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GSS Data Project – New Year, Big Start

The Christmas holidays were a welcome break from what was a crazy and non-stop year, but we returned in the New Year, excited for the madness to continue! Our long-awaited spend control was agreed a few days before we left for Christmas so we were coming back to full-steam ahead.

We started the New Year focusing on planning, meeting with our third party tech team Swirrl to discuss the wider project vision and product plans for the forthcoming 12 sprints. Sprint 0 and Sprint 1 this month have been focussed on preparing and setting the foundations for the following sprints, and we’re considering ways of presenting an open view of our sprint plans and roadmap.

We’ve also been recruiting and the project team is now up to full capacity with an additional User Researcher (Jonathan Porton) a Data Engineer (Vamshi T) and a Data Architect (Alex Tucker). Finding the right people has been tough and has slowed progress, but it means we’ll make up lost time with the right people pulling in the right direction.

We’ve had our first Trade Expert meeting (a smaller subset of the Trade Consortium) to agree some of the finer details around the scope of trade data we’re using and it’s metadata. Access to the experts has helped to codify our understanding and answer the questions raised by the team. It was also an opportunity for us to get around the table and share information with our data architects Alex and Robin. They’ve been hard at work modelling the data and mapping between different code lists and classifications. They are also designing the data interchange formats using the W3C CSV on the Web specification. This will instruct how our Data Engineer will create the CSV outputs from our DataBaker tool that will be the start of the process to transform the data into Linked Data. We’ll continue to meet and work with the expert group over the coming months.

Julie Stanborough has joined ONS and is the head of the Best Practice and Impact team. Many of you will know Julie as chair of the Presentation and Dissemination Committee and ex-head of profession for DfT. The work we are doing has many crossovers with her teams, involving harmonisation, good practice and quality. We held a workshop with the team leads to expose our work and to discuss how we can collaborate. It was a great session and I know our project team felt energised by the possibilities of working together and how much this will benefit both sides.

We’ve also met with Ryan Dunn at DWP to discuss how our tool could work with Churchill. This is a mutually beneficial exercise to prove the value of having an interoperable, machine-readable data repository available for applications to consume and deliver high quality insights.

A key component to our project is the data. We’ve had good progress on getting the data from the various trade teams. Metadata is an important part of the puzzle and we’ve been lucky to receive additional support from within ONS to help capture the metadata needed.

John, our user researcher, has been busy arranging user group sessions to validate the messages we’ve received so far from users (or not!) and learn more about the user journeys. We will share these findings in a separate blog later.

Besides the main trade dataset family we have been working with other groups to collaborate on other data families. We’ve sent our initial findings from the migration workshop for the group to review, and we are currently working on additional meetings to fine tune how we continue. We’ve met with:

  • DCLG for housing
  • ONS for crime
  • The English Health Statistics Steering Working Group to discuss a workshop in February

Whilst typing this update I’ve been surprised by what we’ve managed to achieve in this shortened month alongside the other projects we have on too, so well done team! Our plans and ambitions for the next few months only means we will get busier, much busier. Bring it on!

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