Defence to create data division, appoint data integration chief

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Defence to create data division, appoint data integration chief

As part of new strategy.

The Department of Defence will create a new data division and appoint a chief data integration officer as part of a new strategy aimed at uplifting its data maturity.

Assistant Defence minister Andrew Hastie launched the inaugural data strategy [pdf] during a virtual event with Defence employees on Wednesday.

The need for Defence to become far more “disciplined” in its approach to how data is collected, stored and used was first flagged in last year’s transformation plan.

The plan recognised the “criticality of data” in decision making, particularly for creating strategic and operational advantage in a changing security environment.

“Whether we like it or not, we are joined in an online contest to preserve our digital sovereignty as a country,” Hastie said on Wednesday.

“Therefore lifting Defence’s data maturity across the organisation will position us to achieve a strategic advantage over our adversaries.”

Hastie said that remaining competitive with other nation states would depend on “trusted and secure” data and Defence’s ability to operationalise that data “at speed and scale”.

“We know that information and data underpins all effective military operations and decision-making,” he said.

“Good data is the life blood of game-changing warfighting technologies, such as automated systems and artificial intelligence.

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

New leadership

Spanning the next two years, the strategy outlines 27 initiatives across five pillars (govern, trust, discover, use and share) that cover all structured and unstructured data in Defence.

The 27 initiatives place a heavy emphasis on embedding a “strong data culture” across the organisation by uplifting data management and improving data literacy.

Central to this is the creation of the CDIO role to take on enterprise data management and lead the implementation of the data strategy initiatives.

The CDIO will report directly to "the diarchy"– Defence Force chief Angus Campbell and Defence secretary Greg Moriarty – and the department’s enterprise committees.

A number of supporting functions for data governance, assurance, security, standards, literacy and analytics will also be created to support the CDIO and the new data division.

Each function will include teams that can be deployed across Defence to support data management requirements as they arise.

A Defence data management board consisting of senior executive service (SES) band two and ADF two star representatives will also be established.

Senior executives on the board will be supported by data custodians at the SES one/one star and executive level two/O6 (colonel) levels.

The CIDO and board will seek to overcome the "fragmented" approach to data management that has emerged in the "absence of dedicated enterprise-level leadership and governance".

"The absence of a Defence-wide approach to data management and sharing has limited our capacity to know what data we hold, where it is, how to access it and whether it is of sufficient quality to provide a reliable evidence base for decisions," the strategy said.

"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."

Data operating model

The CDIO will be instrumental in developing a ‘Defence data operating model’, which will involve baselining the current data ecosystem and creating a roadmap to transition to a future state.

Defence also plans to establish “enterprise-wide data quality standards”, including for metadata and remediating data assets, and to develop guidelines for different types of datasets to improve trust.

As part of this, the department will determine which “datasets need to be assured to what level” and ensure the quality rating is visible on dashboard and reports so the level of assurance is known.

New data discovery tools in the form of an enterprise-wide data catalogue and enterprise-level data integration platform will also be created to enable personnel to locate data, dashboards and visualisations.

Defence will similarly review the search functionality of its existing systems and intranet to improve how personnel go about accessing information, and will take a stocktake of other data capabilities and tools.

It will also create an ethical use of data policy that provides a framework to help personnel manage sensitive data assets.

Training and literacy

Training also features heavily in the strategy, with Defence planning to implement mandatory foundational data literacy training for both uniformed and public service personnel.

The training will provide personnel with “baseline data skills, including data hygiene, security, privacy and ethical use of data”.

But the strategy also indicates this will be a “continuum” that will range from introductory courses, microcredentialing and advanced degrees, as well as domestic and international secondments.

Defence will also look to develop data specialist career streams for the ADF focusing on information warfare and cyber, and establish “job families” for data analysts, data scientists and data engineers.

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