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View from the Summit: How the United States Department of the Air Force Transitioned to a Data-Driven Organization with Self-Service Analytics

December 7, 2021

“Digital Transformation” is frequently used in many industries today, but it is no more just a mere term. It has become a key goal for not only the commercial sector but is also an integral part of the military forces. At Wrangle Summit 2021, we were honored to host Eileen Vidrine, Chief Data Officer of the United States Air Force where she presented how the service personnel of the United States military forces make accurate data available and actionable for the military needs. This blog post is to showcase the work of the United States Air Force Chief Data Office (AFCDO) as shared by Eileen during her session.

As a catalyst for a data-driven culture, the vision of the AFCDO aims to fuel data innovation within the Department of the Air Force while increasing the efficiency, effectiveness of decisions, readiness, mission operations, and cyber security of the Air Force. Realizing the criticality of advanced data analytics as a driver of organizational success, the department of the US Air Force has prioritized the transition to cloud-based, self-service analytics. To accomplish this, the department launched the Visible, Accessible, Understandable, Linked, and Trusted Data (VAULT) program to provide service members with secure, cloud-based tools. The goal is to connect, find, share, and learn from Air Force data to improve readiness and mission success.

Requirements and Challenges

It was critical to include important data engineering components to meet the requirements of data preparation, cleansing, and experimentation to increase the effectiveness of data-driven decisions. An equally important requirement was a collaboration among data practitioners including scientists, engineers, architects, and functional experts within the Air Force and across agencies they work with. This is where Trifacta, the Data Engineering Cloud, worked with the AFCDO to achieve its objectives. The collaborative effort between Trifacta and the United States Air Force, which is one of the world’s largest organizations towards a collaborative, data solution has been amazing, to say the least.

To put the need and value of the VAULT program in context, it is critical to talk about the challenges faced by the Air Force. The lack of visibility into data to make decisions was hurting them as this was a result of legacy data infrastructure that needed constant monitoring and maintenance. Data was siloed, termed by the Air Force as ‘data jails’, restricting timely access, insights, and analytics. The need for a modern data solution was imminent.

A Collaborative Effort

The move towards a cloud-based, self-service analytics solution was a collaborative effort between the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy, and the U.S. Army. The three services worked together to develop the foundational elements to achieve the goals of increased visibility and accessibility of data, data democratization for individual service members to make actionable decisions and achieve data-driven insights.

The VAULT Today

The VAULT is now used across multiple teams within the Department of the Air Force and other branches of service of the U.S. military. The platform grew its user base from 200 service members to over 2,000 members within the first year. Users have access to multiple tools and systems data ingestion for their requirements. In summary, the VAULT platform has exceeded the initial expectations in making data available and actionable, thereby driving innovation and facilitating data-driven insights.

Now, It’s Your Turn

As Eileen shared in her story, the Trifacta Data Engineering cloud has helped her department move to a modern data environment enabling analytics, empowering both decision-makers and end-users with the required data at the right level of access to drive important decisions.

Are you working on a similar transition in your organization? Is self-service analytics an area of interest for you? What are the challenges you overcame to achieve your desired outcomes?

Please share your thoughts at comments@trifacta.com