Big Data Opportunity at NOAA
March 21, 2014 1 Comment
The Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is requesting information from industry to decide whether it can and should move its voluminous data holdings to the cloud with easy access to computing, storage, and advanced analytical capabilities.
The agency posted the RFI on February 21 and responses are due by 5 p.m. (EST) on March 31. The RFI goes on to elaborate that much of NOAA’s data is hosted on public servers or websites and they have had great difficulty integrating the data. This has impeded their ability to improve their analyses and beef up their decision making by limiting the number of sources or type of data that can be used to make inferences.
Data is in an integral part of NOAA’s mission as it is tasked with understanding and predicting changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts and sharing the data they collect with other agencies and organizations. NOAA’s parent agency, the Department of Commerce, has requested just shy of $310M for data management for FY2015. This number is up about $20M from FY2013 and FY2014, where Commerce saw roughly $290M for each year across general purpose data and statistics, data integrity and privacy management, and data warehouse funding areas. Data management, data integration, and business intelligence and analytics are major core requirements for NOAA and the rest of Commerce.
As I mentioned in my previous post, big data projects, like the one NOAA may pursue pending the outcome of the RFI, tend to be complex undertakings that can fail due to a lack of commitment. Speaking at the AFFIRM event “Lessons Learned: Delivering on Complex IT Projects in Government” on March 13, Kirit Amin, Deputy CIO and CTO for the Department of Commerce, stated that the biggest factors that determine the success of a complex IT project are the people, processes, and tools behind it. Other speakers echoed Amin’s sentiments and stressed getting the appropriate leadership and end users fully engaged throughout the lifecycle of the project to ensure its success and finding people that are passionate about the project are critical factors as well. Amin left the audience with a useful mnemonic that he uses to keep his projects on track, GEAR: set a Goal, get Engaged, be Accountable, produce Results.
By breaking up complex projects into a series of solvable problems, it is more likely that you will get IT leaders, program managers, and end users committed and engaged for the duration of the project because the task at hand will seem that much less daunting. Cloud migrations, data integration of massive databases, and analytical capabilities can all seem like too much to handle at once, but if you have technologies that can break these big endeavors down to a manageable size IT leaders at NOAA and other federal agencies are prone to be more receptive. Be sure to talk about how your product can enable the agency’s mission better and bring expertise, not just a solution, to the table.