dashboard (NicoElNino/Shutterstock.com)

USDA plans agencywide dashboards

With 29 agencies and staff offices, the Department of Agriculture has its data spread across a vast array of mission areas. Now though, the USDA is rolling out executive-view dashboards to break down departmental siloes.

The CXO dashboards will have seven administrative functions: human resources, IT, finance, property, procurement, security and operations. An eighth dashboard for the secretary will display information on the USDA’s strategic goals, objectives and key performance indicators.

“The intent of the dashboards is leverage cross-agency priority goals at the federal level,” Ted Kaouk, chief of staff for the USDA’s Office of the CIO, told GCN after his presentation at an Aug. 2 Tableau conference. 

One of the goals is to improve access to information for decision-making to help agency leadership better execute programs.  The use of data visualizations will help leaders quickly understand issues in context, filter large datasets for the information they need and monitor key metrics consistently, Kaouk said in blog post.

Because of the leadership commitment to the CXO dashboard project through the performance improvement council, Kaouk said the USDA was able to gain access to an “unprecedented amount of data.”

The USDA is piloting the dashboards in its human resources, IT and finance components, working in 10-week sprints to get the first three dashboards operational.  The others will come online by the end of the current fiscal year.

All of the information is also going to be put into a data lake to allow for collaboration and analysis across different administrative functions.  “The benefit of having the data lake is that we are building automated connections between the underlying systems,” Kaouk said. “We can [explore trends and historical information] while keeping the dashboards updated in an automated way to reduce the amount of work that it takes to keep it updated.”

The department is also interested in using best practices from the private sector, like predictive modeling, to track specific issues such as attrition. “We also want to create an environment where we can do lots of kinds of analysis and create a strategic asset with the dashboards themselves.”

“With attrition, we can look at information on performance, education, demographics [and predict] where the risk areas might be,” Kaouk said.  “This is pretty common in the private sector, and we want to leverage these type of things in the federal government.”

The work with the CXO dashboards is designed to help USDA support its ongoing work on the centers of excellence and its overall goals for IT modernization.

Editor's note: This article was updated on Aug. 7 to clarify the role of USDA's data lake and the department's plans beyond the dashboards. 

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for GCN, covering cloud, cybersecurity and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Before joining GCN, Friedman was a reporter for Gambling Compliance, where she covered state issues related to casinos, lotteries and fantasy sports. She has also written for Communications Daily and Washington Internet Daily on state telecom and cloud computing. Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at sfriedman@gcn.com or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

Click here for previous articles by Friedman.


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Reader Comments

Tue, Aug 7, 2018 mike m

Is a company-wide dashboard still considered a best business practice? I thought it was now viewed as a management distraction from identifying actual problems (you know the Deming stuff--measuring the wrong process doesn't solve your problem).

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