Achieving competitive advantage through an integrated data strategy, fostering a unified data culture, and mastering emerging AI are aspirations shared across Australian businesses.

However, turning this vision into reality is hampered by poor data culture, information architecture, and governance.

Aussie data leaders who attended ADAPT’s Data & AI Edge brought together over 160 data leaders from across Australia, who represent 42% of Australia’s GDP and 11% of the workforce.

We’ve asked: how prepared are we for the AI tidal wave? What’s the state of our data strategy? Will we surf this wave or sink?

Boosting CDAO Involvement to Enhance AI and Data Analytics Strategy in Australia

Insights from the latest ADAPT surveys are shining a light on critical focus areas, painting a detailed picture of how businesses are tackling both challenges and opportunities in the tech world.

Australian CIOs are prioritising cyber security, the drive towards modernisation, and the push for data-driven initiatives.

 

Expanding CDO Roles to Strengthen Data-Driven Architectures in AI and Data Analytics 

Dr. Shivaji Dasgupta, with extensive experience as a Chief Data and Intelligence Officer across multiple large European banks, discussed the need for Chief Data Officers to expand their roles beyond traditional boundaries.

He advocates for CDOs also to take on responsibilities typically associated with Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and Chief Product Officers (CPOs).

According to Dr. Dagupta, this convergence is essential for developing robust, data-driven architectures that fully leverage AI technologies.

“By anticipating future skills and technologies, CDOs can help their organisations overcome traditional data management challenges and harness the full potential of AI.”

This perspective highlights a strategic shift where data leadership must integrate more deeply into organisations’ operational and strategic fabric, ensuring that data initiatives drive business value.

 

Identifying Gaps in AI Strategy Execution Among Australian CDAOs 

ADAPT’s Data & AI Edge survey revealed a gap in AI strategy execution within Australian organisations.

Only 25% of CDAOs believe their organisations can internally build and train AI models. Additionally, one in three CDAOs report having little to no influence on their organisation’s AI strategy.

This misalignment is a barrier to effective AI adoption.

The survey uncovered that a stronger CDAO involvement is essential for organisations to harness AI technologies effectively.

The lack of CDAO influence suggests that many organisations may need to fully leverage their data assets or integrate AI into their strategic planning, potentially missing out on critical efficiency and innovation opportunities.

 

Key Takeaways:

  • Involve Chief Data & Analytics Officers (CDAOs) in high-level AI discussions and decision-making to align AI initiatives with business objectives and overcome data management challenges. 

  • Promote cooperation between data, IT, and business units through regular meetings and joint projects to ensure AI initiatives are supported by robust data infrastructure and align with business goals. 

  • Foster data literacy, encourage data-driven decision-making, and provide ongoing training to support CDOs and integrate data initiatives into the business strategy, driving innovation and efficiency.

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Overcoming Technical Barriers to Advance AI and Data Analytics

As Australian businesses strive to leverage artificial intelligence for competitive advantage, they encounter several technical barriers.

Addressing these challenges requires an integrated approach that combines emerging technologies, robust data platforms, and an AI-embracing culture.

Insights from industry leaders provide valuable strategies to navigate these complexities.

 

Leveraging Quantum Computing to Enhance AI Capabilities in Australia 

Claudine Ogilvie, CEO at HivePix, discussed the transformative potential of quantum computing in advancing AI capabilities.

While generative AI has made strides, its progress is often constrained by the limitations of classical computing.

Quantum computing offers a promising solution because it can manage vast amounts of data and solve complex problems rapidly.

Claudine explained, “Quantum computing can greatly enhance AI capabilities by leveraging qubits for superposition and entanglement, which facilitate the rapid resolution of complex problems.”

However, she also acknowledged the current challenges in scaling quantum computers, such as issues with decoherence and the need for extensive cryogenic infrastructure.

 

Integrating Data Intelligence Platforms for Seamless AI and Data Analytics 

Adam Beavis, VP & Country Manager at Databricks ANZ, tackled the evolution of data technologies and introduced the concept of a data intelligence platform.

He said, “A data intelligence platform, integrated with AI capabilities, promises unified data management, simplified querying, and robust AI model deployment and governance.”

This approach highlighted the extent of developing platforms that support seamless AI integration, enhancing both the accessibility and manageability of data.

 

Addressing Technical Challenges in Building Successful AI Applications

Alois Reitbauer, Chief Technology Strategist at Dynatrace, delved into the technical aspects of building successful AI applications.

He discussed the value of predictive AI, causal AI, and generative AI in creating effective systems.

Alois explained, “Building successful AI applications requires addressing challenges such as data quality management, ensuring accurate outputs, and planning for resource constraints.”

His insights emphasised the necessity of a solid technical foundation to support AI initiatives, ensuring that organisations can fully exploit their AI capabilities.

 

Enhancing Education with AI at UTS 

Higher education faces numerous challenges, and leveraging AI can be a game-changer.

During an interview at Data & AI Edge, Susan Gibson, Head of Data Analytics and AI at the University of Technology Sydney, shared insights on how AI transforms the university landscape.

Susan highlighted AI’s critical role in addressing student needs, especially with rising living costs and the demand for flexible learning solutions.

By providing 24-hour support and predictive insights, UTS aims to offer a seamless and supportive environment for students.

Innovation at UTS is driven by cross-functional “tiger teams,” which tackle AI-related challenges.

These teams, trained in AI applications, drive creative solutions and innovation across the institution.

A robust policy framework guides the implementation of AI at UTS to ensure ethical use and minimise risks.

Susan explained that their AI policy, based on the New South Wales AI Assurance Framework, addresses potential biases and ethical considerations, builds trust, and aligns with the university’s values and commitment to student welfare.

 

Leveraging Data for Energy Transformation at SA Power Networks 

Matthew Pritchard, Head of IT Strategy at SA Power Networks, shared insights on the role of data and AI in the evolving energy sector.

Matthew talked about the dramatic shifts in the electricity industry driven by renewable energy adoption, fundamentally altering energy flow through the grid.

He stressed redesigning technology to ensure safety, quality, and reliability.

Data is central to this transformation, enabling precise asset management and optimising green energy usage.

Building a solid data culture within an organisation, especially with long-standing practices, is challenging.

Matthew explained that the first step is identifying data owners, promoting data literacy, and establishing strong data governance.

Organisations can foster a sense of ownership by involving stakeholders in these processes and, especially, improving data quality and usage.

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Positioning AI and Data Analytics as Core Business Functions

AI is evolving from a mere technological support tool to a strategic enabler that drives core business processes in the contemporary business environment.

However, this transition requires a fundamental shift in how organisations perceive and implement AI.

 

Viewing AI as a Strategic Enabler for Business Transformation

Dr. Michael Kollo, CEO at Evolved AI, argued that AI is not just an extension of data infrastructure but a revolutionary force that can transform decision-making processes.

He explained, “AI has the potential to revolutionise cognitive processes and decision-making within organisations, driving value creation and competitive advantage.”

This view challenges the traditional notion of AI as a support function and stresses its potential to be a central component of business strategy.

By integrating AI into core business processes, organisations can unlock new levels of efficiency and innovation.

 

Overcoming Misconceptions and Cultural Barriers to AI Adoption

One of the hurdles in positioning AI as a core business function is overcoming the prevalent fears and misconceptions associated with AI.

Michael pointed out that many employees fear AI will replace human jobs, creating resistance to its adoption.

He clarified, “AI should be seen as a business function that augments human capabilities, not as a threat.”

AI can enhance human decision-making, improve operational efficiency, and open new opportunities.

Addressing these cultural barriers is crucial for organisations to embrace AI fully and integrate it effectively into their strategic planning.

 

Shifting Towards Evidence-Based Decision-Making with AI 

ADAPT’s Data & AI Edge Survey revealed a shift towards evidence-based decision-making among organisational leaders.

According to the survey, there has been a 44% year-on-year increase in stakeholders relying on accurate dashboards and data insights to drive decisions.

This trend highlights the growing implication of data in organisational decision-making processes.

Michael explained, “Integrating AI into core business processes allows for more informed, data-driven decisions that can greatly enhance operational efficiency and strategic outcomes.”

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Building a Resilient Data Culture to Enhance AI and Data Analytics

To thrive in the age of AI, Australian enterprises must focus on enhancing data maturity and fostering a resilient data culture.

This involves creating an environment where data-driven decision-making is the norm and data quality and governance are prioritised.

 

Strengthening Data Strategy and Governance for AI Readiness 

Gabby Fredkin, Head of Analytics & Insights at ADAPT, discussed the critical role of data strategy and governance in preparing organisations for AI.

According to ADAPT’s 1H Data & AI Edge Survey, organisations with robust data governance frameworks are four times more likely to be ready for AI.  

Gabby explained, “Good data governance and mature data architectures enormously enhance AI preparedness and effectiveness.”

This focus on governance ensures that data is managed consistently and accurately across the organisation, providing a solid foundation for AI initiatives.

The implication of having a transparent, standardised approach to data management cannot be overstated, as it directly impacts the organisation’s ability to leverage AI technologies effectively.

 

Cultivating a Data-Driven Culture and Enhancing Data Literacy 

Gabby also covered the need to foster a data-driven culture and improve end-user data literacy.

The survey uncovered that organisations with a productive data culture and high levels of data literacy are nine times more likely to be prepared for AI.  

Gabby encouraged proactive engagement from executive leadership to build organisational data literacy.

By promoting a culture that values data and continuous learning, organisations can ensure that their workforce is equipped to leverage AI effectively.

This cultural shift requires training and resources and a commitment from leadership to model data-centric behaviours.

 

Expanding AI and Data-Driven Legal Services at Slater & Gordon Lawyers 

Dhivian Govender, Head of Digital Data & Analytics at Slater & Gordon Lawyers, shared insights on transforming legal services with AI and data analytics during an interview at Data & AI Edge.

Dhivian highlighted the need for a holistic view of data to make better decisions and the need for collaboration with end users to address data quality issues.

Creating a data-driven culture within a traditional industry like law requires strategic thinking and patience.

Engaging end users, providing proof of concept, and demonstrating tangible benefits are essential in fostering a data-driven mindset.

Dhivian-Govender-Data-AI-Edge

He noted the successful implementation of machine learning models in previous roles to optimise processes and drive innovation.

Ensuring ethical data usage is non-negotiable, and Dhivian stressed the need for solid governance frameworks to protect client data and maintain trust.

Implementing robust data usage policies and capturing customer consent is crucial in balancing innovation with ethical responsibility.

By addressing these areas, Slater & Gordon Lawyers are revolutionising their services, maximising their data potential, and positioning themselves for success in the evolving legal landscape.

 

Enhancing Data Maturity and AI Integration in Australian Enterprises 

Recent findings show a shift towards evidence-based decision-making, with confidence in data strategies rising from 48% in 2023 to 54% and reliance on evidence from 39% to 50%, indicating a 44% increase.

But to truly unlock the full potential of data, Australian businesses must prioritise mastering data maturity.

In a recent Data & AI Edge executive panel, data leaders from NAB, Telstra, and HivePix delved into the growing importance of data maturity and its link to successful AI integration.

Joanna Gurry, Executive – Data Platforms at NAB, shared that effective AI deployment requires diverse skills, including mathematicians, coders, architects, analysts, and security experts.

She highlighted the need for a team approach rather than assigning AI responsibilities to a single person.

Dayle Stevens, Executive – Data & AI at Telstra, noted AI’s role in improving employee performance through projects that enhance frontline staff efficiency.

Claudine Ogilvie, CEO at HivePix, stressed the importance of cautious, strategic AI integration, focusing on high-impact, business-led projects, and ensuring proper data quality and governance.

 

Key Takeaways: 

  • Enhance data literacy at all levels, champion data-driven decision-making, and provide ongoing training and resources to build data skills across the workforce.

  • Allocate resources to technical infrastructure for end-to-end data management and protection of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) to maintain data integrity and compliance.

  • Ensure executive leadership is actively involved in data and AI initiatives to drive a data-centric culture and align data strategies with business objectives.

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Structuring AI and Data Analytics Use Cases and Compliance

Fully harnessing AI’s potential requires well-defined AI use cases and robust compliance frameworks.

These will ensure that AI initiatives are strategically aligned with business goals and adhere to regulatory standards, mitigating risks and maximising benefits.

 

Defining Clear AI Use Cases to Maximise Strategic Value 

ADAPT’s Data & AI Edge Survey reveals a gap in AI use case identification among Australian enterprises.

Nearly half (48%) of the surveyed Chief Data & Analytics Officers (CDAOs) report that their organisations lack well-defined AI use cases for 2024.

This absence of clear AI use cases indicates that many organisations still need to leverage AI to its full potential.

Initiatives can become fragmented and misaligned with broader, specific strategic use cases.

To address this, organisations must prioritise identifying AI applications that align with their core goals, ensuring that AI efforts are focused and effective.

Enhancing Confidence in Managing Financial and Customer Data  

While some organisations have made progress in managing certain types of data, confidence levels vary.

The survey showed that organisations generally feel more confident handling financial and customer data.

However, there is less confidence in managing environmental data, primarily due to the complexities of multiple regulatory frameworks and a lack of transparent data stewardship.

This disparity highlights the need for robust, adaptable compliance frameworks that address various data types and regulatory requirements.

ADAPT’s Gabby Fredkin noted, “Effective data stewardship and comprehensive regulatory compliance are crucial for mitigating risks associated with AI applications.”

Organisations must develop strategies that address these gaps to ensure comprehensive data management and regulatory adherence.

 

Building Structured Frameworks for AI Compliance 

Developing structured frameworks for AI compliance ensures that AI initiatives are legally sound and ethically responsible.

These frameworks should be comprehensive, addressing diverse regulatory requirements and data types, encompassing data governance, security, and ethical considerations.

Such a framework not only ensures adherence to regulations but also enhances the trustworthiness and reliability of AI systems, helping organisations mitigate legal and reputational risks while fostering a culture of ethical AI deployment.

Implementing a comprehensive compliance framework is crucial for building trust in AI systems and ensuring their sustainable integration.

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What’s the future of AI and Data Analytics in Australia? 

Since the GFC, we’ve consistently done more with less, leading to underfunded technology and underappreciated technologists. Risk-averse boards hesitate to focus long-term.

With the AI tidal wave coming, articulating business value is more critical than ever. CEOs and CFOs need essential investments, not just nice-to-haves.

By refining strategies, overcoming challenges, and focusing on strategic alignment, robust governance, and continuous learning, Australian enterprises can harness the power of AI to achieve sustainable growth and success.

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Contributors
Gabby Fredkin Head of Analytics & Insights at ADAPT
With a passion for creating stories with data, Gabby is consistently rated as one of the top speakers at ADAPT Events. In... More

With a passion for creating stories with data, Gabby is consistently rated as one of the top speakers at ADAPT Events. In round table discussions, he specialises in using statistics to initiate thought-provoking discussions. Gabby is effective in translating information into insights, enabling ADAPT’s customers to become more data-driven.​

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Dr. Shivaji Dasgupta CDO and Analytics experience from multiple large European Banks and other industries
Multi-year strategic and operative experience in digital transformation and operations in cloud-based business models at large and mid-sized corporations, public-sector Implementation of... More

Multi-year strategic and operative experience in digital transformation and operations in cloud-based business models at large and mid-sized corporations, public-sector

Implementation of large end-to-end data-driven products, including architecture and processes with business and technology cross-functional, cross-geographic teams

Implementation of cloud solutions for financial, risk and ESG solutions

6 years as McKinsey Digital consultant with focus on digital transformation in finance and online business-models

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Adam Beavis Vice President & Country Manager at Databricks
With over 20 years of experience in the information technology and services industry, Adam Beavis is a seasoned leader and innovator in... More

With over 20 years of experience in the information technology and services industry, Adam Beavis is a seasoned leader and innovator in the cloud computing and open-source software domains. He is currently the Vice President and Country Manager at Databricks, the data and AI company that helps organizations solve the world’s toughest problems.

In this role, Adam is responsible for driving Databricks’ growth and expansion in the local market, as well as building strong relationships with customers, partners, and stakeholders. He is also committed to creating a diverse and inclusive work environment, and fostering a culture of excellence and collaboration. Adam leverages his extensive regional and global expertise, having previously held senior positions at AWS, Red Hat, CommVault, and VMware, to deliver value and innovation to Databricks’ customers and partners. He is passionate about the role technology plays in transforming businesses and society, and empowering people to achieve their goals.

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Matthew Pritchard Head of IT Strategy at SA Power Networks
As the Head of IT Strategy for SA Power Networks (SAPN), I am passionate about using my knowledge, skills and influence to... More

As the Head of IT Strategy for SA Power Networks (SAPN), I am passionate about using my knowledge, skills and influence to help SAPN and South Australia transition to the new (clean) energy future using technology. While I have been in the utilities industry for 15 years, I am a techy at heart, and believe that in putting the customer first, and combing our Future Network, Customer and Digital strategies we can create an energy services transition, with customers at the heart, powered by digital.

Having had many roles throughout my career, I have learnt that the best teams need to create their own ways of working, leveraging and combing the best of agile, dev-ops, UX, human centred design and project planning, while understanding the business and strategic context, to create a great culture and deliver ongoing value for the organisation.

I am constantly challenging (and supporting) my teams to embrace these new ideas, balancing emergent design and risk, accepting failure (so long as we learn), and understanding that we only move forward when everyone wins. Digital transformation occurs in the business, and the role of IT is to act as trusted advisors, partnering with the organisation to achieve the strategic vision.

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Dr. Michael G. Kollo CEO at Evolved.AI
I am the CEO of Evolved Reasoning, a Generative AI – based company that provides education materials for conferences, workshops and presentations... More

I am the CEO of Evolved Reasoning, a Generative AI – based company that provides education materials for conferences, workshops and presentations for executive business leaders looking to understand, trust and deploy artificial intelligence solutions, especially Generative AI models like ChatGPT in their businesses.

With offer a pragmatic business lens on what is otherwise a deep experience set in the algorithmic component and capabilities of complex AI systems. My co-founder and I are both experienced technical business leaders, and we love working with organisations at all levels of competence. In fact, we really enjoy bringing high performing executive teams on the AI journey from a business strategy perspective.

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Alois Reitbauer Chief Technology Strategist at Dynatrace
Alois Reitbauer leads Dynatrace’s strategic open-source initiatives for projects including OpenTelemetry, OpenFeature, and Keptn. He also develops industry-wide standards, most recently co-founding... More

Alois Reitbauer leads Dynatrace’s strategic open-source initiatives for projects including OpenTelemetry, OpenFeature, and Keptn. He also develops industry-wide standards, most recently co-founding the W3C distributed tracing working group.

As an active member of the cloud-native community, Alois is a co-chair and founding member of CNCF TAG App Delivery and a speaker and program committee member of conferences like KubeCon.

He bootstrapped several commercial product offerings like Dynatrace’s second-generation platform and most recently the Cloud Automation module.

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Susan Gibson Head of Data Analytics and AI at the University of Technology Sydney
Digital and data transformational leader who has a rare combination of strategic leadership and technical knowledge. Susan has successfully led many Data... More

Digital and data transformational leader who has a rare combination of strategic leadership and technical knowledge. Susan has successfully led many Data analytics and digital strategies and programs of work. Susan is well regarded by business executives, peers, vendors and her teams as she has the influence, ability and tenacity to drive success, change and innovation. She is a leader who collaborates widely and builds strong and productive relationships across the organisation.

Susan is a passionate advocate for utilising AI in supporting business strategy. In her current role she leads efforts to ensure the ethical implementation of AI at the university. Susan focuses on fostering AI fluency, governance, and technical and organisational change capabilities while balancing opportunities and risks. She has developed clear governance mechanisms, including an AI policy to drive responsible AI utilisation and empower the university’s strategic decision-making and new ways of working.

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Dhivian Govender Head Digital Data & Analytics at Slater & Gordon Lawyers
I have more than 20 years of experience across multiple industries in both Australia and New Zealand with a varied background in... More

I have more than 20 years of experience across multiple industries in both Australia and New Zealand with a varied background in data science, marketing, advanced analytics, strategic planning, process simplification and change management. The areas that I am passionate about include: building high performing teams; utilising systems and technology; and implementing a culture of data driven decision-making to optimise customer experience alongside commercial viability.

As Chief Data, Analytics and Strategy Officer, I oversee: the project management office dealing with strategic organisational transformation; the overall customer contact strategy (design and execution areas) with a particular focus on customer centricity by creating a seamless omni-channel customer experience; workforce management; customer and performance insight areas, data analytics and data science functions which inform strategy; and the reporting and data visualisation functions looking to empower end users with the right information to drive operational excellence.

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Claudine Ogilvie CEO at HivePix, ADAPT Advisor, and former CIO at Jetstar
Entrepreneur, CEO and board director with 20 years’ experience in strategy, technology leadership, and innovation. Claudine is the Managing Director of O&O... More

Entrepreneur, CEO and board director with 20 years’ experience in strategy, technology leadership, and innovation. Claudine is the Managing Director of O&O Consulting, co-founder and CEO of HivePix, and a Non-Executive board Director for Cuscal and Scyne Advisory. Claudine was awarded Top CIO50 in Australia in 2016. She has expertise in data, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, cyber security governance and risk management.

Previously, Claudine was a Non-Executive board Director for Youi Insurance. Claudine led the Digital and Data businesses and innovation for Compass Group Asia Pacific, and was the Group Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the Jetstar Group of Airlines (Jetstar’s Branded Airlines include Singapore, Japan, Vietnam, ANZ businesses & JVs), and Ridley Corporation; She led Consumer and Industrial Markets (CIM) at KPMG; and broad industry experience in sales, marketing, and product management.

She is a 2015 graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (GAICD). She has completed a Quantum Computing course at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has a Bachelor of Business from the University of Technology Sydney, Australia (B.Bus) and a Diploma of Business Management from the Ecole Supérieur de Commerce Reims, France (Dip.Mgnt).

Claudine is also an advisor and coach to innovative and bold leaders from a variety of industries. She is a champion for diversity, inclusion, ESG and the role it plays in business and leadership effectiveness.

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Joanna Gurry Executive, Data Platforms at NAB
Joanna Gurry is a commercially focused technology executive with 25 years’ experience in banking, insurance and telecommunications. Building and leading large data... More

Joanna Gurry is a commercially focused technology executive with 25 years’ experience in banking, insurance and telecommunications. Building and leading large data and analytics teams at NBNCo, IAG, Commonwealth Bank and KPMG, Jo has led successful transformations of culture and capability in large, complex businesses. Aiming always to strike the right balance between risk and compliance with strong commercial outcomes, Jo targets strategic relationships with great partners to propel an innovation agenda – driven by advanced analytics practices and underpinned by mature information management foundations.

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Dayle Stevens OAM Executive Data & AI at Telstra
Dayle joined Telstra in July 2021 with nearly 30 years’ experience in the technology industry. She has held notable executive leadership roles... More

Dayle joined Telstra in July 2021 with nearly 30 years’ experience in the technology industry. She has held notable executive leadership roles in technology at companies such as NAB and AGL. Today Dayle leads Telstra’s Data & AI function.

 

Outside of Telstra, Dayle is a non-executive director at Beyond Blue, Australia’s most well-known and trusted mental health organisation, and a member of the IT Advisory Committee at Trinity College, University of Melbourne.

 

Dayle has long championed diversity in STEM across industry and age group boundaries, both through her own work and with global organisations aimed at encouraging women and girls to participate in STEM such as Robogals and Girl Geek Academy.

 

Dayle’s work has been recognised with multiple industry and professional awards, including being named in the CIO50 list of the best CIOs in Australia, the Australian Financial Review’s 100 Women of Influence, and being awarded an Order of Australia Medal for her services to information technology and to women. 

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Data Leadership Modernisation