The chief data officer role has morphed quickly at Federal agencies, as agencies shift their focus from open data to supporting data-driven strategies, said two Federal CDOs during Veritas’ Public Sector Vision Day event on Thursday.

“The original impetus was really about open data, and the value to the public, sharing across agencies. I think that’s proven to be very important … but I think the shift now is, from our Secretary’s perspective, creating a data-driven organization,” said Ted Kaouk, CDO at the Department of Agriculture (USDA).

When asked if the role of the CDO has changed significantly in the past six months, Eileen Vidrine, CDO at the Air Force, responded in one word.

“Absolutely,” she said.

“My team knows that I use the term hashtag uncomfortable, because we are doing things that we have never done before, and if we’re getting comfortable, we probably need to push a little bit harder,” Vidrine added.

She described some of the work the Air Force is doing in creating a small data lab and partnering data scientists with program managers to tackle problems inside the department, as well as a “teach them to fish” program with airmen acting as liaisons, and her team’s work on reference architectures.

“One of the critical pieces is the enterprise information model. We’ve been using the acronym–because inside the Air Force and DoD, you have to have an acronym–VAULT, which stands for visible, accessible, understandable, linking, and trustworthy data,” said Vidrine.

Kaouk noted that within USDA, the department stood up an enterprise analytic services team and a data lake at the enterprise level to perform analytics and put results out to leadership.

“It’s actually built up a lot of energy around getting more efficient decision-making,” said Kaouk.

Elaborating on the importance of leadership support, Kaouk noted the importance of a data-driven mindset at the top.

“I think what we’re finding is that the tools are going to be critical, but the culture is really where it’s at. Starting at the highest possible level, engaging our undersecretary and having them drive down through the organization,” he said.


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MeriTalk Staff