Department of Defence CIO plays salesman to digital transformation strategy

Department of Defence CIO Peter Lawrence said that he continues to build relationships with stakeholders to ensure he has full support in executing the department's digital transformation strategy.

As the Australian Department of Defence continues to undergo an internal digital transformation, the department's chief information officer Peter Lawrence said part of the challenge has been convincing stakeholders that the transformation will be able to deliver on the outcomes it has promised.

Referring to himself as feeling somewhat like a "chief sales officer", Lawrence explained during the Gartner Symposium ITxpo 2015 on Monday that during the early stages of beginning the digital transformation program, he had to build the trust of 20 key stakeholders -- both internal and external.

"I figured out who was a supporter, who was on the defence, and who wasn't a supporter. For each of those people, I wrote down my strategy of ways to manage them, so to shift those that were not supporters to at least sit on the fence, and shift those who sat on the fence to being supporters," he said.

Lawrence added that part of the relationship building process has been about dealing with the changes in defence ministers, which has been rotated three times over the last two years, with the most recent appointment being Marise Payne under Australia's new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's cabinet shuffle.

"They all come with different points of view. It's about understanding what they're interested in and part of that is just to understand what do they want from the relationship, what's important for them, how to make sure you meet those needs," he said.

Key to Lawrence's approach to ensure that he has the support of his stakeholders has been about having a plan.

"As long as you've got a plan and you understand what you're doing, most of the time they will accept what you're doing. I think it's when you can't explain what you're doing or you don't have a document to show what you're doing that's when you're exposed," he said.

"A lot of it then comes down to how do you convince the regulators that you've got a plan and understand what you're doing."

In August, Lawrence outlined that under the digital transformation strategy, the department will work around improving information management, condensing the existing 300 finance systems into one, and deliver capabilities through a more bite-sized, jigsaw-style modular approach.

The First Principles Review of the Department of Defence in April made 76 recommendations, including suggesting that the department would need to improve structures, processes, and systems.

Disclosure: Aimee Chanthadavong travelled to Gartner Symposium ITxpo 2015 with Gartner.