In May, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks released the “Creating Data Advantage Memo” to wide applause in the Department of Defense (DoD) and industry.
The memo said that as the nation's allies and adversaries race to gain advantage through the use of advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), and as joint all-domain operations become increasingly dependent on improved data operations, DoD needs a quantum leap in its ability to enable improved decision making from the battlespace to the boardroom.
The memo asserted that in order to treat data as a strategic asset, senior DoD leaders must ensure that their data is visible, accessible, understandable, linked, trustworthy, interoperable, and secure.
The vision laid out by Hicks is a solid plan, but there are several key challenges that senior leaders in DoD must grapple with when embarking on a data-transformation journey. These include:
- Costly IT platform development and maintenance
- Disorganized, unknown, or inaccessible data assets
- Complex data management and security rules
- A perceived lack of internal organizational talent or culture
Technology Is Easy—Process Is Hard
With the abundance of industry marketing material on cloud-native services, big-data technologies, vertically integrated solutions, and more, it can be difficult for senior DoD leaders to distinguish between what is hype and what is real. Today, the gap in functionalities between tools used for data visualization or between tools for data wrangling or data governance, are shrinking. These technology gaps and differences should not be driving DoD leader’s platform selection.
Furthermore, technology today is really table stakes. You cannot simply implement the DoD data strategy for your organization out of the box, regardless of the tool. Key differentiators are repeatable processes for acquiring, structuring, and securely exposing data so it is discoverable, and the ability to publish data to users so that it is understandable.
Advana as a Potential Solution
In today’s world, the ability to avoid managing yet another IT asset is both a strategic and financial advantage. Fortunately, there are existing solutions in place that give DoD organizations access to modern data technology. One shared-service solution to consider as the baseline of your analytics journey is the Advana enterprise data platform, which is led by the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense Comptroller. Today, Advana supports more than 20,000 users across DoD with more than 70 data products (e.g., dashboards, web applications, and predictive models) from 14 functional areas, such as financial management, readiness, logistics, and acquisition analytics.
Advana offers a managed data service with mature, auditable data-governance processes aligned to the DoD data strategy that can help accelerate return-on-investment for analytics projects. Advana is built using open architecture principles, and is entirely government-led. Finally, it is optimized for multi-tenancy, meaning that the Advana support team handles difficult parts like data governance, infrastructure, and security, while your team can focus on using world-class tools to create value from your data.
Curating, cataloging, and securely exposing data to those who need it is the first step toward creating a data advantage for the DoD. Considering the urgency of this need, it is incredibly important for leaders to understand the difficulty of the task at hand. Reusing existing solutions, extending the successful work of others, and building a better ecosystem for sharing data is the simplest and most reasonable way forward.