As Australia’s defence industry adjusts to a period of unprecedented investment, defence consultants like QinetiQ are adapting to support government’s focus on developing a sustainable, competitive defence industry.
Established as a multi-disciplinary consulting business, QinetiQ Australia has embraced the evolution and transformation of Australia's domestic defence industrial base following the acquisition of RubiKon has enabled QinetiQ to transition to a broad spectrum science and engineering business supporting both industry and Defence's transformation into a competitive and sustainable industry.
In this edition of On Point, Greg Barsby, managing director of QinetiQ Australia, discusses the integration of RubiKon following the acquisition in 2017 and the fundamentals of developing a dynamic and collaborative relationship with Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group.
Barsby will also explain the importance of incentivising a workforce and the culture and attributes that support the drive towards a workforce rich in 'diversity of thought'.
How did QinetiQ's integration of RubiKon go? What challenges did you face and how did you over come them and how is your business focus evolving?
There was a few lumps and bumps in every change management program or every integration. But for us, the RubiKon acquisition has been a real success. We've capitalised on the capability that we acquired there. We've capitalised on the projects that we've acquired there and we've certainly kept the majority of the people engaged in the conduct business.
The parent organisation in the UK was established through the commercialisation of elements of the British defence science and technology laboratories and included some really sophisticated engineering facilities and infrastructure ranges.
In Australia we have been known for our more traditional consultancy business by business advisory and engineering. We have definitely been working hard the last couple of years to change the mix of projects in our portfolio to include more projects that give us the opportunity to combine our deep technical and business advisory expertise with managing, operating, even investing in quite sophisticated technical engineering infrastructure.
As a company, we took a fairly conservative approach to commercial contracting above/below the line. It was a much more pragmatic approach to managing a potential conflict of interest above/below the line and it is starting to take hold because there's just not the workforce in Australia to do that work. If we're going to restrict where it works, we need the best and most experienced people being taken advantage of to get the best outcomes on those big projects.
I think we're on a journey, but I think our customers are on a journey as well. I think it's all good and healthy and hitting in the right direction at the moment.
As QinetiQ's expertise and business offering has evolved, how has your relationship with DST changed and where is that relationship leading?
One project that we've been involved in for a long time now is running the engineering prototype and design workshops at Fishermans Bend for Defence Science and Technology Group. We have been there for I think probably eight, nine years now and we've grown the capability there considerably over that time, in partnership with DST.
The Fishermans Bend facility is quite a unique facility and has really unique capability. We have developed a combination in the workforce of very experienced engineers, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, working alongside very experienced tradespeople, you know, working in the workshop, and working with real world experts from DST.
It is a real problem solving culture where that team works together to solve problems that Defence has provided to DST. We're in a real close trusted partnership with DST and other elements that we interact with there, academia, everybody involved contributes to the solving of the problems that DST is confronted with there.
Company culture is important for getting the best out of people, how has QinetiQ balanced the different roles and working requirements of the diverse workforce?
It was important for us to identify that everybody's skill set is important to supporting the problem solving culture we have developed.
We're quite focused on the people who are really passionate about what they do and passionate about giving back to our customers, who for the most part is the Defence Force or the federal government. So a lot of our current employees to have a strong Defence background or strong linkage back to Defence.
We have really been pushing the diversity agenda as much as we can. Like our customer and like most businesses within defence, we're not a particularly diverse workforce. So we've been putting a lot of effort into that and making ourselves a much more diversity friendly workplace.
We're starting to really have some success there. We've invested heavily this year in our grad program. I think we've tripled the number of grads that we're bringing through our engineering program this year and we've extended it to include for the first time logistics. We've got two logistics grads. And I think we've even got a cost estimator grad, which is an unusual one.
What I really want as an outcome of it is diversity of thought and this links back to where this discussion started on innovation. What we have found is that people with the most diverse experience, you know, the most diverse background that we can bring into the business to integrate into our teams and have working together for the benefit of our customers.
At the higher level it's diversity of thought that we're after. Our initial focus like most businesses has been on gender and a gender pay equity ambassador. We've slowly been starting to have some success on our metrics, we have a long way to go, but it's a long-term problem to me.
The full Defence Connect Podcast with Greg Barsby, managing director, QinetiQ Australia is available here.