Govciooutlook

Using Big Data as the Foundation for Success

By Kathy Cutler, CIO, DLA

Kathy Cutler, CIO, DLA

In DLA, big data could really be called giant data. We have a non-stop stream of supply chain data, acquisition data, personnel data, information management data and financial data. There’s more data than we know what to do with – presenting a great opportunity for the future.

We know our data is valuable, so we recently established a Strategic Data Services office, along with naming a Chief Data Officer, to address the need for managing, analyzing, and using our data. We published the DLA Data and Analytics Strategy to outline a strategic approach to managing data as a valued enterprise asset, moving away from the current program-by-program approach to managing data. The Strategic Data Services office has also created a Data and Analytics Governance Plan to guide us.

Our vision is to revolutionize data as an enterprise asset and improve analytics for data usage across the organization to drive business decision-making at the strategic, tactical and operational levels. Doing so will empower both internal and external customers with agile, state-of-the-art data and analytics capabilities that optimize decision-making and enhance war fighter readiness and lethality.

Paving the Big Data Path

To make the vision a reality, we’re shifting focus from the extraction of data to the analysis of data and supplying resources and training so that data literacy becomes a part of our culture. We are encouraging the sharing of knowledge across departments and working to find the right tools to make our data easily accessible to those who need it. These steps are critical for making the most of our big data because the key to success is in the application of it, not the volume.

We modernized the infrastructure of our Enterprise Data Warehouse for performance metrics and analytics. The EDW contains the last 25 months of our most actively accessed data and has a dashboard of 120 different metrics or views that is open to all DLA users.

In August, we went live with our Data Lake, a complement to EDW, housing historical data extracts and a host of transactional elements. The Data Lake is a foundational component of our analytical and data visualization platform, enabling data science and data mining while creating a landscape for employing advanced prescriptive and predictive analytics using the latest Data Science technologies.

We’re getting ready to deploy an innovative visualization tool that we think will be useful to all employees. This tool will enable our workforce to perform self-service data visualizations. This will allow for exploration of data that could lead to insights that transform how DLA does business.

Big Data, Big Plans

Big data leads to big plans. We’re pursuing several machine learning efforts, focused on improving supply chain operations, reducing manual workload, optimizing inventory investment, fulfilling audit requirements, and providing robust customer support. We are using predictive analytics to build models to forecast performance and workload surges, and these models provide prescriptive insight to inform business decisions.

In July, we held our first Artificial Intelligence Working Group meeting as part of an enterprise initiative to explore DLA business areas, operations and processes to determine where AI and machine learning can enhance and improve agency capabilities to better accomplish the DLA mission. The group identified 26 potential areas where AI/ ML could be applied including financial adjustments, inventory reconciliations, and analysis of data on price performance, delivery and quality.

The future of these AI/ML efforts is dependent on big data and what we do with it. DLA will remain vigilant, agile and ready to achieve our mission of supporting the War fighter. We will continue to anticipate emerging technology and stay ahead of the needs of our customers.

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