Data virtualization in regulation: Use cases and practical considerations
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How can people with different roles in the regulatory process harness the power of data virtualization to help with their daily work? We look at this and more in our latest Ascend article.

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In an international ecosystem built on data, leaders and other personnel from all sectors need immediate, real-time information access to make smart, informed decisions on matters within their purview – and regulators are no exception to this rule.

Even within the regulatory field, there are far more stakeholders involved in the process than may first meet the eye. From licensees to agency staff, administrative boards, members of the public, and beyond, many parties find themselves involved in the work of regulation, and thus, many often need access to government agency data in order to perform their daily tasks.

The issue with this data is that it is often siloed and unintegrated, because during the early heyday of network technology, most offices developed their legacy software systems piece by piece, with less regard for data integration (which was not at the forefront of technological priorities in the 1990s and early 2000s). This could make accessing information into a tedious, multi-step process that involved separately pulling and cross-evaluating pieces of data that may as well have been in different languages.

What is data virtualization?

Today, however, organizations everywhere, many in the private sector, utilize technology platforms that allow instant access to data and analytics from various sources that can be used to fit any user’s needs. In a world that demands instant gratification for all, government agencies with discrete, unintegrated databases can find themselves unable to succeed in their endeavor to serve the public interest. This is where data virtualization – the technology at the heart of cloud computing – comes into play.

While manually integrating multiple datasets into one container can be a costly and time-consuming process, data virtualization – which involves using a “middle layer” of software to consolidate the data outputs of these various sets, formatting everything uniformly and accessibly on the user end – eliminates the inefficiencies of unintegrated data and allows all users instant access to the data and analytics they need for their daily work.

Here we will look into some of the most prevalent stakeholders in the regulatory process and the ways these users can harness the power of data virtualization to better fulfill their obligations.

The utility of data virtualization

Reporting to board members

It’s not just virtualization’s improved data analytics capabilities that benefit regulatory staff members – analytical information, formerly disorganized and difficult to compile, can now be displayed through virtualized interfaces that allow agencies to report their data analytics to administrative boards in visual, easy-to-understand ways. Thanks to virtualization, reporting analytics to stakeholders no longer needs to be a confusing, time-consuming process.

Communicating with the public

In the world of licensing and regulation, citizens have a vested interest in transparency and accountability from licensed professionals and regulatory authorities. Data virtualization can further this interest by compiling licensee information into an accessible, easy-to-use interface that allows citizens to see all kinds of relevant data on licensed professionals at once, from educational statuses to prior disciplinary actions, employment histories, and more – all with just a few clicks and keystrokes.

Providing data access for licensees

The amount of data necessary to keep track of a license’s status can come from myriad sources. A licensee might need to consider complaints levied against them as well as disciplinary actions, continuing education requirements, and compulsory re-licensing exams (among other factors) to make sure they remain up to speed on their affairs as a practicing professional.

Data virtualization allows for just this. By using a platform with a “data fabric layer” that allows access to comprehensive data and analytics from multiple different sources, all presented within one easy-to-use interface, licensees can stay updated in real time on the status of their certifications and all the different actions required by different authorities to remain licensed and in good standing.  

Ensuring compliance for businesses

Regulators aren’t the only organizations who suffer from logical discrepancies between their various databases – private sector companies, too, have a vested interest in making sure their data is neatly organized and instantly accessible from any user endpoint.

Data virtualization not only helps business owners cut costs and maximize efficiency within their own organizations and workforces; it also enables analysts and consultants to more easily ensure compliance with regulatory standards and practices.

By accessing a varied, inconsistently formatted trove of data through a standardized layer of “middleware,” the heart of any virtualization structure, business stakeholders can more accurately evaluate where they stand with regard to their regulatory authorities.

How can government agencies take practical steps toward virtualization?

Virtualizing an agency’s full set of data requires planning, commitment, and upkeep if it is to succeed for both regulators and the public. Some recommend creating a sub-department for server virtualization, which allows agencies to establish large-scale goals and keep track of their progress toward them. Michigan, for example, used its center of excellence for server virtualization to create a standardized and cost-efficient data virtualization platform available to all government agencies within the state.

Government leaders must also accept that a move toward virtualization will require the licensing and acquisition of new software and hardware tools as well as outsourced private-sector contracts. While this may cost money and staff resources in the short run, the long-term efficiency of virtualized data can substantially outweigh these burdens for regulators. For example, today’s technology can consolidate server information into a virtualized environment that uses a just fraction of its prior physical storage.

By some estimates, virtualization has reduced the use of hardware for many users by as much as 50 to 80 percent. Like it or not, this technology has become the new normal in both the private and public sectors. Regulators can better prepare themselves for the ubiquity of data virtualization by creating strategic tasks forces, establishing long-term plans, and closely evaluating software and hardware vendors for their cost, efficiency, historical track records, and security standards.

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Jordan Milian
Written byJordan Milian
Jordan Milian is a writer covering government regulation and occupational licensing for Ascend, with a professional background in journalism and marketing.

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