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​IP Australia's plan to fix the 'spaghettification' of its data

The government entity is five months into its business intelligence and analytics project to make data an asset, looking to a future where it can share data with global trademark agencies.

IP Australia has developed a project aimed at making data an asset, looking towards a future where it can share information on trademarks and the like with its international counterparts.

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Falling under the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, IP Australia administers intellectual property rights and legislation relating to patents, trademarks, registered designs, and plant breeder's rights in Australia.

The agency was stood up in 1904 as the Australian Patent Office, which according to IP Australia chief data officer Kevin Jeffrey means his organisation boasts data spanning more than a century.

It isn't just the 100,000-plus applications for the protection of IP rights within Australia the organisation receives per year, but it also shares data with the rest of the world, Jeffrey told the AWS Public Sector Summit in Canberra on Wednesday.

"Data comes from the rest of the world and then we on-share that data with the rest of the world as part of the business process. Patent applications when they come from overseas into Australia bring a lot of data with them ... there is quite a lot of applications now increasingly using our data," he explained.

Of concern to Jeffrey is that a chief finance officer knows exactly where the money is and who is allowed to spend it, but that as chief data officer he said it's hard for him to know where all the data is, let alone who is using it for what.

"As chief data officer I want to make sure I can find my data, I can value it, and I can get it shared and used in a better way," he said.

"I want to get rid of this proliferation, spaghettification of data ... data spaghetti that's been built up over the years."

In attempt to fix this, IP Australia five months ago embarked on a business intelligence and analytics project to make data an asset by both increasing the value of the data it has and making more use of it.

"One of the challenges -- and this is a reasonably common challenge -- is we've built a range of useful applications, both in collecting data better, using specific datasets better, enabling our new data science teams, our reporting teams, or our analysis teams to do better work with data, but what they tend to do is do it in an ad-hoc way," Jeffrey explained.

"They don't have an environment that can handle the speed of change that a data scientist needs -- you're up against the tools or the data it seems."

He said his data-focused staff require a way to get to the analytics they need, with the appropriate tools, access to the right data, and a platform that's powerful enough to allow them to do it.

"The data is growing at the same time," he added.

Jeffrey explained that what IP Australia is now aiming to do is build on the types of infrastructure that it can get access to in order to build out the project.

"One of the keys to it is it's enterprise-wide, we wanted to get away from analytics teams building their own things ... it really is a cultural shift. I think probably what I underestimated there is the number of cultural shifts we're trying to do at once," he continued.

"The cultural shift to make data an asset, the cultural shift to move to the cloud, and the cultural shift to move to that rapid processing and continuous integration that is enabling these sorts of practices that really the analytics people need."

Jeffrey said his organisation realised while developing the roadmap that the project had to be done in an agile way.

"We've done agile delivery in a fairly careful way, we have key partners carrying risk with us, we have a set of principles that mean we don't actually divert from the path too far," he explained.

"It is working. We are five months in, we're doing monthly sprints. We started out with three-monthly release cycles ... we released the first one after three months, with a datalake available to be filled with a pipeline into that datalake with a set of labs able to be used straight up. What we then realised because we'd started to build pipelines, we had to get quicker, so we changed it straight after to monthly releases."

With trademarks awarded in Australia needing to be shared globally, Jeffrey has vision of his platform being used by IP Australia's international partners.

"We've developed the first proof of concept of an international trademarks linking system. It's the first of its kind that allows analytics for trademarks and trademark data across all trademarks linked across the world,' he explained.

"We've got trademarks data from five agencies around the world. We've joined it up and you can now follow where a company has taken a trademark around the world, which you could never do before, and we're aiming to shortly allow those agencies to be able to come in and do that once we've solved all the challenges."

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