Two weeks ago, over 100 representatives from more than 30 departments and federal agencies gathered to discuss digital transformation, data strategy, and analytics technology at the MicroStrategy Federal IT Symposium.
I had the pleasure of leading a panel on the future of data-driven missions, featuring Mark Krzysko (Director of Data Acquisition, Department of Defense), Teresa Smith (Chief Data Officer & Director of Strategic Data Services, Defense Logistics Agency), and Thomas Beach (Chief Data Strategist & Portfolio Manager, United States Patent & Trademark Office).
Our panel discussion centered around three big ideas:
- Creating a data strategy
- Getting buy-in from your peers
- Effecting digital transformation
Creating a Data Strategy
All three panelists agreed that the key to creating an effective data strategy was communication. Beach emphasized that having healthy conversations about strategy and architecture goes a long way to ensuring that the strategies are supported and implemented. Smith added that publishing a data strategy and sending out regular updates on the process to stakeholders had been integral to accomplishing her data strategy goals.
Krzysko shared how he was able to foster an environment of data intellectualism—where people embrace transformation, use data to make informed decisions, and openly discuss how where it’s failing and how it could be better. “It’s like group therapy,” says Krzysko. When you’re pushing for change on a large scale—such as digital transformation—the process only works when everyone’s issues are addressed.
The DoD Director of Data Acquisition also urged those in the federal and government space to create their dissemination guide and determine at the outset what data can be shared with the public. Framing a data strategy around what can and cannot be communicated widely is integral for federal agencies, especially now that the amount of data collected is vast—and will only grow further in the future.
Finding buy-in can be a challenge for any CDO—and doubly so for those in a federal agency. According to Teresa Smith, leaders need to find the early adopters and key proponents of the change in their agency. “Find a team to carry the torch,” agrees the US Patent and Trademark Office Chief Data Strategist Mark Krzysko.
For those more reluctant to embrace transformation, Defense Logistics Agency CDO Teresa Smith recommended that leaders not overwhelm people with data. Instead, bring them key insights about things that matter to them and help them do their jobs better. They’ll see the value in data when it helps them solve problems. “Treat data as a strategic asset,” says Smith, instead of just another new skill that employees will be forced to learn.
Krzysko added that, “We’re here to do business, not data strategy.” When you use data to unpack and solve existing issues, people will be happier about embracing analytics.
Effecting Digital Transformation
Transformation in the federal sphere is slow going—and embracing this fact is key to getting it done. It’s a cultural shift, and they take time. When you plan for the transformation to occur over time, in an organic way, and get buy-in from those in the mid-tier and above, you have a better chance of succeeding, according to Beach.
It’s also important to build the narrative for your agency’s transformation. “Find the tip of the spear,” says Beach. Figure out what the biggest problem is that analytics can address, and tackle that first. Succeeding at this task and sharing how analytics solved the issue will boost morale and keep the momentum going.
“Don’t just declare modernization,” added Smith. Communicate with stakeholders from the start, throughout the process, listen to people’s concerns, and make it a collaborative effort.
MicroStrategy can help your federal agency become a more Intelligent Enterprise. Learn more today. We also unveiled the very first FedRAMP-ready enterprise analytics solution in the cloud—read about it in the press release.