By Civil Service World

17 Dec 2015

With the end of 2015 in sight, we asked Whitehall's top officials to review the year, set out their priorities for 2016 – and shed some light on their festive plans. Ordnance Survey chief executive Nigel Clifford takes part in our biggest-ever perm secs' round-up series...

How did you tackle the biggest challenges facing your organisation in 2015?
It has been a year of transition for OS, and one which began with our iconic brand going through a full modernisation project. This on its own posed a number of challenges to create a new brand identity capturing 224 years of heritage whilst portraying OS as an innovative data company at the forefront of the geospatial industry. With paper maps representing just 5% of revenue, but seen by many as the OS brand, the process looked to retain this affection while also positioning  OS as a big data company playing an important role across private and public sectors, nationally and internationally.

The brand modernisation was linked to another significant change for the mapping agency – in April OS became a Government Owned Company. It was important that OS have a conventional business structure to provide the platform for commercial growth, investments and product development.

Another challenge for me personally was my appointment as CEO in June. This involved the great pleasure, as a geographer, of getting deeply into the organisation. I’ve been absolutely amazed by the range of activity, from national data capture to international advisory services, paper maps, multi-agency resilience platforms and so on. I’ve come to realise that every day OS touches people’s lives in lots of different ways. 

What are your department’s top priorities in the year ahead? 
Our priority in 2016 will be executing the new business strategy and ensuring that location data continues to deliver value and underpin economic growth. My ambition is to make Great Britain an exemplar for the use of location data. Today we are seeing thousands of public and private sector customers using OS data to deliver efficiencies, underpin citizen services and support product development. It is vital that we build on this and work with partners to ensure that location data is at the forefront of developments in Smart Cities, the Internet of Things and Big Data. Every hour of every day we are seeing the creation of torrents of information, and location data is playing a key role in helping to manage these datasets. By connecting third party data with location data it provides a clear picture, enabling better analysis of trends and the platform to make confident decisions. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a map is worth many more.

What film do you hope to watch over the festive period – and what’s the best game to play with the family on Christmas Day?
Tempting to choose a deeply intellectual film and follow it up with a profound game of chess. However, I think we will go for Elf, especially the escalator scene, and a knock about game of charades.

Perm secs round-up 2015: Whitehall's top civil servants review the year – and look ahead to 2016

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