Analytics
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WASHINGTON (Army News Service) -- The Army has tons of data and analytics, which can potentially be used for a wide range of things - from the evaluation of new weapons systems to increasing the resiliency and well-being of the force, said Gary Wang, deputy chief information officer, Army G-6.

Data and analytics from social media can even be used to save lives and potentially prevent suicides, Wang said at an AFCEA chapter-sponsored "Service-strategic IT and Cyber Initiatives" panel here, May 11.

Yet, instead of employing analytics for decision making and predicting behavior, leaders very often make "gut-check decisions," he added.

Analytics combines data with statistics and programming algorithms to quantify and predict human, industrial and business performance.

Analytics also needs to be more rigorously applied to critical infrastructure -- fuel, water, electricity, he noted. Smart metering would save the Army a lot of money if applied service-wide.

HOW DATA WORKS

There are three stages to data, Wang said. At its most basic level is data collection, which means data is just sitting somewhere and not really being used in any meaningful way. The Army has a lot of data doing just that.

The next stage is where data gets "massaged" to derive some information, he said.

The third, and most desirable stage, is where that information from stage two is used to gain knowledge and insights that can be applied to problems and decisions, he explained.

Army leadership decisions could benefit tremendously from these stage-three insights, he said.

PURCHASING POWER

Wang said he thought that more analytically informed decision making could have gone into purchasing hardware.

In the past, the Army, he said, purchased a lot of computer hardware that ended up sitting in warehouses, while the warranties expired.

Hardware should be purchased as a service, he said. The Army is working with the Defense Information Systems Agency to get a cost-effective service rate on future hardware purchases.

Wang said other efficiencies in information technology and cyber security purchases could be realized by using the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's price competition model it uses to purchase robotics and private-industry-type purchases such as reverse options and venture-capital-type acquisitions.

Cutting through layers of government bureaucracy would also save a lot of time and money, he added.

CULTURE SHIFT NEEDED

The culture in the Army continues to be "motivated by spending dollars," with the thought being that "if you don't expend dollars they get taken away from you," Wang said.

For instance, people are asking how much does it cost to migrate an app or data to the cloud, when the real question should be what are the requirements to do that, he offered.

As a former program manager, Wang said he often got "beat up" for not spending money by the end of the year.

The Army, he said, needs to "inject behavioral economics in government and incentivize returning money."

Lt. Gen. Thomas Spoehr, director of the Army's Office of Business Transformation, is trying to do just this with the recently announced "Every Dollar Counts" initiative.

Related Links:

Army News Service

End-of-year 'use it or lose it' budget mindset to get tossed

Army.mil: Inside the Army news

STAND-TO!: Changing Management Behavior: Every Dollar Counts