Dramatic increases in the volume of online data and rapid advances in information technology have transformed many aspects of our society. In the coastal ocean, the amount of data is also growing dramatically due to new sensor and modeling technologies. Lagging behind this deluge of ocean data, however, is an effective framework of standards, protocols, tools and culture needed to transform the way we generate knowledge and value from ocean data. The Data Management and Communications (DMAC) sub-system was envisioned to provide such an information management capability for IOOS®, promoting standards and policies to be implemented by data providers across the IOOS enterprise. DMAC needs to build upon the successes and lessons learned during development of web service standards and promote a set of end-to-end standards and procedures for the entire ocean-data life cycle, including documentation through metadata, quality control and quality assurance, effective data discovery, and stewardship through archiving. Because information technology is constantly changing, a multiyear, top-down design and implementation plan is not workable. DMAC should start by promoting a set of protocols that are functional for specific use cases, creating a modular framework in which modules can be replaced as technologies change. In addition to promoting protocols, DMAC needs to support training, flexible online documentation, support, and social networking that enable users to share code, techniques and experiences. Through this bottom-up approach, trust and understanding will foster adoption by the community. Finally, a compliance and certification process should be developed that allows IOOS to ensure that they meet the needs of customers and other stakeholders while complying with regulatory requirements related to the data. If this approach is followed, we will enable breakthroughs in ocean data–driven technology similar to those common elsewhere in our society, fulfilling the broader mission of IOOS.