DOD bets big on financial data to improve business performance

The Defense Department is betting that insights from its financial data will help improve its business operations, from optimizing the workforce to divesting of legacy systems.

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The Defense Department is betting that financial data will help improve its business operations from optimizing the workforce to divesting of legacy systems.

Gregory Little, DOD's deputy comptroller for enterprise data and business performance, said the new organization aims to use data analytics to improve business processes, decision making and digital transformation.

"We've put a lot of focus right now on, as we think about modernization, how we simplify processes, improve data quality, and automate," Little said during an April 6 virtual FedInsider event hosted by Breaking Defense.

The organization partners with various DOD components like the Defense Innovation Unit on innovative acquisition techniques, the CIO to rationalize systems and get better data, work to tie strategy to resources to performance outcomes and risk, and the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center.

But workforce training and optimization top Little's priorities from robotic process automation to using analytics for historical budget analysis and predictive modeling.

"People have been really excited about the new technology and how it will free up time to do next level work," Little said, adding that, this year, 43 bots helped save the Pentagon's business analysts 30,000 hours.

"This administration is very focused on building a workforce that has the right skill sets for the future and innovation."

Little said another focus is on tools for "making sense of PDFs" for policy creators with an application that links relevant policy documents together so policy creators can find duplicative policies and see the potential impact a change would have from one policy to another.

Little's office is also using artificial and machine learning techniques to search for dormant contract obligations and alert the relevant users. If the contract isn't needed anymore, those funds can be deallocated and then reallocated to a higher priority item; about $4 billion have been readjusted as a result, according to Little.

But the ultimate goal is to use financial data more strategically and beyond transaction process work, such as reducing the DOD's number of legacy systems.

"How do we get rid of legacy systems?" Little said. "Those legacy systems can be a drain in terms of funding, but they also can really impede progress" as more modern technologies and processes are adopted.