At the DoD, Data Centric Means Going Beyond Prep and Blend

How do you make the largest organization within the United States Federal Government more data centric?

According to Department of Defense (DoD) Chief Data Officer, David Spirk, you need to avoid “proprietary lock” and establish an open data standard architecture that is agile and adaptable enough to take advantage of new industry capabilities. There is a significant effort at the DoD to ensure that from data perspective there is “continuous integration” and continuous availability and delivery of data assets and insights to empower mission outcomes. 

The strategic nature of data within the DoD was outlined in a recent memo from Deputy Secretary of Defense, Karen Hicks. The imperative to transform the DoD to a data centric organization is critical to enabling a decision advantage to all echelons of the DoD, from the battlespace to the boardroom. To reinforce this important focus on data the memo outlines five “DoD Data Decrees” that will guide the DoD’s open data architecture going forward.

 

DoD Data Decrees
  1. Maximize data sharing and rights for data use: All DoD data is an enterprise resource. 
  2. Publish data assets in the DoD federated data catalog along with common interface specifications. 
  3. Use automated data interfaces that are externally accessible and machine-readable; ensure interfaces use industry-standard, non-proprietary, preferably open-source, technologies, protocols, and payloads.
  4. Store data in a manner that is platform and environment-agnostic, uncoupled from hardware or software dependencies. 
  5. Implement industry best practices for secure authentication, access management, encryption, monitoring, and protection of data at rest, in transit, and in use.

 

In general terms, the DoD Data Decrees have to do with data agility, automation, interoperability, and governance. In reviewing these decrees one can also find a lot of the guiding principles that define analytic process automation (APA). Fundamental to this is the understanding that no digital transformation is possible without critical thinking about data itself.

From an Alteryx perspective, we have a hard-won understanding that technology by itself does not deliver value in the digital transformation process – instead, it is the data and specifically the ability to create actionable insights that drives any high-performing analytics culture.

What is just as important as making data usable, accessible, and agile is the fundamental need to evaluate how enabled and upskilled the workforce is to leverage data and the platforms of insight. In fact, the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report states that “50% of all employees will need reskilling by 2025, as adoption of technology increases.”  

The leadership at the DoD understands the dependency on not only agile technology and accessible data, but also on the specific need to analyze DoD data talent, data fluency, critical skills gaps, and current approaches to resourcing and training data experts. What the DoD understands that if they are to become a truly data centric organization, they need to focus on the ability to upskill/augment the data capabilities of their existing resources. 

Clark Cully, the DoD’s Deputy Chief Data Officer, recently commented that any emergence of a data culture will require a “broad program of data training, education, and outreach”, that will build a workforce of data-savvy leaders. The transformation around data at the DoD will require the technological ability to harness and fully democratize data, a focus from top to bottom on building data skills, but also a commitment to “equip and entrust our service members to operate as edge nodes, able to sense, understand, and act with both speed and precision.”

Automation to actionable insights, faster 

With the emergence of APA platforms like Alteryx, organizations can leverage capabilities that are data agnostic and with an ability to ingest and handle data found in multiple formats and in varying degrees of quality. This operational automation streamlines data prep and blend, descriptive analytics, and diagnostic reporting.

Building upon this, organizations can benefit from more strategic automation that enables every level of data worker, regardless of their technical acumen, to create additional value through the ability to leverage geospatial, predictive, and ML based analytics. With the ability to create and push actionable insights out to a multitude of reporting and visualization platforms, APIs and even edge devices provide organizations like the DoD a strategic and unified analytics capability that will not fall victim to “proprietary.” 

According to Gartner, an analytic platform should be assessed in terms of the learning curve, performance in various use cases, and the ability to support the deployment of advanced analytics capabilities within the deployed workforce. Capable analytics platforms should be able to extensively leverage the skills, expertise, and domain knowledge of existing data workers.

By doing this, truly transformative results can be realized as existing data teams can add significantly more analytics value as they are freed up from the drudgery of manual processes through process automation and the no code availability of advanced analytics. In other words, an APA platform like Alteryx provides a guided, smart approach to elevating existing data resources through augmented data preparation, augmented data discovery, and augmented data science across the analytics pipeline.  

 

A unified approach drives measurable value

A unified platform approach accelerates automation, enables the entire analytics life cycle (from prep and blend to predictive analytics and beyond), and focuses on upskilling existing resources, providing more value to organizations.

While data preparation is the foundation of any analytics effort, the question is what is the data preparation for? What’s next? Data preparation alone does not complete the analytics lifecycle. What can a unified analytics platform provide? In short, APA platforms deliver an end-to-end analytic experience, from data to insight, sharing and decision-making in one solution, which provides more operational and strategic value.

APA platforms like Alteryx shorten the time to insight and helps solve business problems faced by dynamic organizations like the DoD.

While Alteryx can be used by data engineers to build data pipelines and models, the platform is just as accessible for business analysts to help solve critical business problems and share insight all the way out to the operational edge. Alteryx can address any data preparation use case, from the simplest to the most sophisticated but also offers higher level analytic capabilities to either solve a known business problem or unveil something during investigation. But far beyond data prep, the Alteryx platform, which includes Alteryx Designer, Alteryx Intelligence Suite, Alteryx Server, Alteryx Connect, and Alteryx Promote, provides a unified environment for workflow automation, scheduling, collaboration, and sharing of data assets and insights.   

We salute the DoD’s commitment to building a data centric environment. At Alteryx, our focus is to create a unified platform that aligns the critical elements of data, process automation, and the upskilling of resources to drive business value. Building upon a robust, open, and agnostic data prep capability, the Alteryx platform creates the level of data agility desired by the DoD to avoid proprietary lock, build analytic capability, upskill data resources, and provide the future interoperability needed to accelerate mission outcomes.  

Learn More. 

See how analytic process automation is transforming the creation of actionable insights at the U.S. Census through a unified analytic platform the leverages the ability harness unstructured data from satellite imagery and geospatial analysis. Watch the video here.