PODCAST | Winning Hearts and Minds Is Critical for Enterprise Data Management — US Department of Energy CDO

PODCAST | Winning Hearts and Minds Is Critical for Enterprise Data Management — US Department of Energy CDO

Rob King, Chief Data Officer of the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE), speaks with Adita Karkera, Chief Data Officer for Government and Public Services at Deloitte, in a video interview about how CDOs must position policies to treat data as a strategic asset, identify and elevate use cases that do not reinvent the wheel, the “catalog of catalogs” approach, navigating challenges as a CDO, the goal of the DoE CDO Council, and association with Women in Data.

The DOE is an executive department of the U.S. Federal Government that oversees the U.S. national energy policy and production, the research and development of nuclear power, the military's nuclear weapons program, nuclear reactor production for the U.S. Navy, energy-related research, and energy conservation.

CDOs must understand that building a program in a complex environment takes a lot of patience, says King. At DoE, he strives to ensure that 50+ lab sites and programs grasp the principles, policies, and processes needed to treat data as a strategic asset and elevate it as a transformative agent.

To do that, King recommends getting senior leaders and CDOs appointed to the major labs and sites. This would help the labs charter the governance boards, identify high-value data assets, and catalog data in a way that increases awareness around data assets, he affirms.

King notes that as the labs mature their AI solutions, they must be able to understand the intersection between data, data catalogs, and AI use cases and then curate them in an integrated capacity. 

Once the labs and sites start getting foundational capabilities, he suggests moving back to ontology by integrating and sharing data across various levels, from complex to domain.

Next, King wishes to identify use cases that can demonstrate the maturity and proof of concepts to show how the proposed approach can operate and how data can be widely integrated. He affirms that there are existing use cases that are being worked on by thought leaders within the department. The goal is to elevate the existing efforts without reinventing the wheel.

Speaking of quick wins on the horizon, King mentions addressing the lack of centralized data inventories. A key facet of the Evidence Act and Federal Data Strategies is having defined data inventories, and that starts with data catalogs, he adds.

In continuation, King states that some of the DoE data lab sites, security sites, and program areas have a catalog, but it is not positioned enterprise-wide. Further, many stakeholders are yet to make progress with positioning a data catalog.

Therefore, the DoE is proposing to take a “catalog of catalogs” approach, with a focus on centralizing the metadata and information about critical data assets. Also, this approach would ensure that the foundational AI models are appropriately inventoried.

When asked about navigating challenges at DoE as a CDO, King reveals that his challenges are mostly similar to what every first and second-generation CDO faces. Speaking of unique challenges, he points out the highly federated and distributed nature of work.

Since inception, the missions have been compartmentalized, and CDOs have been looking for ways to integrate data to share it better, says King. Although there are opportunities now to insert the CDO function into digital transformation efforts, he adds.

Moreover, when it comes to building a new program in a resource-constrained environment, it becomes challenging for CDOs to pick the right use cases and PoCs to show value. Especially while evolving and working with that distributed environment.

Despite the challenges, King feels positive about the DoE, as it is an organization with massive intellectual curiosity and a recognition of data as a transformative agent. He applauds the curiosity for science and research and the consideration of data as the lifeblood within that, in addition to the stakeholders’ interest in comprehending data.

Moving forward, King sheds light on the CDO Council, mentioning Kirsten Dalboe, a long-time friend and colleague who chairs the CDO Council, and himself as the Vice Chair. Together, he and Dalboe, with their deep and diverse experiences and complementary skill sets, have a lot to share.

Reflecting on lessons learned from the successful CDO and enterprise data management programs, he plans to formalize and share those across the 95 agencies that comprise the CDOC.

Doing this would lead agencies to build some common terminology and lexicons and empower CDOs to create that community of practice, facilitating shared learning.

Thus, King refers to himself and Dalboe as accelerators in the process who think about strategic communications, change management, and defining value propositions. He asserts that in a relatively young function like enterprise data management, winning hearts and minds is critical.

Furthermore, brand building and marketing are key to effective change management in this domain, says King. Therefore, he and Dalboe have collaborated to reshape the priorities of CDOC, including the intersection of AI and data, while creating knowledge management tools and leveraging data as a broker within agencies.

Highlighting his association with Women in Data, King states that CDOs must recognize that they are just conduits of great things going on within organizations. He maintains that it's not about the data but the solutions enabled through data and analytic products.

With that, one needs to understand that diversity is key, and it boils down to being open to everyone who is interested or is playing a role. King mentions that Women in Data has both federal and DC chapters, and he is an ally. He supports and encourages women in his circle to attend them as it would give them a voice in enterprise data management.

Concluding, King stresses that it is about creating an environment where everyone feels empowered to have a voice and everyone feels heard.

CDO Magazine appreciates Rob King for sharing his insights with our global community.

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