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NEWS | Dec. 20, 2023

From spreadsheets to dashboards – Tobyhanna data analysts leading charge toward data visualization

By Mr. Nicolo Manzo and Ms Danielle Weinschenk

Tobyhanna Army Depot (TYAD) is continuing modernization efforts through the expansion of business intelligence. As a direct result of this greater commitment to data visualization, TYAD has positioned itself well to make data-driven decisions and thrive in the ever-evolving Organic Industrial Base.

Formed in 2022, the depot’s Business Intelligence Team (BIT) strives to provide timely and accurate data to leadership for better decision-making. Since inception, the BIT has worked to simplify data collection, implement electronic production control boards, and develop a culture that focuses on data-driven operations.

The establishment of the TYAD BIT has spawned another invaluable component of the TYAD business intelligence community. For one year, several of Team Tobyhanna’s brightest minds in data analysis have met weekly to share ideas and collaborate with their fellow data analysts and other members of Team Tobyhanna who are connected to the mission.

At this weekly meeting, described by leadership as a “safe place for smart people to come together,” members of the BIT propose a topic and data analysts have an opportunity to present something they have created using one of the several data visualization tools at their disposal. Through these presentations, attendees learn from their teammates and, in turn, offer feedback on their creations.

BIT member Joseph Bilotta says the community was born out of necessity.

“When the BIT was first developed, our Chief, Matthew Raup, realized that we had a lot of people operating in functional silos – analysts working independently throughout depot organizations but not really communicating or sharing their processes. He suggested we start the group to help our analysts connect and become more self-sufficient.”

The meeting’s benefits to TYAD are many. Given the breadth of the work done at TYAD, the data visualization that will best tell the story of a certain data set will vary greatly across directorates and divisions. The collaborative approach to the meeting allows analysts to see the myriad ways in which spreadsheet data can be transformed into an engaging report that will better inform organizational decisions.

Management Analyst Beth Hineline said having analysts from across the depot at the meeting unifies analysts in their goal of advancing the TYAD mission.

“Every analyst’s role is different depending on their area. Therefore, having this meeting allows us to share what we are looking into or having problems with and getting the perspective of some analysts that are pulling the same data and might spark an idea. The whole purpose of the meetings is to have a safe space to discuss the different areas that everyone analyzes to try and get more centralized and cohesive data,” said Hineline, who works in the Production Engineering Directorate.

Resource Management Analyst Kimberly Appel said the centralized data is imperative to the success of analysts by giving them the adequate time to comprehensively analyze it.

“We would spend more time pulling the data and manipulating the data that by the time of the meeting, we didn't have time to analyze the data. Now we can look at the data and see what's going on well before crunch time.”

Lead Management Analyst Jennipher Cannan is a newer analyst on the depot and said the collaborative approach to the meetings has helped her make new connections and better understand the full scope of operations of TYAD.

“The biggest thing I’ve gotten out of the meetings has been a new track for communication as well as people that I could reach out to.”

Cannan, who works in the Resource Management Directorate, reiterated Bilotta’s sentiment that the meeting is helping to break down silos and encourage organization-wide collaboration.

“Because of how the depot is structured, we have the people that we work with every single day, but we don't always know what other people are doing that may provide a different insight into what we're doing. We kind of all work in many silos. But this meeting has allowed me to be able to reach out to others that I wouldn't have typically reached out to and provided a springboard to have those type of conversations,” said Cannan.

TYAD Strategic Initiatives Office Management Analyst Larissa Warholic regularly attends the meetings. She said the weekly meeting is a valuable resource through which members of the data analyst community have found the empowerment to elevate their abilities.

“The analyst community as a whole has really stepped up its game through these meetings,” said Warholic, adding that analysts are transforming data in an impactful way thanks to greater accessibility to software and knowledge.

“Now that analysts are aware that these tools are available for them to use, they are really starting to create things they may not have known they could. They are taking data and turning it into a visualization that tells a compelling story.”

This accessibility has unlocked the full potentials of analysts by giving them the freedom of expression to create a report tailored to their specific area.

Warholic has seen an increase in efficiency as a direct result of the progress made in data visualization.

Warholic said the Strategic Initiatives Office is collecting more complete data that better explains where the depot’s time is best spent when acquiring workload. Warholic pointed towards determining which conferences offer the greatest return on investment as one instance of how data visualization has enabled TYAD to make data-driven decisions.

“I came into the Strategic Initiatives Office in October 2022 and our data wasn’t really painting a picture or telling a story. Grabbing this data and pulling it into a dashboard and looking at it as a whole is definitely helping my office make better decisions for the future of Tobyhanna. We’re making data-driven decisions, and that’s the ultimate goal – to continue cleaning up our data and not just basing decisions on opinion or perspective.”

Gary Roberts, chief of the Production Management Directorate’s Enterprise Resource Planning and Support Division, praised TYAD’s analyst community for their proactive, innovative creations.

“It is the analysts themselves that have come up with the tools that they're presenting. They’ve come up with things out of their own mind, their own creativity and their own energy that have value. I can't stress enough the great value and products that are coming from our analyst pool. They are learning from one another, and they are a closer community,” said Roberts.

The group’s influence now extends beyond the gates of Tobyhanna Army Depot, according to Corum.

“Not only have we had other Army organizations present to the group to share knowledge, we now have regular participation from analysts at CECOM and the Joint Munitions Command – creating a feedback loop across the Army’s analyst community,” she said.

Raup noted that the working group is also highly useful to individuals who perform analytical functions in their role – but aren’t full-time analysts. The community allows these individuals to learn from more seasoned professionals in a low-stakes environment, he said.

Raup also lauded the working group for the secondary impacts it has for depot leaders.

“It [the working group] provides Tobyhanna leadership with a more consistent data analytics environment by having analysts working together and leveraging the work that others in the group are doing,” he said.

Business intelligence and data analytics directly aligns with Tobyhanna’s long-range strategic plan, TOBY2035, which has four focus areas: Investing in Our People, C5ISR Readiness, Shape the Future and Strategic Communications. TOBY2035 aims to posture the depot for success in the coming years as the Department of Defense's premier worldwide C5ISR readiness provider.

Heather Fiedler is TYAD’s Organizational Development Specialist and heads up the TOBY2035 initiative. She noted that the use of business intelligence supports organizational transparency and enables cross-collaboration across the organization.

“Business intelligence also benefits Tobyhanna as it empowers users to use real-time reporting tools,” she added.

Tobyhanna Army Depot is a recognized leader in providing world-class logistics support for command, control, communications, computers, cyber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C5ISR) systems across the Department of Defense. Tobyhanna’s Corporate Philosophy, dedicated work force and electronics expertise ensure the depot is the Joint C5ISR provider of choice for all branches of the Armed Forces and industry partners.

Tobyhanna’s unparalleled capabilities include full-spectrum logistics support for sustainment, overhaul and repair, fabrication and manufacturing, engineering design and development, systems integration, post production software support, technology insertion, modification, foreign military sales and global field support to our joint warfighters.

About 3,100 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania. Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command. Headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, the command’s mission is to empower the Soldier with winning C5ISR capabilities.