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Making Defence a ‘smarter buyer’

22 August 2019

5 minute read

Offer    Giles

Prof. Ofer Zwikael and Prof. Giles Hirst (L-R) | Photo: CBE 

In order to facilitate evidence based decision making, both in Defence acquisition and in complex security situations, a research team from the Australian National University (ANU) has teamed up with the Department of Defence. 

The new research partnership has been established between scholars from the ANU College of Business and Economics (CBE) and Defence Science & Technology Group (DST), which is Defence’s science and technology arm. 

The partnership will strengthen Defence’s Force Design approaches. Simply put, this research collaboration will more accurately identify which projects Defence should initiate, their corresponding investment and how intended benefits from these projects will enhance the future of Australia’s defence forces. 

ANU researchers will bring the best practice methodologies and apply them in Defence’s settings. The partnership is a way of realising the benefits from projects and programs to enable Defence, both its leaders and resources, to optimise their return on investments. 

The new collaboration is part of the Modelling Complex Warfighting Strategic Research Investment (MCW SRI) that aims to revolutionise how Defence undertakes operations analysis to handle the interaction of multiple complex factors for design and employment of the force. 

The selection of projects by Defence had earlier revealed a few gaps between its goals and its capabilities.

ANU and the Commonwealth are jointly investing $1.5M in this three-year long collaborative research project, which will be partly hosted at the Research School of Management at CBE, and at the Joint and Operations Analysis Division at DST. 

The origins of the collaboration between ANU and DST can be traced back to a Force Design Conference organised by Defence in November 2017. Professor Ofer Zwikael from ANU along with DST researchers had co-presented their initial ideas on how scientific principles from the project management discipline can be applied to enhance Defence’s Force Design approaches.  

Professor Ofer Zwikael, who is the leading academic on this research partnership and the Director of the Research School of Management at CBE, had then identified key opportunities for improvement in Defence’s Capability Life Cycle Model – a framework that guides the selection of potential capabilities for the Australian Defence Force. 

“The selection of projects by Defence had earlier revealed a few gaps between the high strategic goals and investments in capabilities. Since that event, there has been a rigorous exchange of ideas between the University and Defence that has shaped the current research collaboration in line with the government’s strategic goals as outlined in the Defence White Paper,” Professor Zwikael added.

The ANU research team is comprised of Professor Zwikael, who offers his expertise on project management and Professor Giles Hirst, who is a leading researcher in the areas of leadership and organisational networks.  

The purpose is to inform proactive and strategic investments for the force's future.

According to Professor Hirst, the emphasis of the partnership was also to put the spotlight on strategic leadership in managing complex issues. 

“The purpose of partnering with Defence is to inform proactive and strategic investments in the infrastructure and equipment required for the force’s future. The research collaboration is to enhance evidence based decision making and leadership expertise to further inform Defence’s planning and project management,” Professor Hirst said.   

According to the agreement between ANU and DST, the prime objectives can be summarised into building on the current Force Design process to improve the efficiency of Defence’s decision making.  

 “The Defence Capability Life Cycle will enable Defence to become a ‘smart buyer’, ‘outcome oriented’, ‘transparent’ and ‘strategic centred’ organisation with a ‘strong performance management culture’ to support ‘end-to-end capability development’,” the newly signed agreement reads, outlining the objectives of the partnership. 

While there are several research collaborations within MCW SRI focusing to enhance ‘Force effectiveness’, Professor Zwikael points out that improving the current Force Design process is potentially the most vital element. This process entails identifying the gaps in future force’s structures and opportunities, and consequently, measuring them to improve the entire selection process of the acquisition portfolios for Defence investment. 

To find out more about this new research partnership contact Professor Ofer Zwikael and Professor Giles Hirst.

Find out how you can collaborate with the ANU College of Business and Economics

Updated:   11 February 2020 / Responsible Officer:  CBE Communications and Outreach / Page Contact:  College Web Team