.

Lead the selection and implementation of the open data technology platform.

Rally support and empower business users to deliver information and services.

Champion the developer community.

Open Data / Open Government Project Leader or Coordinator This could be you or anybody in your organization with good project management skills and the ability to lead a strategic initiative.

Lead the project day-to-day, act as a single point of contact, and create the conditions for the open data program to be successful. Must be able to juggle technical implementation, policy issues, organizational design and readiness, and be able think strategically and execute tactically.

Director Communications

(New Media, Public Information Officer, Public Affairs)

Open data is an opportunity to support the agency’s mission with easy-to-use information, make it easier to communicate with customers, and help promote community engagement.

Lead external communication, press contact, and community evangelism.

City/County Clerk

Use the open data platform as an effective self-service tool to expand access to public information and reduce the cost of FOIA request processing.

Help create a centralized resource for all your agency’s data, based on analysis of information requests from citizens.

Chief Data Officer

(Chief Digital Officer, Chief Technology Officer or Chief Innovation Officer)

Open data provides an opportunity to think about the organization’s data as a strategic asset and use it to drive innovation.

If the role exists, the CDO, in partnership with the CIO, is the overall leader of the open data initiative, internally and externally.

Help your organization become information-centric and implement a strategy to leverage its data for service innovation and performance improvement.

Need help understanding the CDO role? Read Socrata’s interview with Brett Goldstein, CDO, City of Chicago

Webmaster/Web Manager

This person can leverage the open data platform to get data-driven content on the Web quickly.

Use data, maps, visualizations, and apps to enhance the citizen experience on the Web, and empower program owners to curate their own data-driven content.

IT Application Developers

The open data platform presents an opportunity to leverage a new generation of real-time, data-driven Web and mobile apps.

The open data platform is also a cloud-based data warehouse, where every data set is API-enabled, which gives them a modern data substrate for integration and consolidation projects.

The pivotal role of your internal IT developers is to build value on top of your new open data platform, and use the open data APIs as the backbone of your digital strategy. They are also the primary go-to people for external developers.

Your IT developers can make a lasting contribution by automating the data publishing process and developing the scripts and ETL (extract, transform, load) processes necessary to connect your internal systems to your open data platform via APIs.

GIS Professionals

They can leverage the open data platform to make GIS files accessible to everyone, and empower non-GIS users to create their own online maps and map-based visualizations.

Contribute and transform valuable GIS assets (Shapefiles, KML files) into accessible online maps and, if appropriate, integrate the GIS system to the open data portal to create a unified citizen experience for all your information.

Department Heads and Agency-Level Program Managers

The open data platform will boost their teams’ ability to deliver data and information that supports their programs and mission.

Champion open data in their department/agency as a mission support system, and drive participation.


Winning Your Chief Executive’s Support

The role of the senior elected officials in your organization cannot be overstated. If your governor, mayor, or county executive champions the open data program, and puts the full weight of his or her office behind it, you can get a lot farther, a lot more quickly. The U.S. President Barack Obama has championed open data since his first day in office. Read about the White House “Open Government Initiative.”

If it helps, remind your chief executive, or their chief of staff, open data is not only the right thing to do (use this guide to articulate the value and offer examples), but it is also very popular with citizens. In fact, 61 percent of people said they were more likely to vote for a politician who champions data transparency, according to Socrata’s “Open Government Data Benchmark Study“.


Hear President Obama explain the necessity of open data.

“Transparency enables accountability and strengthens public trust.”

Toni Preckwinkle, Board President, Cook County

“This is a targeted investment in the beginning of great new companies.”

Michael Bloomberg, Mayor, New York City

“When we break down bureaucracies and our governments work together, we open new doors for our constituents.”

Rahm Emanuel, Mayor, City of Chicago

“Making City data more accessible to the public secures San Francisco’s future as the world’s first 2.0 city.”

Ed Lee, Mayor, City of San Francisco


Invite Every Department

For your open data initiative to transform your organization, it needs the participation of the majority of departments and agencies. Ideally, the president, governor, or mayor issues an executive order, or there is a new legislation – usually motivated by transparency – that mandates departments put their data online and contribute to the open data initiative. Compliance is a great motivator and can definitely increase awareness and participation.

How did the Oregon State Marine Board save $500,000 with open data? Read the case study to find out.

However, you will see the highest levels of participation when you have buy-in from other agencies, not just their compliance. Buy-in comes when you can show them how they can use the open data platform to:

  • Deliver data and information that supports their existing programs.
  • Manage and publish their own performance data.
  • Save time and money.
  • Share their data with other agencies and partners with which they collaborate.
  • Increase engagement with their constituents.

Invite the community

You can’t make your open data program a success on your own. And, even if you could, there is no reason to. There is an entire community of people who will be passionate about your project and will help you if you invite them in.

Open government and open data advocates

It’s possible that if you search on Google for “Open + Your city/county/state” you will find a community-led effort that’s calling for an open data initiative. They may already be building grassroots support and publishing some data that they have scraped from your website, or received as a result of a public information request.

Here are some Web resources to help you get started in engaging this community:

Open data developers

Once you make data open and available online, you’re likely to attract interest from your local developer community. These are programmers, civic hackers, and otherwise passionate people with computer science know-how. They want to use their skills to make a difference in their communities by building Web and mobile apps using public data. Encouraging this community is key to your success.

Here are some Web resources to help you get started:

  • Start a developer community. Look no further than Chicago for inspiration.
  • Get involved with the nation’s largest and most influential group of civic developers, Code for America.
  • Internationally, connect with Code for Kenya or link to Jay Bhalla’s Code for Kenya group.

Read Socrata’s interview with Derek Eder, a Chicago-based civic developer. Find him at derekeder.com

Participate with your peers in government

Given the rate of adoption of open data in the U.S. and globally, you are not alone in your efforts to make public data easily accessible. We recommend that you pool or “federate” your data with neighboring cities, counties, and states whenever possible.

Need some inspiration to start? See these websites where data federation is already happening.


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