A more famous 100 days featured the War of the Seventh Coalition, the Waterloo Campaign and the Neapolitan War. I haven’t achieved quite as much in my first 100 days in post as Deputy Director for Digital Publishing, but some would say there are similarities!
When I took on the job, I was wisely advised by a Twitter follower not to get bogged down in the detail. That has perhaps been my biggest challenge. Apart from getting used to the Civil Service and the ONS, I’ve been both backward and forward looking since I started. I’ve been understanding some of the challenges for digital, why the 2011 website launch went so wrong, and the constraints the organisation is operating under. I’ve been getting to know the existing web estate from the ONS website to NOMIS, NESS, Open Geography and other digital projects that aren’t yet out in the world, like the Web Data Access programme which will release an API and Data Explorer.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about how the ONS website might look if we didn’t start with what we have, but totally re-imagined it, based on what users expect. The word ‘vision’ sounds rather grand, so my view of the near future is based on some basic principles: easy to find, access, understand, customise and re-use. That may sound under ambitious to some, but like Alberto Cairo, I’m a big fan of functionality and having talked to some of our regular users about what they want, it’s greater efficiency in their use of the site. In recent interviews with users, search and navigation were the top two bugbears. I’ll write more about what we’re doing to meet these principles in future posts. I’ll try not to get bogged down in the detail, but there is a lot of it underneath these simple headings.
How do we get there? Setting up a Digital Publishing Division is the start. Embedding it so it becomes an integral part of the working practices and culture of the organisation will take time. ONS have not been early adopters in the past. The first 100 days has taught me we’ll only get there if we collaborate more internally and externally, learn from users, be agile, embed the innovation that happens on the edges into business as usual, and not just bring in new skills but create multi-disciplinary teams, building on the existing knowledge and skills. Luckily there’s a lot of enthusiasm for doing just that at all levels of the organisation. We’ll learn from the past, but mainly look to the future.
Deputy Director, Digital Publishing