Defence CIO: Faster, faster, our IT is obsolete

Defence has been too disorganised to deliver current technology to staff. Defence CIO Greg Farr hopes to turn the department around with stronger leadership.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer on

The Department of Defence has been delivering obselete technology to its staff, according to Defence CIO Greg Farr -- but he hopes to turn the department around with stronger leadership.

Technological change has moved faster than Defence has been able to handle, resulting in staff at times being issued with out-of-date technology, the recently appointed CIO told ZDNet.com.au.

"Sometimes we have delivered obsolete technology. By the time it goes into production there is new technology available," he said.

"Cycle times and refresh times are getting shorter and shorter. We need to think about how we buy and develop solutions for Defence people because we have to get our product to market a lot quicker than we do at the moment," he said.

Being delivered redundant technology shouldn't be a surprise to government staff, according to Farr -- all agencies have struggled to keep up with faster technology cycles. Nevertheless, Defence's lack of strong ICT leadership has led to haphazard decision making and a "dis-integrated" environment, he added, echoing the findings of last year's Defence Management Review, an audit initiated by the Minister of Defence.

"There hasn't been an overarching integrated architecture that people have been working towards," said Farr.

"There hasn't been a road map so that when people working in the ICT space can look back at it as a reference to ensure that we stay aligned. People, by necessity, have had to do their own architecture and sometimes that didn't match up."

In response, Farr will appoint a chief technology officer (CTO) for Defence who will report directly to the CIO. The CTO will oversee the department's architecture and strategy, responsibilities previously carried out by Defence's CIO Group -- formerly led by ex-CIO Air Vice Marshal John Monaghan until he resigned from the post in March last year.

"The CIO Group ... didn't report directly to the CIO and probably lacked the organisational clout and also commonality of practice across the ICT environment," said Farr.

"When I came to Defence I was surprised that there was no head of architecture and strategy reporting directly to me."

"I'm looking to appoint a CTO who will have that authority and will start developing frameworks and guidance for people to develop their IT systems. That's going to be very important as we develop our ICT strategy."

The framework for the ICT strategy will be ready within a month, however, Farr expects the details to take longer. It will focus on segmenting Defence's user base to help gain a clear understanding of its requirements and to determine Defence's ability to operate in a "high tempo environment".

Farr said he is also focused on removing the "irritants" of Defence's IT operations, addressing criticisms aired in the Defence Management Review, such as Defence's "ongoing inability to adequately service standard requests such as network access, password resets and drive access".

"In a sense, these are minor things in their own right, but there are a number of them that we want to fix up. This is an opportunity to get some of the irritants off our back," said Farr.

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