Q: How did you get started in Data Management / Data Analytics?
My interest in evidence-based decision making began while pursuing my undergraduate degree in economics with a focus on business. While I was earning my MBA, I continued to see how data was used to augment justification for ROI analysis and for business plans. Not only was the value of dataclear in my education, I quickly saw it in my work as a budget analyst, management analyst, and senior advisor at various agencies where I was better able to articulate requirements, justifications, and impacts using evidence and data. Prior to becoming the U.S. Department of State’s first-ever Acting CDO and Managing Director of the Center for Analytics (CfA), I served in many other capacities within the Department where data improved my operations and impact. It became clear in doing that work that the Department needed an enterprise capacity focused on making data available, accessible, and actionable.
Q: What qualifications do you think the CDO role needs in the industry?
The Department convened a group of subject matter experts who considered the criteria necessary for the Chief Data Officer (CDO) to be effective. This discussion helped crystalize what criteria and qualifications CDOs need to be successful. This group determined that the CDO’s responsibility should be focused on ensuring that business requirements are met through data accessibility. My interest in evidence-based decision making began while pursuing my undergraduate degree in economics with a focus on business. While I was earning my MBA, I continued to see how data was used to augment justification for, availability, analytics capacity, and policy. CDOs need to be collaborative in order to understand the most pressing needs of the enterprise. CDOs also need the organizational agility to push the needle in the areas of data management, data analytics, data technology, and ultimately imbuing a data focused culture.
Q: What would be the specific items that you feel are missing, i.e. topics that you need to get more information on or focus on?
The Department is working to mature its data management. We are working closely with the State Department’s Enterprise Data Council (EDC) and the Chief Information Officer (CIO) to ensure that we can securely democratize data so all employees at the State Department can access and use it for data informed decisions. I’m gratefulfor the leadership of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB),which established the first ever CDO Council, which is working hard to tackle some of the most challenging issues such as data governance and data skill attainment. I’m also thankful to the CDO Council Chair, Ted Kaouk, who has also made tremendous progress since establishing the CDO Council. This Council has given us access to each other to share best practices and to rally around common business problems with an eye towards forward progress. It keeps us at the cutting edge of data technology and platforms and helps us track and understand federal requirements.
Q: What are some of the things are you working on today that you see are beneficial to the organization?
At the Center for Analytics, we are focused on the importance of data management which must be the foundation of all our efforts to advance the Department’s posture for leveraging data assets. We stood up an Enterprise Data Management (EDM) team in September of 2019 that is enabling the development of the firstEnterprise Data Strategy and Enterprise Data Catalog. The Department of State also formed a Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence Practitioners Group (MLAIPG), which the CfA organizes, to explore how to best leverage these emerging technologies.
Q: What do you think is your secret sauce to success in the CDO role?
From day one our focus has been simple—solving problems. Whether it’s an analytics challenge such as prioritizing engagement around malign influence; an enterprise data management issue such as developing a data catalog; a data skills issue where we create data courses for the enterprise; or a technology issue, we focus on activities that add value and meet the demands of the enterprise. We also have found that defining your values and that of the organization can help guide you as your north star. At the Center for Analytics we work as one team with guiding principles to include integrity, trustworthiness, and entrepreneurship.
Q: What would be your most proud accomplishment in your current role?
I’m pleased to serve as a catalyst for transforming the Department into a data-focused culture where the organization sees the value in leveraging data as a strategic asset. If leaders now ask, “what does the data say?”, I think we are on our way to success. The same is true any time we help diplomats domestically and around the globe advance foreign policy objectives in better, faster, and smarter ways.
Q: What are the projects you are most excited or proud about?
To date, the Center for Analytics has produced about 50 completed and active projects so it’s difficult to choose. At the core of what we do is solve problems so any time we can transform data into solutions and help colleagues across the Department that is a measure of success. I’m really proud of our COVID-19 Data Analytics Team, or CDAT, which was established at the beginning of year and composed largely of data scientists from the CfA. CDAT members worked tirelessly to collect, clean, and manage all COVID-19 relevant data. In doing so, we played a role in the repatriation of more than 100,000 Americans from 136 countries and territories during the initial outbreak of the virus. This effort was among the first to have large-scale impact within the Department and beyond. CDAT has pivoted its focus to our “Diplomacy Strong” initiative which is the Department’s phased, conditions-based approach to adjusting COVID-19 mitigation measures. CDAT is leading efforts to collect and analyze data. The Department’s overseas and domestic facility statuses are analyzed and visualized through the Diplomacy Strong dashboards, which track the progress of movement of facilities as they move from phase to phase. The information enables Department leadership to quickly analyze a common operating picture and support the field. CDAT refines the Diplomacy Strong dashboards and pushes out new releases every two weeks. The releases include new information such as travel restrictions, comparison views between overseas posts, COVID-19 medical trends, and post phases over time. The releases also include additional views, features, and capabilities, as well as improvements based on user feedback.
Q: What are the toughest challenges you have experienced with regards to handling data or to digital transformation?
The data landscape is always full of new challenges, it’s difficult to choose just one. As I mentioned, bringing the Department into full data maturity, making sure it’s accessible, usable, and actionable is a challenge for everyone. Democratizing our data is a challenge that we are up to and thankfully the Department’s leadership supports our efforts to improve in those areas and we have an Enterprise Data Council that is also steering the Department in these challenging issues.
Q: What are your future plans for the Center for Analytics?
As the Department’s first ever data analytics capability, we are working hard to implement and empower data-informed diplomacy. We hope that every employee at the State Department can rely on CfA for the analytical support, tools, training, and most importantly, the data to enable them to accomplish their mission. We have completed our State Assessment of the Department’s data maturity and are strategically planning how we move forward. Specifically, we are planning to integrate AI into some of our most pressing data challenges, we are finalizing the first ever Data Strategy, and we are building a data platform that will be a one stop shop for data, products, and tools.
As with any area that is new territory, there will be growing pains along the way but the key to CfA evolving into a leader in data comes down to talent and the deep commitment of our team. We have a dedicated staff that has helped us progress from a startup to a rooted enterprise capability in a short amount of time. We seek to continue to identify, recruit, hire and retain a cadre of diverse people who have the advanced data skill sets needed to propel us forward.
Janice L. deGarmo
Deputy Director and Acting Chief Data Officer
Janice deGarmo serves as the Acting Chief Data Officer and Deputy Director in the Office of Management Strategy and Solutions (M/SS) at the Department of State. In this role, she works to catalyze strategic insights and solutions to help improve the management platform and advance foreign policy goals. M/SS is responsible for developing policy solutions to cross cutting topics, building and deploying business acumen though advisory and consultative services, and solving management and policy challenges through quantitative and qualitative analysis. Janice has created the Department’s first enterprise data analytics capability, the Center for Analytics, and the first ever Chief Data Officer position in the Department. Janice was previously the Executive Director for the Bureau of Administration (A) and the Bureau of Information Resource Management (IRM). The Executive Office provided management operations to include strategic planning and evaluation, budget execution and formulation, contract support, personnel and human resources, and application IT development for the enterprise, specifically focused on business process management.
Prior to serving as the Executive Director Janice served in a variety of roles within the Department of State, including work in the A Front Office (A/FO) as a Senior Advisor overseeing the Congressional and public affairs portfolio. She previously worked for the Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics as both a budget analyst and a Senior Advisor, along with various positions in the private sector.
Janice earned a MBA from the University of Maryland and a BS in Economics and Business from Tulane University.