Before starting a data project, there are several questions you'll need to address to determine the purpose of your analysis and to assess your ability to fully implement the project.

The following table identifies an initial list of questions for consideration.

Problem Definition

What is the problem you are trying to solve?

What does success look like/how much does the needle need to move?


What interventions do you have available to solve the problem?


If this is successful, what impact will this project have?

Will it encourage future projects/goodwill?

Available Data

What data sets do you have access to that are relevant to the problem?

Data Governance

For the data sets that you have access to–do you own the data? Do you have permission to use the data? If you do not own the data, do you have the relationships with the data owner?


Are the data accessible outside the department/agency?

Security Policy

What security policies and legal considerations need to be in place for each of the data sources? (HIPPA, FERPA)

Implementation and Maintenance
Technical Implementation

Do you have people in house who can implement/deploy the solution?

Data Infrastructure

Do you have the internal technical and data infrastructure to provide a continuous data feed from all the systems, and integrate the results/recommendations back into the agency systems?


Can you update, maintain, and support the implemented solution?

Data Readiness

Relevance and Sufficiency

Do you have data that are both relevant and sufficient to solve the problem?


How is the data quality?

Collection Frequency

How often are the data collected?


What is the level of granularity for the data sources?


How much history is stored, and how are updates handled?


What data privacy policies do you have in place?


How well documented are the data?

Excerpted with permission from Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy (AISP) Expert Panel Report: IDS Governance: Setting up for Ethical and Effective Use