Today is Earth Day! Reduce Recycle Reuse…YOUR DATA!

Today is Earth Day, a day in which we celebrate utilizing our environment’s precious resources more wisely. Reduce! Recycle! Reuse!

On Earth Day, let’s think about another environment…our tech environment. Do you think we are consistently squandering one of our own most valuable organizational resources…our data?

Why recreate the data that everyone needs? Why not consider reusing it?

How do you reuse it? API.

Earlier this year, I took a trip to Silicon Valley. After I had lunch in a cafe near my hotel, I spent about 5 minutes at the trash bins trying to figure out if my half-eaten kale, quinoa, tofu, and some-other-really- healthy-stuff-rarely-available-on-the-east coast-sandwich should be tossed away as compost, trash or soiled paper. Who knew there were so many choices?? In the end, the environment as whole benefited from my careful recycling of trash.

The focus on recycling got me thinking. If I am taking the time to be so careful to recycle trash, what else should I be more careful about recycling?

Often times when we need data for an application, a process, or a suspense, we start from scratch. We go to an authoritative data source if we have one (which sometimes is a spreadsheet!) We take a subset of that data and copy it, download it, upload it, run a report with it, save it, store it. Then of course we make pretty pictures from it into PowerPoint. And we save those too.

How can we recycle and reuse that data more efficiently?

If you’re lucky enough to work in an office that’s more tech savvy, you might have a data warehouse in which you upload spreadsheets or other flat files manually so that making those pictures is easier. (The kicker is when your boss wants a report in guess what format? A spreadsheet!) You may even have a regular feed from the data source that earned you Employee of the Quarter last year. Go Big Data!

The problem is this:

The office right across the hall from you needs the same data. And they have their own data warehouse, and their own team to manage it. I am sure yours is better, but they have their own servers, their own architects, their own everything. They’re also spending as much as you are to manage and maintain the data every time it changes.

But if you’re really really tech savvy, and you’re embracing the spirit of Silicon Valley, and if you want to bring that spirit back to the federal government, then none of this is fast enough or innovative enough or efficient enough. Enter API.

Ingest the data ONCE. Build an interface to that data ONCE. Reuse the data AS MANY TIMES as you want in AS MANY APPS as you want to support AS MANY DATA REQUESTS as you want. And yes! You can still create AS MANY PRETTY PICTURES as you want! Save money on your servers. Save money on your data storage costs. Spend your money on #badasspeople and #kickassapps that really helps your organization #getshitdone.

And, in the meantime, do your part to help save your technology planet.

Use APIs to recycle and reuse your data, and get your data owners to do the same.