Insight by Splunk

Using data to spur digital transformation, better cybersecurity

For much of the past decade, agencies have been talking and doing a lot around IT modernization. But the pandemic highlighted both just how far many had to go and just how much progress they’ve made. The last nine months has been a good news, bad news story for sure.

Agencies now must sustain the momentum gained from the efforts to meet the surge of remote workers. How they do that is having the ability to monitor and manage these transformations to ensure mission success.

This could mean gaining a better understanding of what applications, systems and data are in the cloud and how they are responding to employee and citizen needs.

This could mean expanding their use of DevSecOps to deliver capabilities more quickly.

And this could mean harnessing their data to make better security decisions that help drive agencies toward better mission outcomes.

As with most things, this all comes back to the data. Agencies need to have the right data, understand what the data says and get that data to the right leaders to make decisions.

Agencies must do all of that and use that information to continue their digital transformation journey and improve mission delivery.

Juliana Vida, the chief technical advisor for public sector at Splunk, said some of the common trends she is seeing across agencies is acceleration, reciprocity, execution and agency level attention or focus on data.

“This is new. I would not have said that a year ago, I think all of us would have been still struggling with my stakeholders across the agency who don’t understand the importance of data, who don’t understand how much value data can bring to the agency’s mission,” she said. “If we harness the power and the value and the goodness of all the data that’s across our environment, things will change so much in a positive direction.”

The Food and Drug Administration is experiencing that kind of change.

Ram Iyer, the FDA chief data officer, said his office is acting as the “connective tissue” between programs and helping the agency move to a product mindset from a project mindset.

“It’s been a very important part of our digital transformation story, and also it is a data story. It has also increased our understanding of the breadth of ways to use these data sets, and then how the data modernization as well as the technology modernization go hand-in-hand to meet these objectives,” Iyer said. “The data is a critical part of all of these journeys as it is to our technology modernization initiative.”

Digital Transformation Progress

We are really in a time where the pandemic has demonstrated that we are not equipped to be able to execute quickly. So we're building processes and policies that enable us now to deliver capabilities in such a rapid way and then securely to so that we can get those capabilities out in the field. There's multiple techniques that we're using, like coding low and deploying high to allow us to be able to work remotely and actually still code. There's a ton of different security ideas. The continuous authority to operate is something that's proliferated in the army now started really with the Air Force.

Success Stories

They were able to find efficiencies in those processes and how they send all those people out to do the census, the work of the Census Bureau, by leveraging data….that benefits us all. So that's a real mission outcome, and an all driven by a focus on not only how do we gather data and capture data, but then use it to make decisions and take action, because that's where the value proposition is.

Data-Driven Decision-Making

A lot of our users are at home in a telework-enhanced environment and so is their endpoint. We are still able to capture that endpoint data and application data and have it actually flow through our security information and event management (SIEM), in which we use Splunk for, has been critical for us because that is where, as a CISO, I'm able to understand any of the vulnerabilities or potential vulnerabilities or challenges to the data. That is has been a success because we had that structure set up in place, and when the pandemic happened, we were pleased to know that we still received all of that data. So from a security operations center perspective, that was a good news story because that showed our resiliency and the resiliency of the platform as well. We still were able to capture that data, use that data and again, make security informed decisions as well.

Listen to the full show:

Panel of experts

  • Ram Iyer

    Chief Data Officer, Food and Drug Administration

  • Hannah Hunt

    Chief Product and Innovation Officer, Software Factory, Army Futures Command

  • Venice Goodwine

    Chief Information Security Officer, United States Department of Agriculture

  • Juliana Vida

    Chief Technical Advisor, Public Sector, Splunk

  • Jason Miller

    Executive Editor, Federal News Network