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CHIPS Articles: Interview with Mike Galbraith, DON Chief Digital Innovation Officer Discusses Vision for Enterprise-wide Data Model

Interview with Mike Galbraith, DON Chief Digital Innovation Officer Discusses Vision for Enterprise-wide Data Model
By Mike Galbraith - January-March 2020
The Department of the Navy’s first Chief Digital Innovation Officer Mike Galbraith holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in Computer Science and Business Administration from Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, a master’s equivalent in Information Systems Management from the IBM Information System Management Institute & Leadership Academy and executive certifications in Executive Leadership and Corporate Strategy from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

Designated as the CDIO in October, Galbraith heads a directorate under the direction of the DON Chief Information Officer and Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Navy for Information Management, Aaron Weis, who is charged with implementing recommendations made under the SECNAV Cybersecurity Readiness Review to increase cybersecurity and direct a DON digital transformation plan.

CHIPS senior editor Sharon Anderson interviewed Mr. Galbraith in mid-January.

CHIPS: The DON produces an enormous amount of data but it is stove-piped and duplicated in many different systems. Do you have short-range plans or policy initiatives that can jumpstart the department’s digital transformation?

Galbraith: I have no government or military background. But I have found that as different as the Navy is from business, and I have a lot of experience in business, it is equally the same. So as different as it is, it is that similar. Acronyms are different, and that is probably the biggest challenge that I have. Everybody has been patient with me, from Acting Secretary Thomas Modly to budget analysts explaining what certain IT investments are. Aaron, (DON CTO and DASN Information Warfare and Enterprise Services) Jane (Rathbun) and even Secretary Modly have stopped conversations to make sure that I was on track with the acronyms. That has been my No. 1 challenge in the short-term.

In terms of processing data in our application systems, the short-term plan is to solidify a digital inventory of our systems of record – those authoritative sources of the data. We are working through the information that we have, like the DON IT Portfolio Repository/DON Application and Database Management Systems (DITPR-DADMS), and evaluating that against the portfolio of investment plans that the Assistant Secretary for Research, Development & Acquisition (ASN RDA) is working on. Those programs that we invest in are comprised of dozens and dozens of separate application systems. Some with good solid data practices, some that could be improved.

We are trying to develop that inventory, go through a portfolio assessment process to understand the technology platform and the modernization plan, the investment plan for those systems, and determine whether they are in line with the vision of a modern architecture that we are trying to put in place. Then work on those specific apps plans, along with the POM (Program Objective Memorandum), to ensure we have a good, solid strategic enterprise-wide data information model that we track to ensure we have good information to support what we plan to do.

CHIPS: The DON already had a strategic data plan. Are you building on that or starting from scratch?

Galbraith: I think that question would be better addressed by the DON Chief Data Officer, Thomas Sasala, but we are working very closely together. There isn’t much in any digital transformation that doesn’t involve data. A simple definition of digital from my perspective, I would say it is the seamless flow of data in and out and across an organization. The cradle to grave of data to drive capabilities.

Digital is not just about data. It’s not just about technology. Speaking in business terms, it’s about the use of technologies and the business processes to leverage data in support of (1) our customers… to establish a more intimate relationship and improve their products and services; (2) in support of our operations so that we effectively, efficiently and productively create a product or deliver a service… continuous improvements in quality and to derive cost savings; and (3) in support of new products or services and new revenue streams for that new data to be able to create new funding streams, new revenue.

In the context of the Navy, the aim is to increase the lethality of our warfighting forces to effectively and efficiently operate and improve the lives of our Sailors and Marines.

CHIPS: You kind of answered this question previously. You have extensive experience in industry; however, the DON is a very different entity than a commercial enterprise. Have you identified any obstacles to the DON’s plan to digitize and modernize its infrastructure and systems, and if so, how do you plan to overcome them?

Galbraith: We have identified many obstacles. We are moving fast, and we need to move faster. My adversary, the DON CIO’s adversary, is not Russia and China as much as it is time. Time is the biggest adversary that we have because we need to be delivering solutions and capabilities today that are not even approved in a POM three years from now. So the ability to resource, fund, put hands and feet in place, engage with partners is slower compared to industry – the funding and resourcing model that we have is a little bit of an obstacle.

Our culture is a bit of an obstacle. My observation, and one of the things that I admire about the Navy, is that the leadership has a heritage that the captain of a ship is the ‘master of the universe’ and that everything in the sea is at their command. That is what makes our Navy the greatest in the world. What I have observed because of that ethos is there is a strong competition of ideas at the Pentagon. That same philosophy, perspective and culture does not serve the efficient operation of an enterprise or an end-to-end capability.

Culture is not as much an obstacle as it is a challenge. Communication is also a challenge – our ability to communicate and collaborate is constrained by the same problem, which our charter may tackle next. Our network is not as capable as those that I’m used to in industry. Those are the biggest obstacles that I found.

One thing that folks told me would be an obstacle is that we don’t have people that have those skills in the Navy. That is not my observation. I think we have a tremendous number of capable people, many smart people, a lot of great knowledge in civilians, in the military force. There are a lot plans that are not on the same road together. At the same time, I find there are many folks who are willing to jump in and help. It’s just a matter of asking. That may be a bit of a cultural thing – to ask people for help. Even after hours, people are willing to help. I have had Sailors and civilians approach me and say, ‘Hey, let’s stay late or meet somewhere so I can help because there isn’t enough time in my day job.’

CHIPS: Based on your business experience, what do you think is a realistic timeline for implementing the transformation the DON wants to make?

Galbraith: The cultural change will take years. Putting design plans in place for our modern set of logistic solutions or the re-envisioning and re-design of our network capabilities, will be in weeks and months. Our ability to fund it, resource it and communicate across commands and the fleets to engage the right people – that will take longer than putting the technology solution in place. Chartering the change management plans and having the right training and right skills developments plans in place will take more time than actually putting the technology solutions in place.

Identifying our data areas and rationalizing them and the decisions to be made on the harmonization of those datasets will take longer as well.

Consensus building is a hard thing anywhere. We anticipate that is going to take a long time. Some things will take weeks and months, and some will take years.

With that said, as we identify a set of quick-wins, we want to ensure we are delivering value quickly in areas that we can and that it continues to build on the momentum on the end-to-end process changes and transformations that need to occur. These are going to take more time, take more money, a lot more debate, a lot more agreement so that the value can be realized and the investments can be made. Those quick-wins will establish the momentum so that changes can be made.

CHIPS: You certainly have a plateful. Is there anything else you would like to discuss, maybe any deliverables you plan to deliver in the next year?

Galbraith: I think in your next issue in April (April-June 2020), I will publish my 100-day synopsis. We will lay out a cohesive digital vision and strategy that will include a digital workplace, a set of collaboration tools and environments, naval solutions across the DON…or at least where we are at in the first 100 days.

We are going to take advantage of the ECAPS program, Enterprise Collaboration and Productivity. Services, coming out of DEOS (Defense Enterprise Office Solutions) today, for unified communications, unified collaboration, unified office tools, a unified teaming environment, a shared environment so we get out of the existing silos and stovepipes that we have today for a more cohesive solution. That is a big component. I think you will see a solid set of digital logistics plans come out as well. We are working with the CMO (DON Chief Management Officer) to establish an enterprise business architecture that is capabilities based as opposed to program based.

You will start to see our investment model and our funding model, and our budgeting processes change and slightly turn. I think you will see our transformation of IT occur a little more quickly.

I am partnering with Ms. Jane Rathbun and the RDA community and we are going to change the way we approach solutions development and program development to put real agile development techniques and software engineering processes in place – that move from human-centered design to gather requirements and begin to prototype applications in the management solutions and the data associated with those capabilities through software development, deployment and support through DevOps capabilities.

There has been a lot of good stuff happening in small groups. I think that we will begin to scale those improvements so that we speed that end-to-end delivery and establish solid plans to do modern software development at scale, as well as improve the cycle-time of the accreditation of our systems.

Mike Galbraith, DON Chief Digital Innovation Officer
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