Uplifting data capability at ACMA
In this edition we speak with Richard Bullock, Executive Manager of the Research, Data and Regulation Branch and Chief Data Officer at the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) about the ACMA’s data journey. Richard discusses some of the key initiatives from the ACMA’s Data Strategy and Data Governance Framework and looks at what’s next for the agency’s data program.
The ACMA’s data journey
Our data journey has taken off and is in full flight. Using innovative ways of working, we are now seeing the benefits of having discoverable and usable data to support data-driven regulatory decision making.
At the ACMA, we aim to maximise the economic and social benefits of communications infrastructure, services and content for all Australia. We recognise data and analytics as critical capabilities contributing to the development of our regulatory frameworks and improved decision making. As stated in our latest corporate plan, we ‘…use research, data and stakeholder feedback to inform, develop and deliver effective, contemporary and risk-based regulation’.
Our 2019 Data Strategy and Governance Framework has provided a roadmap for growing the ACMA’s data capability and maturity and delivering our data and analytics vision:
The Data Strategy aims to improve the discoverability, usability and safety of the ACMA’s data. We are working to achieve these objectives by outlining data and analytics activities aligned to the agency’s key functions, priorities and strategies over a four-year period.
Our Data Strategy also identifies agency enablers such as our people and skills, data governance practices and digital platforms and systems to support delivery of the ACMA’s data and analytics vision.
Importantly, building our data capability and digital technology and services strengthens the ACMA’s management of a risk-based and data-driven approach to regulation; enhancing our performance in one of the three principles of regulator best practice under the new Regulator Performance Guide released by the Australian Government last year.
The ACMA has established Data Strategy and Visual Analytics and Data Governance sections to drive the data work program. Under a ‘hub and spoke’ delivery model, these sections are working in partnership with the Digital & Technology Services Branch and across the agency to deliver and implement our Data Strategy and Governance Framework.
Data action projects
An important way that the ACMA is delivering on its data and analytics vision is through Data Action Projects – or DAPs. By applying analytics to solve business problems, these DAPs lay a foundation for building our data and analytics capabilities. The DAPs are delivered through:
- dedicated cross-agency multi-disciplinary project teams, composing a wide variety of data and analytics specialists and digital services professionals working with subject matter experts in business line areas
- a hybrid agile/waterfall project management approach, where we develop ‘minimum viable’ data products that can be scaled over time.
By working in collaboration with business subject matter experts, products arising from DAPs are developed with a focus on user-centred design. Not only does this deliver fit-for-purpose products, but it also supports opportunities to build data skills and capability among staff and improve the data governance, systems and processes for our data assets.
For our first phase of implementation, we piloted two DAPs that were selected for their strategic, regulatory and operational benefits:
- Telco performance reporting: we developed enhanced reporting of telecommunication performance data, to provide greater access to and insights into telco complaints and financial hardship arrangements of major telcos.
- Spectrum monitoring: we introduced improved reporting of spectrum monitoring and compliance data, which has improved access to and insights into monitoring of radiocommunications licencing non-compliance, and 5G and electromagnetic energy (EME) measurement data, as well as increased analytical capability and speed. This has resulted in a reduced need to manually manipulate data and provided greater data quality assurance.
After successful project delivery, we are now implementing the next tranche of DAPs; delivering enhanced corporate HR reporting and public reporting of spectrum 5G and EME data. The pipeline for future projects is quickly filling up!
Taking a DAP approach has been critical to accelerating the ACMA’s data journey. It has helped deliver high-value projects and build organisational awareness of how data can support agency outcomes. This approach has also helped us to create, develop and establish the ACMA’s data operating model: how we engage with the business, how we approach product design and how we optimise the working methods of our data and digital services teams to jointly deliver data outcomes.
As well as the delivery of applied data analytical projects through our DAPs, we are also focusing on building ACMA people and skills. We are aiming to deliver two key programs in 2022:
- A data stewardship program: identifying and working with our data stewards to ensure ACMA’s data is discoverable, useable and safe. The data stewardship program will start with a focus on safe data handling and data quality, with training and support offered.
- An agency-wide data literacy and culture program: building a data-driven and data-fluent culture in the ACMA. A key focus will be on learning and development to build data literacy, skills and capability through e-learning and courses that can be tailored to individual’s learning journey, establishing open learning sessions for knowledge exchange, and promoting conferences, workshops and APS initiatives such as the data professional stream activities.
I’m confident that these whole-of-agency programs will help establish a foundational understanding of how to manage ACMA data as an asset. In turn, this will help unlock the value of our data so it can be used with purpose and influence.
It’s exciting to see how much our agency has grown in data maturity and capability over the last two years. There is a greater awareness and growing expectation that data will be increasingly integrated into many more of our regulatory activities. I expect this will continue to grow as we shift our focus on creating a data-centric and data-driven culture where everyone in the organisation understands and has a role to play in maximising the value that data can bring to our objectives, methodology, decisions and outcomes.