5 habits of highly effective government power users

Successful power users are technically curious, skilled at communication and highly organized. And they are essential to the government's data revolution.

Shutterstock image (by Sergey Nivens): Businesswoman surrounded by financial data.

In an April article for FCW, I provided tips on how government stakeholders can get the most out of their power users. Simply stated, stakeholders need and ask for data, and power users prepare and deliver the requested data. That relationship is important if the government wants to get the most value from its data so it can function more efficiently.

Now I would like to expand the conversation a bit and focus on the power users themselves. Over the years, I have been on both sides of the fence. I have requested and delivered data, and I noticed that successful power users share similar habits for gathering critical information from stakeholders and delivering the best data possible. Here are the top five.

1. Be curious and passionate

Power users are technically curious and excited about data. Questions such as "why?" and "how does this work?" are natural to them. They ask questions with an eye and ear toward process improvement. "How can I make this process better?" should always be part of their internal thought processes.

For example, power users might generate a report once and then repeatedly tune it to show trends or performance improvements. Curiosity and passion fuel their success.

2. Bridge the gap

Power users bridge the gap between business and data. Business is functional, and data is technical. Knowing how to tie both together puts the data into context and helps everyone understand why it is needed.

In addition, understanding the business in terms of policies, procedures, regulations and governance are all part of the power user's toolbox.

3. Learn more

Power users' appetite for learning is part of their DNA. They constantly look for ways to make their jobs more productive and efficient. After gaining access to a new tool, they will dive into the tool's features and capabilities to exploit all it has to offer. They will seek out training provided by the vendor or the community because they realize it will improve their ability to deliver data more quickly.

4. Communicate effectively

Power users must know how to communicate well. In my recent article, I wrote about the importance of the stakeholder knowing how to communicate with the power user; that ideal is reciprocal. A stakeholder contacts power users because they have the know-how. Power users must communicate their questions clearly and explain why the questions need to be answered.

They should also know how to translate technical information into English. Being a technical whiz is great, but being able to communicate in layman's terms is essential.

5. Use checklists

It's all in the details, and those details start with a checklist, which helps ensure efficiency and completeness. It kick-starts the conversation between the two sides and guides next steps. A checklist also sets expectations with the stakeholder. It allows the power user to share what will be needed and when. In addition, a checklist makes it easier for stakeholders to communicate with their constituents regarding the status of any data requests.

Power users will be the catalyst for the self-service analytics movement that is taking place in government. Their inquisitive nature, combined with robust tools, will allow for more self-sufficiency. The increasing maturity of those tools will also empower future government power users.

By adopting these habits, a greater number of technically curious people can be groomed to meet the government's ever-growing data demands.

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