51 CS innovates data operations

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Zachariah Lopez
  • 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The 51st Communications Squadron’s data operations team, previously known as knowledge management at Osan, is manned by a newly established career field.

The six core components of data operations include connecting people, learning from experience, improving access to documents, retention of knowledge, creation of best practices and innovation.

“Like many CommBat work centers, data operations operates quietly, programming solutions and creating efficiencies behind the scenes,” said Lt. Col. Michael Newson, 51st CS commander. “There is always a struggle for a wider understanding and appreciation of their innovation and hard work. Despite this, they continue to invest in Osan today for tomorrow…their work vastly improves processes for all future Airmen who come to this installation.”

Data operations is a new field merging knowledge management and software development Airmen with the intent to better imbed automation and innovation into Wings across the Air Force.

The innovative creation of the new career field has enhanced the immersion of data operators into the warfighting front, which wasn’t possible with the previous career fields. By making impactful differences and improvements within workplaces around base, they help the mission in ways that are tangible and meaningful. Due to the career field merge, as data operators, the team has expressed more connectedness to the warfighting front by handling data and finding different ways users can effectively and efficiently retrieve data. Within the previous career fields, they were only managing certain additional duties and by-law programs like records management, publications and forms, and the freedom of information act.

The data operations team has introduced several recent changes that have been streamlining processes, automating tasks that previously required Airmen to manually accomplish and saving man hours. Some of the tasks include making Secret Internet Protocol Router token appointments, migrating records management into a cloud-based service and SharePoint customization features.

Power Automation
The launch of SharePoint Online brought increased innovation into the hands of U.S. Air Force personnel. “Everyone with a U.S. Air Force Non-Secure Internet Protocol Router account can access and create automated tasks previously requiring a manual input, cutting tedious actions from everyday work,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Caleb Yongbanthom, 51st CS data operations noncommissioned officer in-charge.

Team Osan’s data operators have specialized in applying these tools to reduce the time taken in administrative actions, giving manpower back to more mission-focused tasks. The team has been able to better refine these abilities through newly granted access to software like Power Apps.

Though the team is still refining their operations for this software, they have been able to exercise the capability to automatically create SIPR token appointments. Instead of manually inputting time slots into a SharePoint calendar, or taking customer phone calls just to create appointments, they created an automation feature that fills in all potentially available slots in advance.

This invention has saved communications focal point personnel approximately 10 hours of work per week and has doubled token issuance from approximately 440 to over 880 customers per month. According to the team, there are still many capabilities within Power Apps that have yet to be discovered, and they are excited for the future efficiencies ahead.

Electronic Records Management
Another improvement made has been to Osan’s ERM drive. The data operations team migrated the old ERM from on-premises servers into the Pacific Air Force’s cloud-based SharePoint Online service.

They have effectively removed a single point of failure with on-premise servers. By migrating to the cloud, members are no longer vulnerable to losing any essential records if local servers go down. It is now more accessible since personnel will no longer need to rely upon cyber security liaisons to get added to drive specific security groups.

SharePoint Theming Tool
Another project the data operations section is working to release is the SharePoint theming tool.
Currently, users are limited to customizing their SharePoint site by using premade templates. With the SharePoint theming tool, users will be able to individually color specific elements of their page. The theming application will allow members to freely move any element and change it to the color of their choice. This feature allows users a wider range of customization to better tailor their designated pages to meet their intent.

Closing Thoughts
“Innovation can be challenging but holding status quo will easily lead to complacency and failure. There are so many innovative solutions right at our Airmen’s fingertips,” said Newson. “Our data operations Airmen create solutions to problems using a combination of available tools and their imagination, all while
maintaining a positive attitude to execute the mission among the hidden struggles of coding and troubleshooting issues.