Data Office: Championing innovation & culture change

By Candy C KnightFebruary 10, 2023

Data Office: Championing innovation & culture change
U.S. Army Specialist Jonathon Julian, Data Office Information Technology Specialist, and Mr. Nathan Slack, Chief Data Officer, are the 2d Theater Signal Brigade’s Data Office team creating new tools to help the brigade’s data flow faster and more efficient. (U.S. Army photo by Candy Knight) (Photo Credit: Candy C Knight) VIEW ORIGINAL

WIESBADEN, Germany — The rapid growth of technology and innovations has made the need to leverage data a mission-essential task in today’s Army. However, terms like ‘data,’ ‘quantitative analysis,’ or even ‘Power BI,’ can intimidate individuals.

Understanding this, 2d Theater Signal Brigade leadership created the Data Office — a new section charged with helping its members better incorporate data into their organizational decision-making and strategy methods.

“The Data Office’s mission is to build a data system that everyone can use,” said Nathan Slack, Chief Data Officer, 2d Theater Signal Bde. “The goal is to make the brigade more efficient and improve information flow from the Company and Network Enterprise Center employees to the brigade commander. We’re giving people a direct link to impact their organization.”

The two-man Data Office team fills a unique role in the brigade. It builds bridges across primaries and directorates, becoming an extension of leadership’s vision and the helping hands they promised to send to the battalions and brigade staff.

“We assist in making data visible, accessible, understandable, linked, trusted, interoperable and secure,” said Spc. Jonathon Julian, Data Office Information Technology Specialist, 2d Theater Signal Bde. “We help turn our leadership’s visions into reports encompassing moving parts, such as, identifying data and stakeholders, collecting data, modeling, and refining data, analyzing data then building a final report.”

Ensuring the brigade and battalions have access to real-time data allows 2d Theater Signal Brigade’s battalions and staff to establish baselines, benchmarks, and goals to keep accomplish the brigade’s overall mission of delivering integrated and interoperable theater communications and cyber capabilities across all levels and phases of war in support of combat forces and mission partners in Europe and Africa.

“Providing meaningful data to leadership is crucial in every business model,” Julian said. “The ability to answer virtually any question you can think of with the hard facts to back it up is a blessing as a leader, and it gives them the ability to see what practices and procedures are working most efficiently.”

Making the numerous data tools available to 2d Theater Bde members is one thing; educating members on how those new tools work is one of Data Office’s major responsibilities.

“When we first released our central reporting tool, we realized that the Theater wasn’t properly configured to use the variety of features,” Slack said. “So, our office led the charge, collaborating with the Defense Information Systems Agency, the United States Army Network Enterprise Technology Command, U.S. Army Europe and Africa, Regional Cyber Center-Europe, and other U.S. Europe Command units to update system configurations and network changes to meet Theater needs, and then educating members how to use the tool to input and retrieve data they need when they need it. It was challenging but our efforts had a theater-wide impact.”

The 2d Theater Signal Brigade, like many of today’s corporations, continues to migrate legacy systems to more fast and efficient cloud-computing innovations. Doing so enables the brigade to achieve its vision of being the Army’s leader in theater communications integration, interoperability, and innovation — therefore providing combatant commanders with ‘decision dominance’ across the European theater.