To support the culture of continuous quality improvement, the CSO has invested significant resources to advance the quality agenda both within the Office and in the broader Irish statistical system. The statistical quality and integrity of our outputs is part of our DNA and this focus on quality is reflected in our corporate documentation, business plans and the Role Profile Forms of individual staff.
While each statistical area is responsible for managing the quality of their statistical processes and outputs, they are supported by staff from the CSO’s Quality Management, Support and Assurance (QMSA) division who are responsible for the development and implementation of the CSO’s Quality Management Framework (QMF). The QMF is an extensive and long-term programme of activities, which will ensure that the statistical production standards applied in the CSO continue to meet the highest standards as regards quality and efficiency. This is especially relevant in the current context of increasing and more formal scrutiny of official statistics at an EU and wider international level.
The overall goal of the QMF is meeting the required standard as set out in the European Statistical System Code of Practice (ESCOP) and the QMF foundations are based on establishing the UNECE’s Generic Statistical Business Process Model (GSBPM) as the operating statistical production model in the CSO.
The QMSA team have been working on the implementation phase of the QMF since mid- 2016 where they have systematically rolled out the new policies and standards in the form of the quality projects detailed below:
- The establishment of the GSBPM as the business process model for the Office. This model is an UNECE standard for statistical production and allows the CSO to advance a more standardised, horizontal approach to quality management. The GSBPM is the central plank on which each of the QMF projects are built.
- Survey documentation – This project focused on improving the level of quality and standardisation of survey documentation across the Office. One of the main goals of the project was to reduce operational ambiguity so that the documents act as the store of collective organisational knowledge regarding the processes. Survey Documentation also acts as training material to help new staff move up the learning curve faster. All survey documentation is categorised by phase of the GSBPM and made available centrally to all staff via an internal Quality Information System so that similar processes can be compared.
- Process Mapping project – Process mapping is the visual display of steps involved in a business process. It draws a concise picture of the sequence of tasks needed to bring a product or service from start to completion. The main purpose behind business process mapping is to provide clarity on exactly how the process happens, not how it is supposed to happen. All statistical products in the CSO have been now been process mapped and are available on the Quality Information System so that similar processes can be compared.
- Process maintenance project – In order to keep the maps up to date, the process map maintenance policy has been developed which requires business areas to certify that their maps are valid and up to date once a year. In addition, the policy requires that a process walkthrough take place every two year with QMSA and the business areas assuring that everything is still valid. The walkthrough also links to the survey documentation to ensure that documentation is also up to date and covers all statistical processes and activity reflected on the maps.
- Process Metrics and Indicators – In order for staff to make an assessment on how their processes are performing and to better manage the phases of the statistical lifecycle (collection, processing, analysing and the ultimate dissemination of statistical data) appropriate metrics are identified and collected at each phase of the statistical process. These metrics and indicators include response rates, timeliness, edit and imputation rates, precision rates and the degree of revisions.
- The QMF metadata project designed to establish the standards, based on international best practice, for all relevant parts of the survey life cycle. The focus to date has been on disseminate metadata but will continue to develop over time to include meeting the Eurostat standard for metadata (SIMS).
- Quality Review System – This is a self-assessment tool which allows survey owners to review the quality of their statistical processes against the principles of the ESCOP for each phase of the GSBPM they are using. It allows them to rate their survey performance, highlight good practice and set out improvement actions for areas which need improvement. The outputs from the Quality review can be used as an input for the Quality and Methodology divisions to provide relevant support where required.
- A range of data and process governance initiatives are also underway including: the File Structure Model, the Directory of Product and Services and the development of the Data Inventory so that are data assets are stored and managed in a consistent, standardised manner.
- Data Management and governance support tools – These include data owners attesting to which data they own and are responsible for, where this data is located and who can access this data. This is further supported by data governance tools to take account of data retention and archiving policies.
While the main focus has been on QMF implementation, there has also been a large element of process and output improvement during the roll-out of the QMF across the Office as any quality or methodology improvement requirements which were encountered by the Quality staff when engaging with the business areas have been acted on by means of direct support from the Quality and Methodology divisions.