Mission: A Faster Path to Analytic Insights

In June 2020, the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation held one of their weekly forums on data management, featuring data and analytic speakers from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), a combat support agency under the United States Department of Defense and a member of the United States Intelligence Community with the primary mission of collecting, analyzing, and distributing geospatial intelligence in support of national security. 

Many of the themes discussed — democratization of data, automation of processes, and the upskilling of people — serve as key pillars of Analytic Process Automation (APA).  

For NGA, and many government organizations, the imperative is clear that any technology that is implemented needs to integrate within operational realities, support the cultural goals of infusing data to support missions and improve the user experience, reduce mundane tasks, and accelerate insight. 

Instead of six to eight different point solutions for data preparation, analytics, reporting, and business process automation, which results in a disconnected experience with slow or misaligned outcomes, APA platforms converge all automation capabilities into one.  

At NGA, there is no lack of data. As one speaker explained, “there is an onslaught of all kinds of data, including textual, rational, streaming, file-based and relational, but at NGA there is a need to bring it together and find correlations in space and time.”  

With all this data and its related complexities, the first mile challenge is understanding what data is available, its structure, quality, how much it has been used, and whether it’s trusted. 

As one panelist described “we have to have exceptional search, translation and understanding of what data is available, how it can be used, and how it can be aggregated with other sources to conduct analysis to support mission outcomes.” 

When looking at this issue of access and availability of data, agencies like NGA are actively looking to industry leaders like Alteryx that can provide platforms to aggregate data, connect many disparate databases and data sources, and bring these data sources together so that analytics can be done to find the “interesting, important insight from an intelligence perspective.”  

This ability to democratize data by making it available, discoverable, and accessible is a key pillar of APA, and analytic platforms need to enable this ability, reduce complexity, and automate the mundane and manual efforts that are the big time-sucks in many legacy analytics efforts.  

Another key point discussed was the need to better leverage automation in not only making data available, but also providing the enterprise best practices for usage, governance, and overall management of assets. If the platform can automate the mundane tasks associated with data, it will enable a large group of skilled analysts and domain experts to get to the important stuff much more effectively.  

It is vital that the automation found in a unified analytics platform enable all types of data users to focus on their area of expertise and create actionable insights faster.  

This faster path to insights empowers organizations like NGA to maximize their use of data, infuse more insight into operations, and most importantly support the execution of strategic missions across the globe. The Alteryx platform provides organizations with hundreds of automation building blocks that enable all levels of data professionals with the capability to get the important insight their teams rely on.  

As one speaker on the panel stated, “operational success in the data area is getting out of the business of finding, curating, and manipulating data in favor of increasing the time spent analyzing and using all the relevant data.”  

In most federal agencies there is also an increasing focus on leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning, but this scrutiny is driving even more importance on automating processes due to the sheer volume and complexity of the data needed for unbiased analysis. However, while the democratization of data and automation of processes are important, members of the panel pointed out there needs to be a focus on experience of the users involved in these analytic efforts.  

The people need to feel empowered to apply their domain expertise — their time freed up to focus on the important things.  

As one participant explained, “a successful approach to data and analytics reverses the approach where the work exerts it’s mastery over the expert and instead it is the expert who will have mastery over the work, guiding it to do more, to do it faster and to do it with more agility.”   

An APA Platform puts the human at the center of analytics and data science and upskills these critical assets to drive the work that is critical to the digital transformation of any organization.   

By converging the three pillars of APA — data, process, and people — government organizations can build the critical capabilities needed to accelerate mission outcomes and improve service delivery.     

A unified APA Platform like Alteryx enables organizations like the NGA to tackle their toughest data challenges today, while building a system to support the mission needs of tomorrow.  

With Alteryx, NGA’s objective to build data and analytics capabilities “to bring everyone together, get everyone on the same page, meet the same mission goals, and have successful mission outcomes” can be accomplished. 

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For more information APA and what it can do for your organization make sure to read the Essential Guide to Analytic Process Automation.