A note on teams and resources
As we have shown, relatively substantial business, technical and legal knowledge about an organisation’s data is required for successful data sharing. Consequently, enabling data sharing requires empowered leadership of the process by an individual or team that has access to resources and the cooperation of other teams in the company.
While some individuals may have insight or experience that would be valuable, often this knowledge is tucked away in separate departments, and not available to the wider organisation or those who are involved in the decision about data sharing – such as strategists, lawyers, analysts or technology managers. This lack of expertise may in turn lead to misconceptions of the risks associated with data sharing.
In this section we discuss the personnel and culture that are necessary and effective for data sharing.
Depending on how an organisation is structured, a data holder is likely to have at least three areas (most likely represented by even more people) involved, which between them cover
- the technical aspects of the process, such as identifying suitable data and implementing the results of the data sharing process;
- legal questions, including the assessment of the legal risk of the process, and supporting the signing of contracts;
- business or strategic expertise, to assess the business risks and suitability of the project to the organisational goals.
In each of these areas, it is important that either the team working on data sharing has decision authority, or the responsible senior decision-makers are sufficiently informed to sign off the process as a whole. Ensuring the buy-in of the final decision-maker early on is vital for success.
This team also needs to have the authority to overcome other barriers. A senior-level, strategic decision for data sharing is a necessity, especially with regards to potential risks. Nothing less than a strategic decision that the organisation cannot afford not to make data sharing work will overcome the concerns of a completely risk averse legal department.
While some organisations have dedicated innovation or data science teams which can drive the data sharing process forward, other organisations may lack either the internal culture in which new ideas such as data sharing can thrive, an awareness of the benefits of engaging in data sharing, or the decision-making structure that is needed to enable data sharing.
If the organisational culture does not encourage or even permit developing new ideas, enabling data sharing may require a change in culture or attitude. Different internal stakeholders will need to understand the benefits of data sharing, both in general and in the specific proposed context. Decision-makers will need to be (made) aware of the value that could be derived from the data. Without this awareness they are not likely to consider sharing the data; without knowing the potential value it will be impossible for them to weigh it against the potential risks, and thus make an informed decision.
The necessary awareness and knowledge will have to be built up in the organisation as part of the process, such as:
- learning about data sharing and the value proposition attached to it;
- definition of challenges or business problems that could be solved with data;
- identification of suitable datasets, and legal assessment of whether and under which terms data can be shared;
- sign-off for the engagement
This is not, and cannot be, a linear process, as all of these steps inform one-another, and therefore will have to happen somewhat simultaneously.
It takes time and effort to build the necessary knowledge and forge the internal pathways within organisations that are required for successful data sharing. How difficult this learning process is will depend on the amount of resources that are committed to it, which is in turn dependent on the buy-in that data sharing has in the organisation. All of these may have to be built up in an iterative process, and it may be that utilising the services of an intermediary helps to short-cut this time and effort, while still benefiting from the learning.
If an intermediary is involved, they typically require extensive teams to cover, depending on the role of the intermediary:
- decision-making about any questions or issues as they arise; ideally this should be conducted by one leader and a board or steering committee;
- business and technology experts, who can assess the feasibility and innovation of proposed projects, and support data holders in their selection and preparation of suitable data to share;
- communication between data holders, data users and the intermediary, and any other third parties such as contractors that might be involved. These should be able to understand and ‘translate’ between different terminologies common in either area;
- recruitment of data holders, data users, or both. This will require sufficient staff; existing personal networks in either ecosystem will make this significantly easier;
- drawing up contracts, negotiating terms, defining and explaining rules for compliance within the project, all of which requires legal experts. Their expertise may also be required for due diligence checks;
- developing and conducting due diligence checks, and keeping track of information and documentation from all parties, requiring sufficient administrative staff;
- sufficient staff to produce any other outputs of the project that need to be produced by the intermediary themselves.