Coordination is Key to CDO Success

Chief Data Officers (CDOs) are one of the newer positions in government, but their role is quickly becoming one of the most critical. A CDO is charged with overseeing data-related functions, including data management, ensuring data quality, and creating data strategy. For government agencies, this requires close coordination with the Federal Data Strategy and the DoD Data Strategy.

Both of these documents define the specific roles and responsibilities of data officers and provide a framework for working with and securing data. Of course, each agency has unique requirements and missions, leaving the CDO to work out how to apply this guidance and standards to their organization.

Agencies are meeting these guidelines and integrating CDOs in different ways. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced a department-level CDO office to better integrate data into its operations and those of other agencies. The need for this level of coordination was underscored as DHS launched a department-wide COVID-19 vaccination campaign in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs health centers. DHS needed to identify, contact and manage responses from workers, which meant collecting and reconciling many different datasets from across the department.

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Agility. Enabled by Agile.

Agility has been a key attribute for success over the past year and a half. Everyone had to quickly adapt in their personal and professional lives to do things in new ways to keep business and society running. Even the great bureaucracy of government found itself pivoting and quickly changing "how it's always been done" to meet the needs of the day. This should not end with the return to what feels like pre-pandemic normal. In the form of Agile methodology, Agility will play a huge role in the government's ability to continue the fast-forwarded digital push as a result of the pandemic.

Just as government pushed agencies to try Cloud with the "Cloud First" initiative, some are suggesting the same approach for Agile. An "Agile-First" evolution would have a huge impact on IT modernization efforts, accelerating the move from legacy processes and technology to a modern digital approach. The response to COVID-19 showed that the government can move quickly in changing how they do work (across all areas of government). An Agile-first "mandate" could institutionalize that speed and make it the rule rather than the exception.

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In-Person Events a “Go” for Government — But Don’t Take Away the Online Option

This May, after the CDC updated their public health guidance around masking and social distancing for vaccinated individuals, GovEvents surveyed its members to find out what government professionals were comfortable with in terms of in-person events. Feedback from event planners at the beginning of 2021 showed they were beginning to plan toward a hybrid event schedule, looking to introduce in-person events in the late summer or fall. Now that schedule seems to be a reality based both on health guidance and attendee attitudes.

The GovEvents survey of 275+ public sector professionals found that nearly 75% of respondents would be comfortable attending an event in-person sometime in 2021.

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Using AI to Modernize Old Techniques

Artificial Intelligence is being implemented across government to modernize and automate traditional manual processes. For many organizations, this means taking paper-based, tedious, error-prone tasks and turning them over to a machine for automated completion. Beyond using AI to hand off tasks best completed by machines -- those that are rote and repetitive -- agencies are also looking at ways to introduce the technology into already complex human-driven activities to make them even more effective and efficient.

Researchers at Dartmouth College's Department of Computer Science have taken a technique that proved valuable in WWII and applied AI to extend the usefulness of the method. A canary trap is a technique that plants different instances of false information in documents. If one of those documents is leaked, the canary will "sing," identifying the leaker. For example, in WWII British intelligence agents planted false documents on a corpse to trick Nazi Germany into preparing for an assault on Greece while the Allies invaded Sicily. The team at Dartmouth created a modern version, WE-FORGE, that plants different instances of false information in documents. The process is relatively simple when creating a small number of variations in a handful of documents, but to extend it to large scientific or technical documents, AI is essential. WE-FORGE uses natural language processing to generate multiple fake files that are believable yet incorrect.

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Putting Work into Defining the Government Workforce

The last year has brought about incredible change in the federal workforce, and it shows no sign of stopping. With a new Director for the Office of Personnel and Management (OPM) confirmed, the next several months will bring new energy and activity to formalizing and standardizing workplace policies, processes, and approaches for the "new normal" of a digital-first government.

The move to telework changed how many people view and even perform their jobs. Before the pandemic, telework was sporadically used throughout government and viewed pretty skeptically. Now that the genie is out of the bottle, it's clear that government can continue to function without people in office buildings from 9am-5pm. As in-person work starts to come back around, the new shift will be in defining and managing a hybrid workforce.

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