Katherine Ziesing | Canberra
Once again, Defence and Industry gathered in Canberra this week for the Defence plus Industry conference. Building on the success of the rebooted event from last year, this year also incorporated the Essington Lewis Awards, where the Department of Defence partnered with ADM to recognise excellence in collaboration between CASG teams and industry.
The TED style format worked well with plenty of time for Q&A from a wide range of speakers. The standout presentation this year was from managing director of EM Solutions, Dr Rowan Gilmore who spoke on the SME experience in Defence, drawing on his experience in adjacent industries.
He made the interesting observation that the NBN program that has cost Australian tax payers $78 billion has no version of Australian Industry Capability (AIC).
“Imagine Defence spend $78 billion and Australian companies had nothing to show for it,” Dr Gilmore said to the 1,200 delegates. “There would be a massive outcry but this has flown under the radar for many people. Digging trenches for the NBN does not count as AIC.”
The quote of the day also goes to Dr Gilmore: “Risk is used as a cop out, and is over-used in Defence compared to other industries when dealing with SMEs”.
A close second came from CASG’s chief engineer Luke Brown when it came to culture and relationship management.
“Culture is about how we behave when things go wrong.”
A host of CASG and Defence officials gave the audience an update on the reform being done under the aegis of the First Principles Review two years in and associated internal restructuring. Clive Billiald of Bechtel explained how the Smart Buyer program is bedding down; he also covered the formation of Centres of Expertise and how work on the Systems Program Offices (SPOs) is progressing.
CASG Deputy Secretary Kim Gillis provided more detail on how the SPO audit program is performing, saying that three-year process will touch about 80 per cent of the SPOs in his organisation.
“This is about right-sizing,” he said. “Some SPOs have already undergone a reform process and don’t need to be re-examined but we are making sure that we’re making the right changes for the right reasons. And right-sizing will be an ongoing process.”
The role of partnering and collaboration was high on the agenda as speakers from both sides looked at what is working and what isn’t in this space. There was also an emphasis on the relationship between Primes and SMEs and how they can work together more effectively.
“There are more contractors working on operations than you would think,” RADM Tony Dalton, CASG’s Head Joint Systems Division said in response to a question from the audience on how to balance effectiveness vs efficiency.
“There are some things that need to be done in house, due to the nature of our business, and some things that contractors can do. It’s a constant balancing act based on lessons learned,” Major General David Coghlan, CASG’s Head Land Systems Division said in follow up.
ADM Comment: D+I this year provided ample time for networking, a welcome change to the common conference format. Speakers provided a range of views and were open to robust Q&A sessions, with many staying during the networking breaks to answer follow ups offline. The reboot of D+I is a good format for Defence and Industry, both Primes and SMEs, to come together and work on the trust building and relationship management elements, the foundation of good business.
A selection of images from the awards night is available here.