A top data expert at the Defense Department (DoD) said during a Nov. 30 ATARC event that the agency is leveraging Advana – a big data platform – to inform decision making more rapidly, but the department still finds itself forced to jump hurdles when it comes to data-ops.

“[We] put all that data into the Advana platform as quickly as possible so that we can, as a department, use that data to inform decision making more rapidly,” Brian Joseph, deputy director for data analytics at DoD said. “In the past it was a siloed effort.”

He continued, “That’s a big change, but there’s still some obstacles where people still want to hold onto the data. There’s reasons for that – cultural – but, ultimately, I think once we break that paradigm things will be better.”

Joseph said that while Advana has been an advantageous tool for breaking down data silos within the department, the agency generally lacks a highly data-literate workforce.

“One of the big problems is we have a lot of [subject matter experts] (SME) in the organization that don’t have data literacy [or] data analytics literacy. If those SMEs were able to get that type of training, we could go ahead and do analytics a little bit faster,” Joseph said.

“The Federal government needs to move the hiring process to get more data analytics individuals in there or coerce those that are here now to adapt a little bit more,” he continued, adding, “You definitely need to get those SMEs that are in the government more acclimated and comfortable working with data and analytics tools.”

Joseph and his acquisition data and analytics team have been working hard to change the culture around data sharing within the DoD.

“Slowly I believe that paradigm shift is beginning to occur but it’s not fully there yet,” he said. “It’s like pulling teeth right now.”

The analytics expert laid out the department’s roadmap for data-ops, noting that the next step will be to obtain more data and push it into the system for visibility for customers and leadership.

Despite the handful of obstacles that stand in their way, Joseph said the big data management platform has so far been a gamechanger for how users access data within the department.

“In the past it was death by power point. Now, customers and leadership can go into the platform, and now – in real time – look at the data,” Joseph said.

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.