Performance analysts – what are they?
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is full of data, and full of people analysing it. But being a performance analyst in our Digital Services and Technology directorate is different. It is a role that involves working across lots of teams, supporting work with high-quality evidence and is part of our drive to ensure everything we do is of use to our users. And guess what? , to work on the 2021 Census: the largest digital project in government, with over 25 million users. I caught up with our website Performance Analyst Awen Jones to ask about what the job entails.
Performance analysts set up digital analytics, extract data and derive insights to understand services and identify opportunities for improvement. Analysts use work with other teams, such as the website development team, to create key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure performance on different facets of the site. These are then created in Google Analytics and hard coded to pages using Tag Manager, and the analyst provides regular reporting to ensure that the change is providing the anticipated altered user behaviour, be it more hits on the site or longer time spent on the content.
For instance, in terms of hits to our website, there has been a month-on-month increase for the last year with one exception, which can be put down to external factors such as summer weather, the Beast from the East and the World Cup. The insight performance analysts develop is presented to senior managers in Digital Publishing every month, providing both a progress update and creating the basis for future investigation and work.
Currently, we are working on how we can evaluate the success of the work we are doing to improve our statistical bulletins – what are the metrics for the engagement of users, as well as findability? The ONS produces hundreds of bulletins a year, so we are putting an automated dashboard together to show the results, but first we need to understand how we can show this at scale.
We are also working on ongoing training for other ONS staff to use Google Analytics. It is important to empower people to do their own research – after all, it is the basis of what ONS does. Staff are currently using it to track user behaviour around their content: how far people are getting through it, what search terms they are using and so on. The latest results show that 25% of users access the site on their mobile; this indicates that we are reaching a wider audience, which is something we always set out to do. The fact that we are getting increased weekend and summer holiday use shows us that it is inquiring citizens accessing the site, a demographic we have always targeted to develop.
We are also currently running A/B testing for click-throughs on our “View latest release” link on older bulletins to make sure that users can always find the most up-to-date data. Once we understand which of our links is the most useful to users, we will be making design changes to ensure this is used on all bulletins.
We are always looking for great people for performance analyst roles. You will need good digital skills, an ability to communicate effectively with people outside of your discipline (such as developers, non-technical people and statisticians), and strong data analysis skills. An understanding of data science is a great help but not mandatory, but you must be able to turn data into a story that drives improvement, always centred around the end user. If you can manage multiple demands, are a self-starter and can derive insight from user behaviour, then please apply. You will get to proactively improve digital services in an impactful and tangible way, making iterative changes that benefit users, making their journey and experience better.