Data inventory: certainly not the most exciting two words you’ve heard today. But, in the world of open data, data inventory projects play an important role in increasing the data sets available for consumption.

Earlier this month ODX asked the top ranked cities on the 2016 Open Cities Index if they had conducted a data inventory project, and why/why not. Nine of 11 respondents had either completed a data inventory project or had plans to conduct one in the new year.

Cataloguing city-level open data sets was the most frequently cited reason for running a data inventory project, with the goal of determining which were ‘portal’ ready. These projects were usually an ongoing process rather than ad hoc.

Two responses emerged as best practices for data inventory projects:

    1. Facilitating inter-departmental collaboration, and

    2. Using the project to communicate the value of maintaining an open data portal to internal data owners.

For the two respondents who had not undertaken a data inventory, the commonly cited reasons were a lack of staff availability, and an uncertain value proposition. While the latter explanation may seem odd, it is easy to understand if one considers that these cities already have data portals in place and likely enjoy buy-in from internal data owners.