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CHIPS Articles: A Message from the DON CIO

A Message from the DON CIO
Transparency: The Right Data at the Right Time
By Terry Halvorsen - January-March 2013
Chances are you've seen the TV ad for a used-car company that begins with a potential buyer looking for “a car.” He is suddenly facing a sea of automobiles, which he narrows down by being more specific: “A red car. With good gas mileage. With four doors.” And so on.

This is a good example of what we in the IT world call “transparency.” Contrary to common misconceptions, data transparency does not mean access to all data, which is too often the case — as “Megatrends” author John Naisbitt noted, “We are drowning in information, but starved for knowledge.”

Transparency means greater access to the right data within our funding, budget, processes and data systems. This “right data” becomes actionable information, which becomes knowledge, and that knowledge is crucial to decision-making at all levels of the workplace. In the Department of the Navy, transparency fosters greater efficiencies and effectiveness of datadriven decision making and auditability requirements.

During the past year, we have made significant strides in improving transparency. We have instituted a departmentwide dashboard used by Department of the Navy senior leadership and the Data Center Consolidation Task Force. The dashboard presents current cost data on IT initiatives targeted for savings gathered from authoritative data sources from industry and across the Department of Defense. It tracks progress on key efficiencies and helps inform future strategic decision making.

For mobility tracking and mobile plan optimization, the DON established enterprise wireless contracts in January 2011 with the intent of streamlining the department’s mobile purchasing habits. These contracts enable the DON to pool its cellular purchasing requirements to drive down costs and gain greater transparency into purchasing habits. The savings to date amount to $35.7 million.

Naval IT Exhibits/Standard Reporting (NITE)/STAR Line Item definition changes provide greater transparency into the IT budget by “binning” the IT spend more appropriately. This enables the DON to have far more visibility of its IT budget and more accurately reflects where its IT money is being spent. For example, prior to the updated NITE/STAR categories, 21 percent of the Navy’s budget was recorded under Line 13 (Other Costs, Commercial). Today, that percentage has dropped to 4.5 percent. Similarly, during the same period, the Marine Corps decreased its reporting of Line 13 items from 51 percent to 23 percent.

DON enterprise licensing agreements (ELAs) build on the best practices of the DoD enterprise software agreements. They enable transparency of software cost savings, providing insight into the products being licensed by DON commands and programs. Additionally, DON ELAs include the necessary software maintenance and vendor support items to ensure compliance with information assurance policies and prices to ensure sustainment of the software investment.

System and application rationalization is the systematic analysis and reconciliation of systems and their associated applications operating across the enterprise to determine gaps and overlaps in an effort to streamline operations and maintenance and realize cost savings. The DON has actively practiced system and application portfolio management for several decades, but the system and application rationalization effort is in its infancy. The DON CIO and DON Deputy CIOs (Navy and Marine Corps) will oversee and manage the system and application rationalization efforts for the Secretariat, Navy and Marine Corps, respectively. The Navy has merged its system and application rationalization effort with its data center consolidation initiative under the direct oversight of the Navy Data Center Consolidation Task Force.

Canadian philosopher and communications theorist Marshall McLuhan summed up our modern era in this way: “One of the effects of living with electric information is that we live habitually in a state of information overload. There’s always more than you can cope with.”

In such a world, having the right information at the right time is essential to making the right decision. Data transparency ensures that rather than drown in information, we satisfy our need for knowledge.

Terry Halvorsen
Terry Halvorsen
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