FEDSCOOP’s article “OMB releases finalized data strategy and draft ‘action plan’” highlights the current focus on and difficulty around transitioning from our current state of managing data storage devices to a future state where we operate within a unified Government data management framework.
While the outlined data management task is daunting, the cross-government team approach referenced by FEDSCOOP is the only method that can be successful. When we look at the composition of the Federal Data Strategy Teams, we see good diversity amongst team members and most of the necessary areas of expertise included. ID Technoliges’ experience around data management problems has led us to believe that the composition of each Federal Data Strategy Team should also include representation from Application Development teams. The sheer number of Government developed/internally modified applications, along with the customization capabilities emerging with RestAPIs and scripting languages like JSON, place App Dev squarely in the middle of many data management problems, as well as the potential solutions.
Tajha Chappellet-Lanier from FEDSCOOP rightly focuses on the newly released draft Federal Data Strategy Action Plan for 2019-2020. This plan outlines 16 actions to focus on. This is a broad document covering many functional and managerial actions.
Two actions in particular warrant significant focus: Action 7 is the development of a pilot for an automated inventory tool managing Government data/datasets. We have seen several instances where outsourcing a capability like this to AWS or other industry organizations is highly appealing. ID Technologies sees the storing of data as a non-essential and non-Government function (think Amazon Glacier), but the indexing and management of the data is absolutely a Government function. Our position is that the automated tool needs to:
Be based on Government IP – developed and maintained by the Government
Should be based on Open Source platforms
Must have data governance and security built in from the ground up
May be delivered as an appliance, or as a software only platform for operation
Continuing on this line of thought, we look at Action 8 of the draft Federal Data Strategy Action Plan for 2019-2020. Action 8 will pilot standard data catalogs. Action 8 is intrinsically tied to Action 7. Any data catalog should include Role Based Access Control/support multi-tenancy and exist as a module within the Inventory Tool.
ID Technologies can easily envision this tool being built within a platform like ServiceNow, because of its ability to integrate with RBACs, Public and Private clouds, other platforms, etc.
What ID Technologies, and likely the rest of Industry, is currently driving towards is implementing projects that actually demonstrate what a “good” data management strategy looks like and what data utilizations that strategy enables. ID Technologies has been pressing customers for the last 10 years to move out of SAN/NAS device management and to adopt a data management focus. The primary challenge to this is that unless data management becomes an actual agency-wide focus, any effort will simply result in a checkbox management operation.
All parties need to keep in mind, moving away from device management is difficult. We see devices, we touch devices. Data is esoteric and all too often ephemeral. In the past, that ephemeral component was tolerated, but with the advent of ML/AI all data can become precious over and over. We cannot tolerate data loss, through failure of devices or data management.
The new data strategy efforts are clear and substantive moves toward creating the mechanisms required to ensure that Government (1) actually understands what data they have, (2) controls access to data and (3) correctly broadens access to data. The result is effectively allowing for all data to provide the maximum value at any/many points in time.
The efforts of ID Technologies, and we think Industry in general, are not focused as far out as the Federal Data Strategy. The majority of our time, right now, is spent working on the more tactical execution of that strategy. While this is a bit of a cart-before-the-horse situation, tracking the Federal Data Strategy with the goal of keeping our tactical efforts open enough to easily fall under the broader initiative has significant value.
Presently, ID Technologies is focused on bringing accurate metadata into our customer’s infrastructure, getting the right data to the right people at the right time, increasing all parties understanding of the value of each dataset and enabling old/unchanging data to be reused in new ways. Because any finalized large data strategy is years off, this approach is critical. When we address data growth and management projects with the current goals in mind and the bigger framework in the background, we ensure that once that bigger framework is finalized, we can sprint to it rather than evolutionarily move towards it.
One final point, the Federal Data Strategy still needs a holistic digital infrastructure model to operate within. Consider the goal of having the right data always available to the right people. That does not happen without a network capable of facilitating said access. It does not happen reliably in an environment where end-user devices are not secure. It does not happen in instances where sufficient edge resources are not available. ID Technologies’ approach to data management is rare, but not unique. What is really at the front end of innovation, what can truly unlock the vast potential of data, is a digital infrastructure approach that combines a fully enacted Federal Data Strategy with network enablement, core-to-edge security and core-to-edge resource capabilities.
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