With the funding forecast for Australian Defence likely to exceed $575 billion over the next decade, procurement activity is bound to increase rapidly. For organisations seeking to do business with the Commonwealth (CoA) by responding to RFTs, RFQs, EOIs and RFPs, it is important they understand what it is that the CoA is looking for.

Systematiq has always made a conscious effort to remain ahead of the curve and provide training to its staff that aligns with industry best practices and keep up with what decision-makers seek, to help clients meet their objectives within the Defence supply chain.

Systematiq’s Mandy Middlemist participates in the DISC 2021 Program

Mandy Middlemist, Systematiq’s Business Development Manager for NSW/ACT is currently enrolled in the highly competitive Defence and Industry Study Course (DISC) for 2021. As one of 81 people accepted into the course this year, out of 163 applicants, Mandy has found the course to be exhilarating and beneficial on several fronts.

“I was honoured to be selected for the program, as I had heard really positive feedback from previous cohort members before applying. I was impressed straight away at how engaging the course content was,” said Mandy.

Brydon Johnson, Systematiq’s Business Development Director reflected on the application process: “Being able to present Defence with a candidate who is relatively new to the industry while outlining the value she could bring to the cohort of the DISC 2021 was an important element for Mandy’s application. The network that she would have the opportunity to develop through the course will prove to be crucial for her development as a Business Development Manager.”

Influencing Defence policies

The DISC program is a regimented course that begins with providing each cohort with a solid understanding of Defence processes and progresses to give each cohort member a set of tasks and research topic to survey and report on. Towards the end of the course, cohort members are expected to present the research developed to the ministers and decision-makers in the form of a research white paper.

The research presented, is to take into account findings from surveys conducted and the associated recommendations that each team puts forward. The recommendations presented may then be taken on board and embedded into relevant government policies, allowing course members to really make a difference and add value to how the Defence industry operates.

Mandy and her team members are undertaking research on the different aspects of the Australian Industry Capability (AIC). As part of this, they are assessing the new procedures around the external audit process and what that means for the industry.

Having completed module one of the four modules (one week each) that is spread across a seven-month period, Mandy has been applying all the knowledge she has gained so far to the client projects she is currently working on.

“Through the program, I have gained a solid understanding of different divisions within Defence. This includes an understanding of what procurement requirement comes from what division and which Defence’s Systems Program Office (SPO) oversee which projects, allowing me to identify the right market entry points for my clients.”

Benefitting through knowledge sharing

With an even attendance from the Capability Acquisition & Sustainment Group (CASG), Defence serving members, representatives from different government ministerial divisions and executives from industry, Mandy has been able to gain a 360-degree view of how the Defence industry works.

This includes the understanding of what drives the legislation as well as the factors that influence the development of the legislative policies. Apart from this, Mandy has also gained insights into what members of Major Service Provider (MSP) panels see as opportunities for improvement, how the industry can support them when responding to RFTs and RFQs and understanding their selection criteria for each submission is.

“Having an understanding and overview of how things are changing, will allow me to guide Systematiq’s clients on what’s happening, what’s coming up, and what the decision-makers are looking for in their submissions.”

Narrowing the gap between Defence and industry

The DISC program aims to enhance the relationship between Defence and industry through fostering a better understanding of capabilities and processes. It also helps with developing an understanding of the Defence structure, how different groups interact and how Defence operates.

“DISC provides participants with the opportunity to build a lasting network from across the Defence and Defence industry spectrum. The course is designed to expose participants to the diversity and quality of various Australian industries, and provide them with the opportunities to understand the complexities of delivering capabilities and services across Defence in support of the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

It is a unique program that brings together representatives from the ADF, Australian Public Service, State governments and a wide-range of groups from Australian industry to learn, share and grow,” commented Mark Reynolds, GPCAPT, DISC Facilitator, CASG.

As someone who is constantly looking to stay ahead of policy changes and understand the requirements of Defence contracts so she can add value to clients, Mandy’s biggest takeaway from DISC has been the in-depth understanding of how the Defence procurement process works and how that understanding can benefit her clients.

“The course so far, has given me an understanding of the administrative side of Defence, the decision making processes, the opportunities, along with the understanding of the key players within the primes, and the way the supply chain works,” reflected Mandy.

Anticipating policy changes

The DISC program has provided Mandy with an understanding of what happens on the other side of tender submissions. Through the knowledge gained, she is now able to anticipate relevant policy changes, scan the horizon for opportunities, understand which direction each department is heading in and utilise this understanding when developing long and short term strategies for clients and for Systematiq.

“Rather than waiting for the legislation to come out, I now have the ability to anticipate the changes before they even occur.”

Through the course, Mandy has also been able to gain a deep understanding and appreciation for the decision-making processes within Defence, the challenges faced by a project, understanding why delays occur in certain programs and the changes being affected due to the political landscape. This understanding will further add to the value she brings to Systematiq clients.

“At Systematiq, our vision is to be a trusted partner for both industry and Defence. This means that we need to have a good understanding of our industry and its functions. Programs like DISC provide a great way for our people to be exposed to the Defence domain, understand how government functions, and how the industry can support the government. With better-informed people, we are able to support our client base by providing them with the right kind of advice and service offering,” said Brydon.

Helping Systematiq clients succeed within the Defence Industry

The DISC program has allowed Mandy to build a valuable network within the industry and be part of a program that has much to offer by way of enhancing her skills and the work she does for clients.

“The course has provided me with the tools to be successful within the Defence industry while also understanding how to develop a robust strategy going forward. Apart from that, it has also allowed me to network with some key decision-makers within the industry.

The network I have built within my cohort has also given me a newfound appreciation for some of the challenges that Government departments face and has helped break down a few unseen barriers between the Government and industry.

Apart from that, gaining an understanding of each cohort member’s challenges and the value we can add to each other as companies have been invaluable. I have an addition of 80 valuable contacts in my network whom I can use as a sounding board within the Defence market.

If it was not for this course, it would have taken me at least a year to develop a network of this stature. This is bound to be beneficial for both Systematiq and its clients, which I am very excited about.”

Apart from imparting knowledge about the Defence industry and enabling course members to network, the DISC each year encourages cohort members to raise funds for Legacy -a charity that supports partners and the children of those who gave their lives or their health for our country.

The involvement in the fundraising activity for such a noteworthy cause has further helped strengthen the camaraderie and team spirit between cohort members.

Gaining knowledge to add value to clients

Being part of the DISC program has allowed Mandy to pursue her passion for continuous learning in an executive environment, developing her skills in accordance with industry-related policies, and identifying opportunities that can help primes and SMEs succeed with their key objectives.

Mandy particularly found the DISC course to be extremely well-coordinated and organised.

“The content is fantastic and extremely high level. The learning I’ve received so far has been invaluable and hard to put into words. While the program might be intense, it is definitely worth it. The calibre of attendees and discussion topics has meant that I immediately grasped how beneficial this would be not only to my career but also to my clients. I would recommend this course to all executives in the Defence Market and I can’t wait to see what the next few modules have in store.”

As a company constantly looking to offer more to its staff, courses like these are invaluable for Systematiq and the growth of its team members.

“As an employer, one of the areas we focus on is the growth and development of our people. Offering professional development through courses like DISC is important for our growth at Systematiq” reflects Brydon.

Congratulations Mandy, and we look forward to hearing the outcome of your report and presentation to ministers.