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Why we care about data architecture

We’re beginning to tell the story of how critical getting data architecture is to 'getting data right' for the Defra group. In this video, the Head of Data Architecture for the Data Transformation Programme, Sarah Burnett, tells us why it’s so important. There's a full transcript below.

How important is data architecture to Defra?

I think that it is the foundation that we need to build services on, so understanding it and getting it right is very important to the organisation.

What are the biggest challenges to getting data architecture right?

I think the biggest challenge is understanding what we want for our customer – what the customer needs from us, and the future and current need. Once that’s established, what we can do is design solutions that hold data to fulfil those business needs.

The other good thing about data architecture is that it can identify commonalities across data and systems, meaning we can be more efficient about our use of data, which of course should provide a better service for the customer.

How can data architecture make us think differently about how to solve problems?

People think about data as being very structured, but often it’s not kept that way. If we’re holding multiples sets of data across multiple systems, we don’t necessarily know which data to use to provide the best service. What data architecture can do is identify where the source data is held, to ensure we get a single source of the truth, for example.

How can you design data architecture to adapt to changing needs?

It’s not just about data architecture – it’s a combined effort. It’s about understanding the business aspirations for services; it’s about understanding the technical landscape; the information architecture that we want to use. I think it’s really getting the best knowledge across those areas to understand exactly what solution – the best for Defra. I think there are lots of potential solutions out there, and we just need to see which ones are right for us, really.

What challenges and opportunities does EU Exit bring for data?

We’ll be having new policy; new business drivers; new objectives; and I think the foundation of all that is the data. So I think the data can inform policy and business decision making; we can use it to support the changes that we’re going through; and it can offer possibilities… people always say, don’t they, that data is our most important asset? – After people, of course – So I think that once we understand where it is – we understand what the quality is – then we can use it to drive decision making.

It’s a very exciting time for change in government.

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