Army seeing some progress in its digital transformation

The Army says giving commanders access to data is helping with innovation.

Last fall, the Army announced a completely new way that it would look at data in hopes of reforming its IT and creating a more streamlined service.

Now, four months later, the Army says some areas are moving faster than others, but there is some progress being made. The Digital Transformation Strategy put an emphasis on three major areas: modernization and readiness, reforming digital investments and creating a tech savvy, operationally- effective workforce.

Army Chief Data Officer David Markowitz said part of the challenge of using IT to better the experience of soldiers in the field is creating a culture shift in how and where data is used. The Army wants to ensure soldiers have the right tools to assist them to make the right decision.

“The areas where we’re having a little bit of trouble is where that kind of fractures a little bit,” Markowitz said. “Some of that is in our more traditional weapon systems and in our warfighting areas where there’s a bit of a disconnect between those who are doing the activity versus those who control and own the more bureaucratic processes for other weapons system development.”

The solution to that problem, Markowitz said, is to increase capability at the theater level. That’s something the Army is going to be working on next year. The goal would be getting the high-level data and cloud authorities approved in order to get tactical and operational levels more in sync.

That way, they can act more like the success stories the Army is seeing in terms of data innovation. Those are typically areas where commanders and decision makers are close to the actual data.

“Do they have the analysis or analytics to assist them and do they have control of that to feed that kind of specialized information to them to help them make that decision? Do they have some say in the processes that are used to generate and move the data? Do they actually have authority over the data itself?” Markowitz said. “When those things start to align, you get very rapid innovation. The examples we have are our cyber warfare community, where you’ve got very informed decision makers used to data.”

The financial management sector also sees these benefits.

Markowitz said one of the ways the Army is trying to break down those data barriers is through an API pilot. The pilot is run through the Army Analytics Group and the service hopes to find better ways to bring data easily to other areas of the Army using APIs.

“The areas we’re looking forward to learning from is really the business processes that would accompany the AI technology,” Markowitz said. “How do we tag data for permissioning? We normally thought of data as owned by a system and permissions and who gets access tied to that system, not as data as an enterprise asset.”

Markowitz said the API pilot is rethinking how the Army tags data and opens it up to other areas.

The Army is also thinking about the skills its soldiers need. There are general skills that are needed across the force and then specialty skills needed for certain kinds of data.

“We’re certainly finding it’s easier to upskill some of our subject matter experts and provide them great increased data capability to make them premier analysts,” Markowitz said. “We are still seeing some need for very specialized data skills for data engineering, and really some of the lifecycle data management activities that that the Army needs”

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