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Smart Buyer program is a smart blueprint for Commonwealth project management

With constant pressure on departments to deliver more and better with less, it appears Defence may have developed the model for ensuring the Government and taxpayers get the value for money they are seeking.

The Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group’s Smart Buyer program has only been operating for just over 12 months, but it is already gaining widespread recognition for supporting better decisions on procurement, sustainment and disposal.

The Smart Buyer program director, Chad Tyrrell, described the program as a ‘keystone initiative’ for Defence, and is an essential component of Defence’s new capability life cycle, implemented as part of the First Principles Review.

‘The Smart Buyer program is an expenditure decision- making framework,’ Mr Tyrrell said.

‘It commenced in May 2016 to modernise Defence’s approach to acquisition and sustainment strategy development and management.

‘It does this by getting key stakeholders to develop an improved understanding of a project’s risk profile at workshops facilitated by experienced and independent Defence personnel and industry experts.

‘The shared understanding of a project’s risk profile delivers better value and more effective Defence capabilities, because investment approvals are better informed, contested and timely.

‘Smart Buyer has been designed and implemented with the intention of better understanding and communicating risks and costs for both Defence and industry.

One of the biggest achievements by the Smart Buyer team over the last 12 months has been successfully embedding Smart Buyer into business-as-usual processes for Defence procurement projects that need second pass approval to proceed.

‘We have designed and rolled out the program to provide support to project sponsors and project managers as they prepare their projects for consideration by the Defence Investment Committee,’ Mr Tyrrell said.

Mr Tyrrell said credit for the fast-paced success of Smart Buyer was also due to having the ‘right people in the room’ when discussions about procurement design and implementation were made.

‘Those right people include the Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group external board members serving as facilitators and advisers during Smart Buyer workshops. This team offers decades of experience and advice that project sponsors and managers can draw on when grappling with enormous complexity in the Defence environment,’ Mr Tyrrell said.

‘Good planning by Defence and Smart Buyer’s blended team, combined with strong support from Defence’s senior leadership, has contributed to good outcomes and earned the program a positive reputation.’

The current focus for the Smart Buyer program is on procurement projects that need second pass approval to proceed. However, the program is already trialling the application of the Smart Buyer decision framework to projects that have already obtained second pass approval, and to sustainment and disposal projects, over the next two years.

‘Our early success is something we’re proud of, but we are constantly striving to sharpen up existing processes, templates and outputs,’ Mr Tyrrell said.

‘This last year has set a solid foundation, but our focus on continuous improvement makes me believe we will have even more positive news to report next year.’

So, do Chad Tyrrell and his Smart Buyer team have an idea about how to make a good thing even better?

‘A greater number of appropriately experienced facilitators and external board members would be welcome, so we can scale up effectively while still maintaining quality service delivery,’ Mr Tyrrell said.

More information on the Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group’s Smart Buyer program can be found at