Moving HLT from research to deployment is an uncertain journey requiring a combination of technology, people, and policy elements to come together in just the right way at the right time. While some of these elements are outside the control of researchers, there are steps we can inculcate in this community to guide the journey and increase the chances of success. In this talk, I will outline the VISTA Research office approach to navigating the path from research to deployment. Fundamental to all the phases of this process – from initial exploration to continual improvement of deployed systems – is the need for relevant, timely data with good, meaningful annotations. I will conclude with a brief discussion on why data and annotations are essential, where they are used, and how they can be obtained.