SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Continuous improvement helps drive change throughout the Army. As the U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command continues shaping the Army of 2030, the Data Science Directorate, or DSD, works meticulously to improve itself and to help with those efforts.
NETCOM DSD Data Scientists, analysts and leaders across the globe gathered in Silicon Valley Oct. 24-26, 2023, during the DSD Sixth Anniversary Summit.
The event was held to build leader cohesion, improve current processes and develop near and long-range training opportunities to support NETCOM's continuous improvement efforts and to help operationalize data literacy throughout NETCOM.
“Our goal is to highlight what changes we can make and come together to find optimal solutions,” said Col. Michael Landin, NETCOM DSD director.
Their discussions were focused around four main principles: data architecture, data literacy, data science and talent management — capitalizing on these principles is how the DSD leaders plan to reach their ultimate goals.
“Across those four principles is the harmonic balance,” Landin explained. “When we have that balance, we can operationalize data science.”
Throughout the Department of Defense, the realization of the importance of the role data plays every day is something the experts across the DSD have known since its inception six years ago.
“Everyone is realizing the importance of data,” said Lt. Col. Nick Lee, NETCOM DSD data scientist. “Everything is data-driven.”
When it comes to operating, maintaining and securing the Army Department of Defense Information Network, data is crucial in helping leaders achieve informed decision-making.
“This is what we want organizations to understand,” said author and data literacy subject matter expert Jordan Morrow. “Data is just data. It will just sit there unless acted upon, by a human or machine ... Data comes to life when we use analytics to drive insight to make a decision.”
The summit allowed the data experts to meet with industry insiders and academia leads to rethink, reinvest and revolutionize how the DSD can help NETCOM enable decision dominance in a fast-paced environment.
“Rapid change in any organization is stressful,” Landin said. “That’s a good thing because stress is good on the battlefield and the boardroom. Healthy stress only makes us better.”
Although operationalizing data and data literacy across NETCOM was a priority, the future of the DSD cannot be successful without envisioning the right people, with the right skills and in the right place to help facilitate these efforts.
“Any healthy organization sets aside time for professional development,” said Lt. Col. Josiah Pickett, NETCOM DSD Deputy Director. “Time not necessarily dedicated towards a project, but to build up capabilities within the team to tackle anticipated future projects, or just explore something innovative.”
In the ever-changing landscape of technology and data science, talent management will always be a priority.
Developing best practices for quality of life and work-life balance initiatives, as well as other employee benefits that provide an inclusive, creative place where people can achieve professional growth without sacrificing their Family and friends, was important to every leader on-site.
“Recruitment and retention of the right people are essential to our success,” said Dr. Alan Whitehurst, lead computer scientist, Data Science Center - Roanoke. “People are motivated by these efforts and it goes a long way.”
One of the unique characteristics of the DSD formation is their ability to not only collaborate within the military but also leverage unique relationships with academia and industry partners that also help shape how they operationalize themselves throughout NETCOM.
“If we cannot internally solve a problem set, we can always reach out externally to our partners,” said Landin. “Partnerships are important."
During the week, the team was also able to visit some of these partners to research their facilities, discuss topics relevant across industry and the DOD, and get a glimpse of the possibilities that await from the DSD’s continued efforts.
“The tours are meant to be inspirational,” Landin said. “It should be an inspiration for all of us of what we can achieve together.”
After six years, the DSD is still an evolving think tank of highly skilled and critically thinking professionals. Being able to meet in person during this event was something long overdue.
“Coming together like this was necessary with new leadership and our fast pace,” Whitehurst said. “We have to focus on how to plan and implement change. We are on an upward trajectory and communicating that back to our team is going to be important.”
Being face-to-face with colleagues spread across the globe will always have added value to collaborative efforts, and attaining future success.
“Us all getting together was beneficial,” said NETCOM Operations Research Analyst Patrick Goodman. “We set the historical context of where we came from, so we know what things worked in the past and what things we need to change to make a better future.”