Get to Know the CDO

Chief Data Officer (CDO) may be one of the newest C-suite designations, and it's quickly becoming one of the most important. With data-driven government becoming a mandate via the Federal Data Strategy and the Evidence Act, accountability around data management is essential. More than just a way to check a compliance box, having a CDO is a smart business decision in a world where data is critical to how government organizations interact with constituents. However, having a CDO is only a start. The CDO needs to be set up for success as well.

One report indicated that 60% of federal CDOs lack a clear understanding of their role. According to Gartner, a CDO is a senior executive who bears responsibility for enterprise-wide data and information strategy, governance, control, policy development, and effective exploitation. This role makes sure data is secured appropriately for access, as well as privacy concerns, and sets the rules and processes for managing the data lifecycle. The CDO also develops solutions to use that data to create business value.

Even if the role is defined within an organization, CDOs report they lack budget authority or insight into what budget they have to complete their jobs. This mirrors what we have seen with another "young" position, CIOs. Chief Information Officers have seen their role elevated by its measurement in the FITARA scorecard, and with that tracking, are getting more budget authority and input. In addition to budget, CDOs also need the authority to set and enforce policies and processes across their organization and, in doing so, streamline communication among related groups. Continue reading

AI 2020 – Artificial Intelligence Making an Impact in Government

Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to dominate tech headlines. Now, rather than learning what the technology could mean for government, we're reading about where it's being implemented, and the results being achieved. A recent report found that AI is no longer considered optional, but rather a critical component to managing and using large amounts of data. IT leaders in government are looking to AI to automate routine, data-oriented tasks, ease access to diverse sets of data, prioritize tasks based on the benefit to the organization, and generally keep track of ever-growing streams of data.

The Intelligence Community (IC) has long been a top consumer and analyzer of data in government. Not surprisingly, they have embraced AI technology to supplement the work of analysts by reducing the amount of manual data sorting with machine-assisted, high-level cognitive analysis. AI is being used to help triage so the highly-trained analysts can spend their time making sense of the data collected by looking at the most valuable and seemingly connected pieces.

Health and Human Services (HHS) implemented an AI solution when they needed to quickly procure Hazmat suits to meet the response to an Ebola outbreak. Procurement officials were able to use AI to make like-to-like comparisons among products. After the initial tactical analysis, the acquisition teams were able to use the data gathered on department wide pricing and the terms and conditions to better define parameters for ten categories of purchases.

Despite the successful implementations in many agencies, AI is still in the pilot and introductory phase. The Air Force is making it easier to begin experimenting with AI. Because the DoD has strict rules about what can be put on their networks, it is difficult to introduce new technologies into the production environment. The Air Force has created a workaround with the Air Force Cognitive Engine (ACE) software platform, a software ecosystem that can connect core infrastructures that are required for successful AI development (people, algorithms, data, and computational resources).

HHS is looking to use AI to analyze dated regulations as part of their AI for deregulation project. The pilot has found that 85 percent of HHS regulations from before 1990 have not been edited and are most likely obsolete. Using AI to flag regulations with the term "telegram," for example, will begin the prioritization of data that needs to be looked at by humans.

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CDM – Concentrating on the How of Cybersecurity

The Department of Homeland Security's Continuous Diagnostic Mitigation Program (CDM) was developed as a guideline process for agencies to fortify their ongoing cybersecurity plans and tactics. Agencies have worked through the stages of the program, first identifying what and who is on their network and then looking at what is happening on the network - really identifying the who, what, when, and where. Today, the focus is to put all that information to work in developing plans that address the "how" of secure networks including:

  • Reduce agency threat surface
  • Increase visibility into the federal cybersecurity posture
  • Improve federal cybersecurity response capabilities
  • Streamline Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA) reporting

According to a recent survey, in the seven years since its inception, the CDM program has met its mission of making government IT systems more secure. But this success does not mean the work is done. Legislation has been introduced that will make CDM permanent and expand its reach to meet the ongoing cyber threats that face government agencies. Moving forward, the CDM will help agencies focus on taking what has traditionally been a piecemeal approach to cybersecurity and creating a more integrated approach that ties to the an overall cyber strategy.

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In the Event of an Emergency: Ensuring Government is Disaster-Ready

With a rash of recent natural disasters, weird weather patterns, and a few months of Hurricane season to go, we wanted to look at disaster recovery practices - beyond the basics. We all know it is critical to have backups for your backups, but sometimes that's not even enough.

Last year, when the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico were impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, they lost a lot of government data. Although they had backups of their data stored in different locations, all of these locations were on the island. In Puerto Rico, first responders were trying to make a map of shelter locations, hospitals and flood zones. They started with a spreadsheet containing information on 450 shelters and had to correlate that information with other datasets. Once the data was merged, they found they only had complete data for 88 of the 450 shelters. Only half of those 88 shelters could be mapped using Google, leaving the team with an incomplete picture and a lot of manual work to identify and publicize shelter locations. Continue reading

Hybrid Technology: It’s Not Just for Cars, It’s in the Cloud

As cloud gains momentum as a platform for government IT, the one-size-fits-all solution is becoming obsolete. Government organizations require unique solutions to suit their specific needs, which is why understanding the cloud platform options is the first step to making the change to the cloud. Initially, there were public clouds hosted completely off government sites by a third party (like Google or Amazon Web Services). Then came private clouds, infrastructure and networks designed as a cloud but only available to a closed loop of individuals. Private clouds are hosted on-premise by the government entity they were built for. Now, there is a third type of cloud implementation that is proving to be the most popular and most attractive to government agencies - the hybrid cloud.

Hybrid infrastructures mean that some elements are hosted in a cloud (either public or private) while others are managed on-premise. There is a connection that allows all systems to work seamlessly. This set-up alleviates security concerns and helps organizations maintain tight control over critical applications.

Additionally, a hybrid environment helps avoid vendor lock-in. As agencies found with hardware, becoming an all "one vendor" shop has drawbacks. While going with a single IT vendor can have initial cost savings and economies of scale, in the long run, agencies grew frustrated when that one vendor could not innovate quick enough or provide the support they needed. Agencies are wary of falling into the same trap with cloud providers and look to spread out their applications across several platforms. This allows them to pick the cloud infrastructure that works best for that particular IT solution. There are hybrid cloud management tools that "abstract away many of the common features offered by different cloud providers" making it easier to manage multiple clouds. Continue reading