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?
Vice President, Public Sector, Splunk
If agencies look at their data, they will realize they have a resource that they might not have known was there.
Chief Technical Advisor, Public Sector, Splunk
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.
Frank Dimina has served as Splunk’s Vice President of Public Sector since 2018. With over 20 years experience leading technology organizations, he is passionate about helping public sector organizations leverage technology to meet mission success. Prior to his current role, Mr. Dimina served as Splunk’s Area Vice President, Federal Civilian and Director of the Homeland Security & Law Enforcement Team.
In his current role, Mr. Dimina is responsible for overseeing Splunk’s Federal, State and Local Government and Higher Education businesses. In addition to his time at Splunk, he has held senior sales leadership roles in high-growth technology companies such as Check Point Software and Symantec. He also has extensive experience building several successful cybersecurity startups. Mr. Dimina received his B.S from the University of Maryland.
Juliana Vida is the Chief Technical Advisor – Public Sector at Splunk, Inc. In this technology evangelist role she provides guidance, direction and thought leadership around Splunk’s data capabilities. She brings over 25 years of experience as an accomplished leader building collaborative teams that accelerate mission outcomes by aligning technological solutions with operational insight.
Before entering commercial industry as an executive leader, she served honorably for 24 years in the United States Navy at sea and on shore as a dual-qualified Surface Warfare Officer and Naval Aviator (helicopter pilot). Her curious mind, bias for action and innovative approach to driving change led to her taking senior leadership roles in the Pentagon, culminating in serving as the Navy’s Deputy CIO. Prior to joining Splunk, Juliana was a Vice President in Gartner Executive Programs, partnering with and advising federal government Chief Information Officers (CIO) and IT senior leaders with insights into current technology trends and future innovations.
A 1994 graduate of the US Naval Academy, Juliana is a current member of Women in Technology and Women in Defense. A self-professed foodie, she is also an accomplished triathlete, marathoner, and televised game show champion.
Jason Miller is an executive editor and reporter with Federal News Radio. As executive editor, Jason helps direct the news coverage of the station and works with reporters to ensure a broad range of coverage of federal technology, procurement, finance and human resource news.As a reporter, Jason focuses mainly on technology and procurement issues, including cybersecurity, e-government and acquisition policies and programs.