Defence publishes first data strategy, seeks inaugural ‘data integration’ chief

Defence Data Strategy 2021

The Department of Defence (DoD) will establish a new data division, to be headed by a designated chief data integration officer, as part of a new strategy aimed at uplifting Defence’s data maturity.

Launching the Department’s inaugural Defence Data Strategy 2021-2023, Assistant Minister for Defence Andrew Hastie said that Australia’s capacity to remain competitive hinged on the Department “being a leader in operationalising data at scale and speed”.

The need for a “more disciplined and deliberate” approach to using data was earmarked as a key priority in Defence’s Lead the Way: Transformation Strategy 2020, published last December.

Echoing the plan’s focus, Hastie said that data was the “lifeblood” of emerging war-fighting technologies, such as automated systems and artificial intelligence, which today underpin Australia’s strategic and operational capabilities.

“If we are to benefit from those technologies, we need to rapidly lift our data maturity,” Hastie said.

Overhauling governance, introducing new leadership

As part of the new strategy, the Department will implement 27 initiatives across five pillars – govern, trust, discover, use, and share – covering all digitised data, both structured and unstructured.

A new Data Division will be created, headed by a designated chief data integration officer (to be appointed by Q4 2021) who will oversee the implementation of these initiatives, which are all aimed at uplifting Defence’s wholesale data management and literacy.

Defence’s new data integration chief (CDIO), who is also accountable for enterprise data management, will report into the “diarchy” – that is, Defence’s associate secretary Katherine Jones and vice chief of the Defence Force Vice Admiral David Johnston AO.

Meanwhile, supporting functions in data governance, assurance, security, policy standards, professionalisation, literacy, analytics, and visualisation will be stood up under the CDIO’s office.

Each function will have teams that can be deployed across the organisation to support data management requirements.

To promote greater cohesion, Defence will further adopt a “federated data governance model”, enabling the CDIO to develop and release enterprise-wide guidance which will be implemented at Group and Service level by appointed “data custodians”.

As part of this model, a data management board will be established, bringing together “senior data custodians” consisting of Senior Executive Service (SES) representatives, a Band 2 function, and ADF Two Star representatives.

With the new leadership structure, Defence intends to overcome its current “fragmented” approach to data management, which, the Department said, has limited not only its capacity to access useful data but also its ability to discern its usefulness to provide a “reliable evidence base for decisions.”

“This has unfortunately led to large volumes of data being collected that may be of negligible value, cannot be reused, is often duplicated and is stored insecurely,” the strategy said.

A more trustworthy data operating model

The CDIO will also be responsible for developing a data operating model, which includes baselining the current data ecosystem and establishing a target future state, creating a “pragmatic roadmap” to transition between them.

Part of this involves improving trust in Defence’s stored data, which will see whole-of-enterprise quality standards established for metadata, as well as for creating, managing, and remediating data assets.

The Department will further determine which data sets need to be assured to what level, and include a quality rating (gold, silver, bronze) that is visible on dashboards and reports.

Meanwhile, to improve access to data, dashboards and visualisations for personnel, an enterprise-wide data catalogue will be established and maintained. In addition, the Department will review the search functionality within the Defence intranet and information systems.

“Risk-based data protection” will also be emphasised as part of the new strategy, with a Data Security Policy delivered to outlines procedures for secure and ethical use of the Department’s data holdings.

With Hastie acknowledging that the “data challenge is ultimately solved by people”, Defence’s new strategy will see a sharp focus on training and literacy as well; foundational data literacy, business intelligence and analytics training will be given to personnel, including mandatory training.

Opportunities will exist in a “data training continuum” to help staff upskill through various means – from introductory courses and micro credentialling through to secondments – depending on an individual’s career goals.

Finally, the Department aims to create “Data Job Families” and explore more data-specific career streams and lateral pathways for Defence personnel to transition to data-focused roles, with an initial focus on information warfare and cyber.

The Defence Data Strategy 2021-2023 can be viewed here.