(US & Canada) VIDEO | Understand the Goal Before Spending on Technology — US Nuclear Regulatory Commission CIO

David Nelson, Chief Information and Data Officer at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission speaks about the role of the CDO and CIO, investing in data architecture, utilizing cloud services, and investing in technology.
(US & Canada) VIDEO | Understand the Goal Before Spending on Technology — US Nuclear Regulatory Commission CIO

(US and Canada) David Nelson, Chief Information and Data Officer at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, speaks with Bill Sullivan, VP and General Manager of US Federal, in a video interview about the role of the CDO and CIO in healthcare, investing in data architecture, solving the right problems, migrating to the cloud, utilizing cloud services, and understanding the end goal before investing in technology.

At the onset, Nelson emphasizes that he serves two roles - CDO and CIO. He conveys that both roles are integrated into the IT strategic roadmap along with the organizational data strategy. He however acknowledges that data is different from IT, and it is logical to separate how the two components are governed to guard against a potential "push-pull" conflict.

Next, Nelson states that in the healthcare domain, the Chief Data Officer spearheads the efforts to make the data available to the public so it can be used to their advantage and combined with other databases. In parallel, the Chief Information Officer is responsible for ensuring strict adherence to privacy protocols. This means they will need to pay special attention to the anonymization of data and make sure the process is carried out in a carefully structured way.

Further, Nelson explains that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) strives to integrate investments in data architecture. He states that integrating the data strategy into the IT roadmap helps prioritize investments and identify mission needs that demand attention, whether they are related to IT infrastructure or data infrastructure. He stresses solving the right problems.

In continuation, Nelson states that similar to the Department of Energy (DOE) which promotes different types of energy and ensures viable solutions, the NRC uses laboratories such as the Federal Facilities Renewable Energy Collaboration (FFREC). He notes that the agency has high-performance computing to run its models using FedRAMP cloud services.

In addition, Nelson emphasizes the importance of taking advantage of all the resources available from cloud service providers when scaling to meet the needs for running the models. He pivots the focus towards data architecture, stressing what happens to the data that comes out of the models. He notes that it can become a financial question and a performance question, and balancing all these factors is critical in making decisions.

Nelson states that the agency uses multiple cloud service providers and primarily relies on FedRAMP cloud services for its regulatory licensing work. He notes that they are now over 50-60% done in terms of moving the business systems into the cloud, which is more than some other agencies have achieved. Nelson remarks that since joining seven years ago, there has been very little up in the cloud, but they are rapidly progressing according to their cloud smart strategy.

Commenting further, he notes that some of the most difficult systems to comprehend are those that involve sensitive material. Nelson acknowledges that the Department of Defense and other organizations have already utilized the cloud to overcome this hurdle.

Regarding organizational architecture, he maintains that his company primarily uses one cloud service, whereas high-performance computing is run in a different cloud due to it being one of the first things that was transferred to the cloud. According to Nelson, this resulted in a fantastic return from both compute power and security perspectives, as it removed the concerns of inadequate workstations that were not hooked up to the network or updated regularly.

Commenting on KPIs, Nelson remarks that it is critical to consider the application in question and baseline it. Additionally, it is imperative to collaborate with the mission partner to define the desired outcomes, considering availability, speed, response, and network. Simply shifting something to the cloud is not enough to stabilize it, and it can even be counterintuitive in some cases. Therefore, each application needs to be thoroughly considered, with the right engineering and products.

Furthermore, Nelson shares that he enjoys being in a small agency, where he has the opportunity to hold conversations with partners and suggest the technology needed for a mission. He explains that architecture is usually offered by them and that it is important to identify mission needs and enterprise data needs.

Therefore, Nelson stresses the need to fully understand the goal before spending on technology while also checking if the need can be met with a different technology in a better and more efficient way. He mentions that when the agency started, the focus was on the Evidence Act plan and it ascertained the most important questions to develop an evidence-based response.

In conclusion, Nelson emphasizes the significance of understanding what data is present in the data lakes, data marts, and data warehouses, and taking into account how the data is defined and taken care of. He further encourages contemplating whether the same data set can be used to answer different questions within the enterprise.

CDO Magazine appreciates David Nelson for sharing his invaluable insights with our global community.

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