DLA creates new office to help data drive decisions

By Tim Haidl, DLA Information Operations

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A new office at the Defense Logistics Agency will focus on getting more value of the data collected across the agency by analyzing the information and looking for ways the data can inform management decisions.

The Strategic Data and Analysis office was created to treat data generated across the DLA enterprise as an asset — a valuable tool for business. SDA will use information on ordering, customer-provided information, data on the time used to complete a process and other data to predict the likelihood of future events or support business decisions.

In the world of business technology, this is called “big data.”

“How we use data will ultimately help DLA better support the needs of the warfighter,” said Kathy Cutler, DLA’s chief information officer. “By treating data as an asset and valuable tool for business, we recognize that the data we have can be used to drive business decisions. New business values can be found for us and for our customers.”

Embracing “big data” concepts will yield a number of benefits for the agency, said Teresa Smith, DLA’s chief data officer, who heads the new SDA office.

Harnessing and analyzing agency data will allow decisionmakers to find more efficient ways of doing business, reducing costs. It will also help them make business decisions in less time and will help the agency offer new products and services to meet customer needs.  

“The benefits of ‘big data’ or predictive/prescriptive data analytics are that it opens up more possibilities and new business opportunities,” Smith said. “Big-data analytics examine large amounts of data to uncover hidden patterns, correlations and other insights.”

With today’s technology, it’s possible to analyze data and get answers from it almost immediately – much more quickly and efficiently than with the traditional research, Smith said.

 A good example is when a military deployment is scheduled, Smith said.  By analyzing data from past deployments, agency planners can predict what supply items the unit will need so they can supply the  unit more efficiently.

“This efficiency reduces cost to the agency by managing our supply channels and reducing that extra inventory-related cost, such as storage or emergency ordering,” Smith said.

She added that DLA’s current data gathering is creating a “lake” of data that can be mined for opportunities.

“By connecting our data sources into one area and managing those sources, DLA will be better postured to support our customers,” she said. “The CIO has given me the authority to make those data connections in support of this effort.” 

The SDA Office is currently working with all of the major subordinate commands and DLA directorates to unify these data connections. “This is a herculean effort,” said Steve Borgesi, senior strategic data analyst. “But it’s worth it, as it will help everyone in the agency and our customers.”