Upskill and tell the story of the data

A mastery of data literacy could mean a workforce that generates better planning and better decisions. One CDO said in order to make that happen, she gives her employees the ability to make data-driven decisions.

“What we’re trying to do is teach them about analytics and teach them to be able to tell the story of the data,” said Teresa Smith, Chief Data Officer at the Defense Logistics Agency, on Federal Monthly Insights — Analytics in Government.

Smith said one of the challenges growing up an analyst in the DLA data world is understanding the question that someone is trying to answer.

“So as we are developing our data strategy and making these the tools and the data accessible to our employees, we want to make sure that we’re giving them the right data to help them answer the right questions,” Smith said on the Federal Drive with Tom Temin.

The right training is key, Smith said, to “upskill the workforce” is allowing people to get the knowledge they need to do their jobs effectively.

“We’ve defined the data-related roles and responsibilities, identified authoritative data sources. But within the data and analytics community, specifically, we in my office are hosting communities of practice, where we cover topics like how to foster data literacy, the critical parts around data quality, sharing information and being collaborative, so that it really is a community that’s joined, and they’re learning from one another,” Smith said.

DLA is big, very big. To paraphrase just part of how DLA’s website defines its raison d’etre: DLA is America’s combat logistics support agency, which manages the global supply chain from raw materials to end user to disposition, for the all branches of the military, 11 combatant commands and other federal agencies.

“We have some analysts that focus on specific areas, but in large part, they need to understand the holistic business, because it’s very rare that you don’t need to understand the planning aspect on the procurement aspect or the procurement aspects on the distribution aspect,” Smith said.

The job of analytics in government, Smith said, is more than just presenting data in a report. It is important to “call out the pertinent facts.”

“We can say ‘hey, here is an example of where we need to change course, or see that this group of items is impacting metrics in such a way.’ What we’re really trying to do around some of our analytics is not only give that diagnostic view, but that predictive and prescriptive view, so that we can pull that information out and really direct the appropriate behavior, instead of just laying data out there in sight and have at it. We need to not only know what happened in the past, but looked at what’s going to happen in the future with our data,” Smith said

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