Data as a Critical DON Asset
Published, July 27, 2012
We all save an overabundance of mementos from the past — whether it is a favorite blanket from grandma, a box full of baseball cards (unfortunately, not a Tug McGraw or Ted Williams rookie
card in the mix), or 20-year-old report cards. While it may be comforting to know that we can always find a particular item; in reality, is that box of baseball cards valuable enough to keep around? We, as a department, have long suffered from the same need to be comforted by storing an overabundance of data. However, the value of that data is not understood, and the data itself is not treated well. Like our crammed attics, the department's data is not organized: there is duplicate data in different places and some data are really just mementos from the past.
We must not lose sight of the fact that our data is a vital asset that enables the DON to accurately and quickly respond to any situation. In a recent article, "Message From the DON CIO: Keeping PII and PHI Secure," I wrote about the vital need to handle personally identifiable information (PII) and protected health information (PHI)
appropriately to protect the rights of department personnel. However, non-PII and -PHI data are just as important, since the inappropriate or inefficient handling of such data can seriously limit the DON's effectiveness.
Our data strategy must be all encompassing. Our people, including data owners, senior leaders, data analysts and data architects, and processes and technologies must be aligned to enable the DON to leverage data as an enterprise asset and to mitigate risks. As an enterprise, we must ensure data is authoritative, accurate, accessible and auditable. To effectively manage data as a strategic enabler, the many components of the DON must align processes and standards. Without alignment surrounding what I call the "four A's" of data-driven decision capabilities, the data will prove a roadblock that will hinder DON operations. The four As are:
Authoritative: Data must reside within the organizations that have a mission requirement to use it. Each of these organizations must be responsible for ensuring that the data is
up-to-date and fits within the common data definitions. When a requirement for the data exists, it should be pulled from the authoritative data source. For instance, N1, the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Manpower, Personnel, Training and Education) would be the data owner for all personnel information and the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery would own all medical data.
Accurate: As mentioned, DON data must be accurate. Without accurate data we have nothing but junk to work from. Accurate data is a strategic advantage to our business and warfighting decisionmaking. The less time required to verify accuracy, the faster a decision can be made, and the more effective and efficient the department will be.
Accessible: For data to be useful it must be immediately relevant, safe and accessible. This occurs as a result of meaningful definitions, readiness of source data and the ability to use data despite impediments such as natural or man-made disasters and hardware failures.
Auditable: All of our financial data must be "audit ready" — meaning there must be full transparency and accountability for all the money coming into and leaving the department. This will require sustained effort and commitment at the department and component levels to address weaknesses and produce financial management information that is timely, reliable and useful for all department managers.
Effective data governance helps the DON to achieve cost savings by eliminating excess and inadvertent actions; and enabling greater credibility of information used in decision making and more timely information sharing.
If DON enterprise data can be aggregated to enable quick retrieval of accurate data from authoritative databases, then as a department, we will be able to make fact-driven decisions that will strategically focus our efforts to meet the future DON warfighting and business requirements.
Maximizing the full value of our data requires a strategic approach to choosing the right processes, technologies and resources. Department personnel must use data that is authoritative, accurate, accessible and auditable to make data-driven decisions that will guide the future. Once this is achieved, we will be able to truly trust the data and have confidence that it will serve as the glue that binds our business and warfighting strategies.