ONS Strategy

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1 ONS Strategy Trusted Statistics Understanding the UK

2 Foreword Welcome to this new ten year ONS Strategy. Ten years is a long time, especially for an organisation that collects data and publishes statistics about a fast moving society and economy. We can t be sure what kind of new statistics will be in demand ten years from now, or what kind of devices people will be using to get the latest statistics. However, we can be confident that there will be a continuing need among our UK and international customers for good quality statistics which help them understand the changes taking place in the UK. Some of these changes could be profound such as the rebalancing of the economy following a period of decline, the demographic and social effects of migration, changes in people s living arrangements and concept of family, increasing life expectancy and changing working patterns, the role of the voluntary sector, attitudes towards the natural environment and the opportunities associated with the digital economy. We can be sure of a continuing need for statistics that meet professional standards and are internationally comparable. Whatever the UK s relationship with the rest of Europe, and whatever happens within the UK itself, many commentators will still want to know how the UK, or its constituent parts, compare to other countries. In an increasingly connected and interdependent world this will become even more important. There will be major shifts too in how people receive and manage their information, as well as changes in their willingness to provide the information we need to produce statistics. People will expect to submit their information digitally. We will need to make more use of data already collected and held by other public bodies. We will need to embrace the opportunities provided by advancing technologies. To keep pace with all of this, we will need to develop our capabilities, and ensure our people have the right skills. With the financial pressures affecting us all, this will be a challenging period in ONS s history. Only by focusing on what our customers will need in the future, and making sure we are up to the task of meeting those needs, will we be able to thrive through this period. Keeping one eye on the ten year horizon as we develop our plans and change programmes will help us to do that. Every journey begins with the first steps though and this strategy and vision for the future sets out what we need to do in the next year or two to put us on the right track. Whether you work at ONS, use our statistics or supply us with the data we rely on, I hope you will find time to read this strategy and take a close interest in ONS s future. Glen Watson ONS Director General Office for National Statistics 1

3 1 Executive Summary 1.1 The Office for National Statistics is the UK s National Statistical Institute and the largest producer of official statistics in the UK. It is the Executive Office of the UK Statistics Authority and is independent of ministers, reporting through the Authority to the UK Parliament and the devolved legislatures. 1.2 ONS statistics are crucial for effective debate and decision making in government, industry, academia or by private individuals. In line with the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 and the supporting Code of Practice for Official Statistics, the statistics we produce are designed to meet the wider public good as well as the needs of government. 1.3 ONS has a unique role within the UK conducting, for example, a number of statutory surveys of UK businesses, the ten yearly census of population for England and Wales, and producing the UK s main economic statistics and National Accounts. This places a responsibility on us to set and maintain standards of quality and trustworthiness, including consistent time series, comparability across geographies, up-to-date classifications and world class statistical methods. We have a leading role within the UK and a strong voice internationally. 1.4 Against a backdrop of increasing demand for statistics and analysis and a period of national austerity, this ONS strategy sets out our mission, vision, values and our strategic aims for the next ten years. Our mission is: Trusted Statistics Understanding the UK. 1.5 Our vision is: To be widely respected for informing debate and improving decision making through high quality, easy to use statistics and analyses on the UK s economy and society. Office for National Statistics 2

4 1.6 We are committed to continuously improving the way we operate and the statistics and analyses that we produce. We believe that everything can be improved if we have an engaged workforce, continue to place emphasis on quality, learn from others and act on what our customers tell us. 1.7 To help achieve our vision, we have nine strategic aims that will guide our business planning and prioritisation decisions. ONS Strategic Aims: Inform debate and have greater impact on decision making. Dramatically improve the communication of our statistics and analyses. Be highly regarded by our customers for producing trustworthy statistics and analyses that anticipate their needs. Be at the forefront of integrating and exploiting data from multiple sources. Have flexible and efficient processes and systems for statistical production, underpinned by sound methodology. Improve quality and minimise the risk of errors. Keep the data we hold secure. Be a statistical powerhouse at the heart of the Government Statistical Service and the European Statistical System. Have skilled and motivated people who are enthusiastic for change. 1.8 We want our stakeholders to feel engaged in our future. We want: our customers and users to understand how statistics can help them, to recognise the quality of our products and services, and to influence our priorities and plans, our people to feel inspired by ONS leaders, motivated to do their best and engaged in their work adding value, innovating and contributing to our vision, our partners to feel pride in helping ONS succeed, and our data suppliers to be engaged and aware of the importance of their contribution when supplying us with the data we collect. 1.9 Underpinning everything we do are our organisational principles and values. Our values describe how we want people to treat each other and how we want them to feel. Our organisational principles describe how we want people to work so that we can deliver this vision. Office for National Statistics 3

5 ONS Values: Respect each other. Work together to make a difference. Take pride in what we do. Always want to do better. ONS organisational principles: We are customer focused. We put quality first. We deliver with pace. We delegate decisions to the right level. We look outwards, learn from experience and innovate. We simplify our business processes. Office for National Statistics 4

6 2 Office for National Statistics: Who we are and what we do 2.1 ONS is the Executive Office of the UK Statistics Authority, a central government department independent of ministers that reports directly to the UK Parliament and the devolved legislatures. The Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 sets the Authority the objective of promoting and safeguarding the production and publication of official statistics that serve the public good. This includes, but is not exclusive to, the needs of government. 2.2 As the Executive Office of the UK Statistics Authority, the main responsibilities of ONS are: the collection, compilation, analysis and dissemination of a range of key economic, social and demographic statistics about the UK, the provision of statistical leadership and methodological advice for the benefit of UK official statistics, and the representation of the UK internationally as the UK s National Statistical Institute. 2.3 These responsibilities span more than 650 different statistical releases a year. They rely on a broad range of methods and systems. In line with UK Statistics Authority s responsibility to promote and safeguard official statistics, outputs are produced in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics and relevant quality standards. 2.4 As members of the European Statistical System we share responsibility for ensuring the appropriate measurement of changing socio-economic phenomena and have a legal obligation to meet the EU regulations concerning statistics. Our wide ranging portfolio includes: UK National Accounts (such as Gross Domestic Product and National Income and Expenditure). UK Balance of Payments. Population, demography and migration analysis and statistics. Government output and activity. Business output and activity. Prices (such as consumer and producer). Labour market (such as employment, unemployment and earnings). Vital events (such as births, marriages, morbidity and deaths). Social analysis and statistics (such as statistics about well-being, crime and families). Decennial population census and new developments. Office for National Statistics 5

7 2.5 ONS has an important role at the heart of the Government Statistical Service, providing guidance, support and standards in statistical methods, geographical boundaries, classifications and training. We employ the largest number of government statisticians and many social researchers, economists, IT experts and other specialists. Our largest professional group is the Operational Delivery Profession and because all ONS employees play a part in delivering official statistics, we are all members of the Government Statistical Service. 3 Why we need to change 3.1 A successful organisation needs to change continuously in response to changes in the external environment and to position itself for the future. ONS today is a provider of high quality economic and social statistics but many of our systems and processes are in need of further development. We need to respond to new demands and expectations, whether from our close customers, more occasional users of our statistics or our data suppliers. We need to be able to adapt to new circumstances as they arise to seize some new opportunities. We need to do this at a time of continuing austerity following the financial crash in 2008 and the slow pace of economic recovery. The key drivers for our future change are: Office for National Statistics 6

8 3.2 The economic reality The intense focus on the state of the economy is likely to continue for the foreseeable future and ONS economic and financial statistics will come under increased scrutiny. We will need to maintain high levels of quality assurance in preparing economic statistics and will need to keep pace with policy developments, international standards and any emerging quality concerns Downward pressure on public finances will continue, so we will be seeking efficiencies in how we work and will need to demonstrate value for money by adopting strong financial management practice. Staff motivation will continue to be of great importance, and we will focus on the things that can make people proud to work at ONS particularly the quality of what we do and the impact this has in society. We will retain and develop the skills that are core to our business, while adopting more creative solutions where it makes sense to do so such as outsourcing and developing strategic partnerships to help us realise our vision. 3.3 The data buzz As the quantity and scope of digital information in the world grows we must adapt our processes to exploit the opportunities this presents. We are already working on the integration of different administrative, commercial and other data sources and must continue to develop these capabilities, supported by appropriate methods and standards. ONS already makes an important contribution by providing researchers and policy analysts with access to anonymised micro data from social and business surveys, and we will increasingly make more of our datasets available in open formats to support re-use. We are already adapting the way we work, our infrastructure and our processes. 3.4 International The demand for internationally comparable statistics continues to increase, as do the pressures and opportunities for collaboration. Eurostat is working towards its own vision the European Statistical System Vision 2020 which puts greater emphasis on integrated data collection and use of administrative data to supplement survey data. As the UK s National Statistical Institute, ONS has a particular responsibility to ensure that changing socio-economic phenomena are properly measured and that the underlying methods and systems are robust We will need to remain active in Europe whatever our formal status, leading where it is in our interests to do so and building new partnerships alongside those that already exist. This will enable us to influence agendas where necessary and improve international quality and consistency by building the necessary statistical capacity and capability. 3.5 The digital agenda Engagement with our customers, users and data suppliers will increasingly be via digital media. People already expect to be able to provide their data online and this means we will need to develop the infrastructure, methods, processes and skills to enable this, otherwise we could see survey response rates decline significantly. People also expect to be able to engage with us using social media and other online fora, and we are already seeing that this can create opportunities to raise awareness of ONS, to find out what people think of us and to improve response rates Office for National Statistics 7

9 through, for example, online help. We have made some progress, but the digital world moves quickly On the analysis and dissemination side, we will continue to develop our improving website and social media channels, and to find innovative ways of making our data, statistics and analyses more engaging, easier to understand and accessible. We will build on the exciting work already underway on data visualisation and digital publishing to create a state of the art online presence that we can all be proud of. 3.6 Competitive environment The growing market in data collection, analysis and presentation of statistics means that ONS cannot afford to be complacent. Many organisations now possess the ability to produce and publish statistics, albeit not necessarily to the same quality standards. Our unique selling point is that we enjoy high levels of trust and operate to a professional and statutory Code of Practice, combining technical skills with world class methods and standards. Our role includes providing the UK s official statistics to international bodies and we have a legal mandate to conduct certain types of data collection. The growing capability in other organisations, however, presents us with new opportunities to collaborate. We will want to further develop our partnerships with private sector, public sector and academic organisations to help us achieve our vision. Early examples include the syndication of digital content by online news channels and research partnerships with universities. We will continue to seek other opportunities. 3.7 Changing society Our statistics will need to keep pace with some fundamental changes in society over the next ten years, including the rebalancing of the UK economy, the growth in the digital economy and change in people s living arrangements. For example, in recent years ONS has been at the leading edge of research into well-being, measures of social, natural and human capital and measures of public sector productivity. We will need to remain flexible enough to respond to such changes and the changes in demand that they bring Attitudes are changing too. We value the contribution and quality of data provided by our data suppliers whether citizens, small businesses or large organisations but willingness to respond to our surveys is declining. We will try to minimise the impact on our data suppliers by making more use of administrative data captured elsewhere, for example data captured on company databases or VAT returns. This will enable more efficient online means of data transfer and collection. Our role in influencing the government s data sharing agenda will be crucial and we will be diligent and determined in pursuing the benefits that data sharing will deliver for ONS and our customers. 3.8 Measuring complexity As the pace of change in society quickens, the methods and systems ONS adopts need to become more complex. We have seen this with, for example, the globalisation of the economy that makes our National Accounts such a challenge and the changes in people s living arrangements that make census taking increasingly difficult. We will need to build on our relationships with key customers, scan the horizon for changes and regularly amend our plans so that our data, methods, Office for National Statistics 8

10 systems and products can be flexible enough to meet the new demands while maintaining continuity. We will need to conduct regular quality reviews to challenge the underlying measurement concepts and the relevance of our data sources and methods, drawing on the best national and international expertise. 4 Office for National Statistics: Our strategy where we want to be 4.1 As the leading provider of statistics describing the UK s economy and society, our vision is to be widely respected for informing debate and improving decision making through high quality and easy to use statistics and analyses on the UK s economy and society. 4.2 Our strategy sets out a programme to deliver this vision. It recognises that we will need to be increasingly flexible with the resources we have, refocusing and rebalancing our effort to best meet customer needs. Resources will always be constrained and we will need to work hard to prioritise, to look for further efficiency savings and to look for opportunities to generate income. We recognise that we may need to rationalise our product portfolio while also reducing fixed costs. This will enable us to invest in improvements to our key services. 4.3 We will take a more proactive approach to partnership working to help strengthen our position and better serve our customers needs. 4.4 Changing what we do and how we do it will require strong and focused leadership at all levels in the organisation. We will also need to develop our workforce capability knowledge, skills and behaviours. This is key to managing this dynamic change, particularly in areas such as digital exploitation. The opportunities to lead change are exceptional and the best talent is imperative for success. 4.5 Our customer relationships are fundamental to achieving success. We want to develop and target our products to increase the use of our statistics and analysis in policy development, decision making and public debate. By improving the dissemination and communication of our statistics and analyses we also aim to increase the reach of our statistics among more occasional users, helping our statistics contribute to the daily lives of UK citizens. 4.6 Our people will be at the heart of future success of ONS. We need a diverse, skilled and motivated workforce who can deliver innovative solutions and improvements in our statistical and business processes. We will focus on changes to our culture to encourage and support inclusion and innovation, and to improve decision making. We will embrace the changing environment and market in which ONS operates and adapt accordingly. 4.7 Our people will be professional, show respect and value diversity, and will work with pride and passion. We will invest in them to develop new skills and experience. We will start by articulating the skills we need and where we need to develop further for example improving skills in programme management, statistical computing, digital exploitation and dissemination. To encourage innovation and improve performance, we will work collaboratively across ONS business areas, and will learn from our international peers and other statistical organisations. Office for National Statistics 9

11 4.8 Our partners will play an increasingly important part in our future. As we seek to extend the reach of our statistics and analysis, we expect to collaborate with more external public and private sector, and academic, organisations. As we focus on our core skills and capabilities and bring in the expertise we need from outside, we will want to instil in all our partners and suppliers a shared commitment for ONS to succeed. 4.9 Our data suppliers provide the raw materials for our core statistics and analytical products. Work to increase the integration of data from different sources, both survey and administrative, will help reduce the burden on the respondents to our surveys. We will work across government to try to overcome current legal and bureaucratic challenges so that we can obtain data from new sources. Where possible both social and business data will be better exploited so we only ask for that information which is not already held elsewhere Developing across these key areas will help ONS position itself as a statistical powerhouse at the centre of UK policy and decision making, working in partnership with colleagues in the Government Statistical Service. Internationally we will fully engage, and lead where it is in our best interests, learning and sharing expertise with other National Statistical Institutes across the world. Our aspiration is to be perceived as among the best, most innovative statistical offices in the world We will, of course, aim to retain what we already do very well producing high quality statistics that people trust and that help decision makers understand the changes taking place in the UK. But we also need to change from an organisation that can sometimes: Office for National Statistics 10

12 To an organisation that always: 5 How we will get there 5.1 We have identified nine strategic aims to help deliver our vision. These align with the core elements of our business process design and our ambition to meet the needs of our customers through the talents and skills of our people. The aims address the changes we need to make to our infrastructure to ensure we are fit for the future: Inform debate and have greater impact on decision making. Dramatically improve the communication of our statistics and analyses. Be highly regarded by our customers for producing trustworthy statistics and analyses that anticipate their needs. Be at the forefront of integrating and exploiting data from multiple sources. Have flexible and efficient processes and systems for statistical production, underpinned by sound methodology. Improve quality and minimise the risk of errors. Keep the data we hold secure. Be a statistical powerhouse at the heart of the Government Statistical Service and the European Statistical System. Have skilled and motivated people who are enthusiastic for change. Office for National Statistics 11

13 5.2 These nine aims will be taken forward through a number of priority actions. These actions alone will not deliver our ten year strategy, but they will ensure we set out in the right direction. 6 Starting the journey 6.1 Although the pace of change will be affected by the available funding, we are committed to taking forward as many of the actions critical to achieving our vision as we can. This list will be refreshed periodically. Customers Link to Strategic Aims Inform debate and have greater impact on decision making. Action With limited resources it is essential that we ensure we are producing the right statistics in support of customer needs across the UK and internationally. We will: maintain a portfolio of statistical products covering the UK economy and society that meet the key requirements of our customers, continue to meet the requirements of the Code of Practice for Official Statistics, meet our legal obligations to comply with EU regulations, start the changes required as a result of the European System of Accounts 2010 and the Balance of Payments Manual 6, complete our work to review the options for the production of population and small area sociodemographic statistics, through the Beyond 2011 programme, complete our project on Open Geography to ensure compliance with European and UK legislation, and prioritise our statistical work programme to match available funding, conducting public consultations before withdrawing any statistical outputs. Office for National Statistics 12

14 Be highly regarded by our customers for producing trustworthy statistics and analyses that anticipate their needs. ONS has a good track record of engaging with its customers through a number of channels: consultations, user engagement surveys, user groups and, more recently, by use of social media and online fora. We will: build on the existing work to identify and understand our key customers, their needs and satisfaction levels, work closely with our key customers to address any concerns over the quality of our statistics, and exploit new digital channels to engage with our customers and users. People Link to Strategic Aims Have skilled and motivated people who are enthusiastic for change. Action We want people to feel proud to work for ONS. By involving people and giving them a say in how we work, we will enable better, more flexible delivery. We will need to support our staff in developing the right capability and skills for the future and that starts with us being clear about what we expect. We will: clearly articulate the new and emerging skills and experience we need to deliver our future business as usual and investment projects, develop and implement a resourcing plan that incorporates the need to up-skill existing staff, Office for National Statistics 13

15 attract new skills and deliver through partnerships, successfully deliver relevant and targeted development for project and programme specialists, improve talent management and succession planning across all of our professional groups and the Fast Stream group, develop and implement an employment offer which attracts and retains scarce skills and reduces our reliance on contractors, improve our performance management in order to get the best from our people and to recognise their contribution, improve our senior leadership through a targeted leadership programme, up-skill delivery managers to enable improvements in process efficiency and value for money, complete our Coaching Skills programme and ensure this is embedded in the way we work, and learn from others, both within and outside ONS. Data analysis, products and dissemination Link to Strategic Aims Dramatically improve the communication of our statistics and analyses. Action ONS statistics continue to be critical to effective debate and decision making in the UK whether in more traditional areas, such as steering the macro-economy, or in newer areas such as measuring well-being. However, making greater use of data requires wider exploitation and increased levels of openness in line with the open data agenda. Office for National Statistics 14

16 We will: undertake a rolling programme of improvements to the content and commentary in our main statistical releases, work increasingly with other public, private and international bodies and organisations to make more use of our data and develop analysis that we might otherwise not be able to undertake, plan our analytical programme to inform policy making and debate and serve the public good, develop new ways of presenting our data which enhance our online and digital offering and support greater customer understanding of our statistics, open up more of our data for onward use, while ensuring that confidentiality pledges to data suppliers are maintained, and complete the programme to deliver enhanced website capability, open up access to ONS data, and improve our dissemination channels. Infrastructure and processing Link to Strategic Aims Have flexible and efficient processes and systems for statistical production, underpinned by sound methodology. Improve quality and minimise the risk of errors. Action Current ONS production processes are well established and this strategy reaffirms our desire to ensure quality throughout our statistical production. We will: move to an integrated, streamlined production process (Common Information Model) based on the internationally approved Generic Statistical Business Process Model, lead a coordinated and targeted approach to Office for National Statistics 15

17 continuous improvement which develops our use of Lean Six Sigma techniques, develop a knowledge sharing framework which makes better use of our experience and expertise, consider opportunities for working with other public, private and international organisations to improve our data processing and handling, improve our understanding, management and acceptance of risks in a fast moving environment, continue to develop and implement world class statistical methods, and conduct National Statistics Quality Reviews and other regular quality assessments to ensure that our statistics are produced using appropriate measurement concepts, data sources and methods. Protecting the confidentiality of information entrusted to us continues to be of critical importance. The data model will be designed so that all data, including that from other providers, can be handled with assurance that confidentiality can be maintained. We will: continue to improve the security of our systems and processes to meet accepted standards, Keep the data we hold secure. support the open data agenda by developing more automated means of producing aggregated open data, and continue to provide legal access to micro data to approved researchers under strict conditions. Our technical and statistical infrastructure underpins all that we do and we must change to ensure we can better receive, integrate, store, and release data in ways which better support Office for National Statistics 16

18 the quality requirements of our customers. We will: develop our IT infrastructure in line with the government ICT strategy, where it is affordable and cost-effective, ensure our estate (property and IT) is fit for purpose, now and for the future, and use advances in knowledge and technology to make efficiencies to our processes or to better target our efforts. Be a statistical powerhouse at the heart of the GSS and the European Statistical System. As a statistical leader internationally we must ensure the application of common standards and methods in line the Code of Practice for Official Statistics and as specified in international regulation. As regulation continues to develop in response to the need to measure emerging socio-economic phenomena. We will: remain active in the EU and globally, leading where it is in our interests to do so, and forming partnerships which promote openness and transparency in our methods and approach, and seek to influence the development of new legislation, manuals and frameworks so that the benefits to the UK are clear and the costs well understood. Data Collection Link to Strategic Aims Be at the forefront of integrating and exploiting data from multiple sources. Action ONS business is based on a large number of survey data collections from both businesses and households, together with collation of various aggregate administrative datasets. We will move towards a position where we use existing data and administrative sources for statistical production, increasingly using unit level administrative data. Gaps which cannot be Office for National Statistics 17

19 met through suitable models will be met using targeted surveys which place a minimum burden on data suppliers. We will: develop and implement the business case for data sharing and increasing the use of administrative data, work with others to develop the legislative framework for data sharing, continue to invest in our Electronic Data Collection programme to lay the foundations for online data collection across ONS surveys, and continue to work with supplier representatives in order to minimise the impact of our requests for data and enable greater understanding of the use of their data. Over the lifetime of this strategy it is expected that there will be a continuing need for some face-to-face data collection in order to collect high quality complex social data from the population. We will: review the balance of cost, quality and burden in our mixed-mode data collection model, to ensure it is fit for the future. 6.2 Underpinning this work will be improved financial, workforce and business planning together with improved portfolio management methods to maintain control over delivery and budgets. We will continue to use the most appropriate project management principles to ensure collaborative working across the different specialist groups in the office. To ensure value for money we will strengthen financial discipline to become more commercial, adaptable and innovative. Office for National Statistics 18

20 7 Measuring Success 7.1 We have identified a number of high level success criteria which will allow us to monitor the implementation of this strategy and to take action if progress is not being made towards achieving the vision. Success Criteria Customers Improved feedback from our key customer groups. Enhanced use of social media and other online fora for listening and customer engagement. Low levels of negative coverage in the media. Compliance with EU regulations. Data analysis, products and dissemination ONS remains a key provider of policy-relevant statistics and analysis across government. Increased range of datasets made available in an open form. Increased visits to the ONS online presence. Infrastructure and Processing Common language defined and used across the office and the wider GSS. Quality framework established and applied. Adherence with government ICT strategy. Portfolio of common IT solutions and frameworks. Leading edge financial management practices that maximise the value for money of producing our statistics. Common information model developed and introduced. Reduction in the number of separate approaches used across the office. Office for National Statistics 19

21 Other data owners happy to provide datasets to ONS in the knowledge that confidentiality will be maintained. Data collection Reduction in the proportion of data collected via surveys (reduced compliance burden) with a corresponding increase in data re-use from existing and administrative sources. Increased use of single data sources for multiple purposes. Progress in the introduction of multi-mode collection on both business and social surveys. Online collection or direct data feeds as the default. People Everyone in ONS understands the vision and values of the office and how they can contribute. People feel proud to work at ONS. Leadership skills are improved so that people feel motivated and engaged. People are encouraged to suggest and implement improvements to their work areas and across ONS. Increased collaboration, including with other parts of the GSS, internationally and with market leaders. Office for National Statistics 20

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