Insight By Splunk

How to make data a resource for every mission

Challenges Associated with Agencies Delivering Their Mission

The speed and the velocity of the decisions that public sector leaders have to make has increased, and the criticality or impact of those decisions is increasing as well. Getting every decision right could make or break the mission. That’s ultimately the challenge today. How can I make decisions faster? And how can I be more confident in each decision that I make?

Data Reuse

If agencies look at their data, they will realize they have a resource that they might not have known was there.

When it comes to IT modernization, the old adage it’s not about the technology, it’s about the culture applies now more than ever.

Agencies need to transform by encouraging an agile approach, by taking smart risks and reskilling their workforces to understand what it takes for change to take hold.

One way to jumpstart this culture change is through data.

The White House recognized this and made leveraging data as a strategic asset a cross-agency priority goal.

The most recent update to the President’s Management Agenda showed governmentwide progress to make data more valuable. Last year, the team developed a data leadership playbook describing how agencies can develop governance and create a more mature infrastructure.

In 2020, the cross-agency priority goal lists 10 actions ranging from the simple launch of a chief data officers council to the more complicated to updating data inventories for completeness to creating priority data sprints.

All of these efforts will help agencies use data to drive IT modernization and thus change culture.

Frank Dimina, the vice president of public sector for Splunk, said there are ways agencies can institutionalize change and take more advantage of data.

“The speed and the velocity of the decisions that public sector leaders have to make has increased, and the criticality or impact of those decisions is increasing as well. Getting every decision right could make or break the mission,” Dimina said on the Data Analytics Platform for the Mission show sponsored by Splunk. “That’s ultimately the challenge today. How can I make decisions faster? And how can I be more confident in each decision that I make?”

Over the past decade or more, the velocity, volume and variety of data has been overwhelming agencies, and with the understanding that “dark data” or untapped data exists across disparate databases, the need to get a hold of this information is more important than ever.

“This same challenge also is the solution to many of the challenges the public sector are dealing with,” Dimina said. “We often talk about a state of data leverage. That is when an agency or education institution is using its data that it generates to extract value. How can I make better decisions? How can I solve some of these mission problems by using data as my source of truth and what’s making those decisions more confidently and faster?”

Basically, Dimina said what it comes down to is every problem is a data problem.

Juliana Vida, the chief technical advisor at Splunk and a retired Naval officer, said getting a hold of this untapped and unused data is key to fixing many of these problems.

“If agencies look at their data, they will realize they have a resource that they might not have known was there,” she said. “We have one customer, a national lab, who is using their data to do what a lot our customers do, initially for cybersecurity.

But what they started to realize is they can use that same data to address a financial issue, which was to eliminate unnecessary license purchases that they’ve made. They didn’t go into this thinking they would save money on licenses if we start with cybersecurity. But as they started to dig in to the data and get more curious about what else they could do with the data, they ended up having a 30% savings in licenses expenditures.”

Dimina said this customer provides a great example of how data can drive not just cybersecurity, but improve efforts around IT modernization, compliance mandates and workforce reskilling.

“We are not just talking about collecting data. This is a new approach. There are many technologies out there that help you collect it and it’s still a challenge that hasn’t been solved,” he said. “What we are talking about is operationalizing data. How do I actually use data in a way where I have it at my fingers when I need it?”

Dimina said Splunk follows a four-step model investigate, monitor, analyze and act to help agencies mature their data processes.

“A lot of the problems public sector folks deal with is in that investigative part, that first phase,” he said. “If you think about the main task of someone who works in government today, they are often asked, ‘what happened and why did it happen?’ That is one of those things where being able to conduct investigations, having access to data and be able to bring all these sources together creates visibility so you can ask questions with confidence.”

Once agencies mature their investigative processes, Dimina said they can start taking advantage of advanced analytics using artificial intelligence and machine learning tools.

Dimina said those tools likely will lead to broader data reuse to improve customer service or save money by understanding software licenses.

There is no better sign that agencies are seeing the importance and value of data than the rise of the chief data officer. The Evidence Based Policymaking Act required agencies to name a CDO by last July, but below the surface the data governance boards working on taxonomies and standards and putting data experts in mission areas may even be more important steps in tapping into the dark data.

Vida said a big part of this effort to extract more value out of the data is making sure the workforce has the right skillsets. She said not everyone needs to have a PhD in data science or coding, but data literacy is an important first step.

Listen to the full show: