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CHIPS Articles: Big Data and Analytics: Delivering Insights to the Department of the Navy’s Decision Makers

Big Data and Analytics: Delivering Insights to the Department of the Navy’s Decision Makers
By Capt. Benjamin Gallo, USMC - December 2, 2016
Editor's Note: Capt Benjamin Gallo is a member of the FY17 SECNAV Naval Innovation Advisory Council (NIAC), a dynamic forum for advisors to conduct research, advance problem-solving projects, and advise the Secretary of the Navy on innovation opportunities within the DON. The DON Office of Strategy and Innovation coordinates support and oversight of the NIAC. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of the Navy, Department of Defense or the United States government. For more information, please contact DON_Innovation@navy.mil.

With technology, computing power, and data accessibility improving at breakneck speeds, most industries have long since realized the opportunities and insights that data analysis can provide. Professional sports franchises create new and insightful player statistics to help improve the efficiency of their athletes and target the right free agents. Large companies analyze their internal data to uncover cost saving measures and improve efficiencies. Indeed, companies such as Google and Amazon have become synonymous with the idea of “Big Data,” and lead the field in uniquely tailoring their advertising and products to create customer experiences that target individual consumers. Although leaders in the public and private sectors recognize the efficacy of such efforts, achieving results is not nearly as simple as making the decision to employ analytics within an enterprise and then turning on the data pipe.

Organizations within the U.S. government and military, much like their counterparts in private industry, recognize the potential of analytics tools and data strategy. In fact, most organizations within the government have established some form of data tracking and analysis. In December 2015, the International Data Corporation surveyed 210 governmental organizations and 81% of respondents claimed that they had increased their analytics users and techniques over the past 12-24 months (O’Brien. (2016). Business Strategy: U.S. Federal Government — Accelerating the Pace of Change in Deploying Big Data and Analytics. p 3.) Most agencies have already begun to explore the capabilities of data analytics, and the Department of the Navy (DON) is no different.

With the proper tools, personnel, strategy, and vision, data insights can assist decision makers throughout the DON. From gathering, aggregating, and analyzing intelligence to answering questions on staffing, manpower, and personnel, optimized data processing and analysis will improve the department’s warfighting capabilities. The greatest challenge, however, will be moving from an ad hoc collection of individual data efforts to an optimized, enterprise level system. While this enterprise level effort has yet to be fully realized, unit level data projects often help to map the way ahead. Initiatives to map file content, reduce redundancy and obsolete files in data repositories, and connect legacy systems are underway in both the Navy and Marine Corps. These efforts will help shape the data landscape, save time and money, and provide valuable insights to upcoming efforts.

As a FY2017 SECNAV Innovation Advisor, I am leading a project to discover and connect these unit level data efforts already underway across the DON. I aim to collect a number of use cases and best practices from Navy and Marine Corps file, content, and data analysis efforts and recommend a way ahead to encourage the formation of an enterprise-level data vision and strategy. Additionally, my objective is to explore some of the financial, legal, and staffing obstacles to integrating data analytics into the DON’s decision making culture. The application of available tools on a wide range of structured and unstructured data sets will encourage the adoption of data and analysis practices that will help to streamline administrative efforts, reduce duplicative efforts, and ultimately lead to insights and recommendations for decision and policy makers. Ultimately, this can lead to the launch of a pilot analytic effort within the Secretariat.

As advances in computing power, mobile technology, and machine learning drive forward, data analytics will grow ever more commonplace. The DON must become a culture of early adopters within the field of analytics — ensuring greater situational awareness, increased efficiency, and informed decision making.

Reprinted from the DON SECNAV Innovation page.

Capt. Benjamin Gallo
Capt. Benjamin Gallo
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