Statistics New Zealand

Implementing an ambitious 10-year business plan is enabling Statistics New Zealand to meet the increased demand for timely, relevant, and tailorable information head-on.

Looking ahead

Statistics New Zealand logoStatistics New Zealand (Statistics NZ) realised some three years ago that it needed to transform to meet the ever-increasing customer demand and remain sustainable. Sharing more data across government, creating new information, and delivering it in new ways to better inform decision-making across all facets of New Zealand was the aim. Then it was a question of how to make it happen.

“Resources were stretched and we felt there were more sustainable ways we could be providing data and information,” recalls Tere Scotney, Manager of Organisational Strategy and Performance. Another contributing factor was that the organisation’s IT systems – built in-house to perform very specific functions – were ageing and proving increasingly difficult and expensive to maintain.

The organisation’s senior leaders knew this would not be a quick fix. “We needed to shift from solely producing and disseminating data, to leading the official statistical system so New Zealand had the information to make decisions and monitor progress. This meant connecting more with our customers to better understand their needs,” explains Ms Scotney.

“As well as ensuring we were sustainable, we wanted to be more responsive to our customers and ultimately become more influential. So we changed our overall approach, as well as our systems, tools, and processes,” said Ms Scotney. “Most importantly, we are building the skills, behaviours, and leadership of our people so we will make this transformation a success.” 

The organisation moved quickly to create a detailed business case to Government. It outlined a 10-year programme of work to transform all areas of the business that aligned with the Statistics New Zealand’s Strategic Plan 2010-2020.

The hard work paid off because Statistics NZ was granted additional funding for the ambitious 10-year plan in July 2011. The funding is allocated each year, dependent on agreed milestones being met. Within the overall plan, Statistics NZ has set and needs to meet clear efficiency targets – for example, the long-term cost of producing statistics should reduce because, in future, Statistics NZ will have fewer platforms, enabling the organisation to retire a number of legacy systems and standardise statistical production. In addition, Statistics NZ should develop the capability to produce new outputs more quickly and at lower marginal cost. Underlying the whole programme is a focus on benefit realisation, productivity gains, and efficiency savings resulting from the introduction of new statistical production processes and systems.

Success is ensuring we can continually deliver relevant, needed, and valued statistics, while providing value for money to New Zealand.

An unexpected challenge came in the form of the Canterbury earthquakes. Statistics NZ has just over 240 people based in Christchurch. The organisation’s resources were stretched as it supported those people who were affected, set up temporary offices or remote working facilities, while continuing to provide its services. All of this occurred at the same time it was in the first stages of establishing its transformation programme.

In 2011, Statistics NZ set up a Transformation Office to monitor the transformation programme, made up of over 100 projects this financial year alone. It set up a new governance structure made up of six portfolios of work, based on the benefits they will deliver. These are managed by Committees, which are made up of a cross-section of Statistics NZ’s senior leadership team (which is known as “the Board”) and managers.

Building the skills and behaviours is a vital part of the transformation programme. Statistics NZ has a detailed People Strategy which is focused in two parts:

  • The Workforce Programme contains activities that build peoples’ skills and capabilities, and creating the right systems to attract, develop, and reward them.
  • The Culture and Change Leadership Programme is supporting people through change, developing strong leaders, and building the performance culture at Statistics NZ.

A new and small Culture and Change Leadership Team was set up to help people build skills in managing change. This team works very closely with the wider Human Resources team.

Talking about the change throughout Statistics NZ has been, and will continue to be, a priority. Statistics NZ’s Board holds face-to-face “Engaging Together Workshops” regularly throughout the year. These are collaborative sessions where people from all levels of the organisation refocus on Statistics NZ’s vision, discuss questions or issues, identify changes in the organisation’s environment, and learn new skills in managing change.

“Although it is early days, results from the staff engagement surveys shows our people understand, and are committed to our strategic direction,” Ms Scotney says. “The challenge is remaining focused on the vision, incorporating it into our day-to-day work. People need to see how their work contributes to Statistics NZ’s goals, and be encouraged to use our leadership behaviours continually.” 

Customers are starting to see a difference already. Recent changes to the Statistics Act 1975 means more researchers can apply to use micro data for statistical research. New platforms for data mean Statistics NZ is beginning to collect, store, and share data more efficiently. Ms Scotney says, “Our website is smart phone friendly, and we have published our first e-books. Examples of new information from Statistics NZ include Te Ao Mārama, a small collection of statistics about Māori and from a Māori perspective, and Economic News, which takes existing economic data to tell more in-depth stories.”

Statistics NZ not only has the mandate to lead the Official Statistics System but now has the confidence that it is able to deliver. And its work is being recognised. Statistics NZ was nominated for three IPANZ awards, and were announced as winners of the “Improving Performance through Leadership Excellence category” for the leadership approach of “Leading from where you are”.

Based on an interview with Tere Scotney, Manager of Organisational Strategy and Performance, on 14 June 2012.

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