Posted by Michelle Thomas, TCC Senior Policy Advisor

The Early Childhood field has made significant strides in securing bipartisan early Congressional support. Likewise, many governors are championing early childhood initiatives in their states. Additionally, Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) Reauthorization recently added childcare licensing, consumer education and subsidy requirements that states must meet. All of these increased public investments mean an increased need for data and analysis.

Use of technology is woven into the fabric of our everyday lives. The rapid rise of technology in our lives has changed how we function as individuals. It has changed how we want to see and use data. And it has changed provider, workforce and family expectations about how they access services.

Given the high stakes of large early childhood data system initiatives, it is not enough for States to just procure a qualified vendor. In order for a data system project to be successful, States must also have a comprehensive internal plan that is consistently followed throughout the project. A comprehensive internal plan is a factor not only in the success of a data system project, but also in meeting reporting requirements for federal, state and local funding streams.

Based on our 20 years of experience working with state early childhood agencies, we have learned valuable lessons about key success factors that States should consider when planning and implementing a large data system project.

 Early Childhood Data System Initiatives: Key Success Factors for States

Key Success Factor Discussion
Clear Vision and Purpose From the outset, a project must have sponsors who have a clear vision and purpose. Defining and effectively communicating the goals and objectives of a data system development project is critical to ultimate success.     Having a set of guiding principles can be used to make decisions throughout the project.
Governance A comprehensive data system development project such as the one Maine is considering requires strong, effective governance. Governance requires groups of people at multiple levels to consistently implement the processes, tasks and communication required to support the integrity and progress of the project. Failing to establish and follow communication protocols is often the primary reason a project struggles.
Stakeholder Engagement The Lead Agency must commit to and provide a framework, processes and resources needed to involve the individuals and groups who will be affected by the decisions made about the design and implementation of a comprehensive data system. Setting clear expectations and defining stakeholder roles at the outset is important.
Project Oversight and Management Project oversight and management starts with a well-defined, and mutually understood scope of work.   Based on the scope of work, a project plan must be developed, consistently implemented and routinely communicated. Well defined project team roles and responsibilities further support strong project management that can lead to success.
Organizational Capacity Good intentions and a great plan are not enough.   The organization must have the necessary resources to support the project. A successful project must have well-qualified staff who have sufficient time to dedicate to the project.
Vendor Experience and Capacity On the surface, early childhood data projects may seem similar to other large scope data work, but our experience tells us that that is not the case at all. Having a vendor with strong qualifications in the early childhood industry means less time is needed to ramp up, develop and deliver a solution that meets your needs.

TCC developed Ascend based on our 20 years of experience with state early childhood ascendagencies. Ascend is a comprehensive early childhood integrated data system designed to manage state early childhood programs and to inform the decisions your make about the children, providers and workforce you serve.   To learn more, visit our website at or contact Mike Boyle at



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