Researcher in Spotlight: Dr Natalie Smith | May

The John Grill Institute for Project Leadership’s monthly ‘Researcher in Spotlight’ piece aims to highlight the bright minds that make up our organisation and to showcase the diverse range of experts who contribute to our work. This month, we are delighted to feature a profile on our incredible Associate Professor in Practice: Dr Natalie Smith.


Please briefly introduce yourself.

I describe myself as a pracademic as I am passionate about leveraging the resources only a university can provide to make society a better place. The role I have, as an Associate Professor in Practice, is to engage with industry to conduct impactful research and help build the capability needed to navigate a rapidly evolving world.

The background I bring to the Institute and this role is threefold:

  1. Academic – a lifelong learner. Starting in Computer Science and Engineering, then HR and Organisational Change, and more recently, a PhD on the governance of digital transformation
  2. Governance – currently a Non-Executive Director in Government, NFP Health and Community Services organisations
  3. Executive – previously, a partner in a Big 4 firm specialising in Project Risk and a lifetime leading technology implementation projects.

What are your research interests?
My “thing” is governance of digital transformation projects and AI. My current projects involve building digital mindset at board level, and improving project assurance for digital and AI projects. I am particularly interested in improving the track record of digital transformation in Health, Community Services and Government. The reason for that is that it is super cool what technology can do to improve outcomes in these areas, and we need to get better at consistently delivering on project promises for that to happen.

How does this relate to Project Leadership?
My research connects corporate governance to project governance. The aim is to help organisations get good value from their digital and AI investments, and avoid the catastrophes. It helps boards and executive teams understand the role they play in project success.

How has being involved in the John Grill Institute for Project Leadership been? How has it enhanced your work?
I have been a fan of the Institute from before it opened – when John Grill’s generous donation was first announced. I am really excited about the role, and the potential to make a difference in a way that would not be possible in a pure academic or pure industry role. And it’s a great team doing impressive and impactful work. It’s a privilege to be a part of it.