Whitehall’s newly-created analysis function has just published its 2018-19 strategy, which includes plans to upskill civil servants working in other professions.
In a document published last week the Government Economic Service and the Government Social Research Profession said analysis was of growing importance across government because all professions now have greater access to data.
This means civil servants outside the analysis profession, in policy and finance for example, increasingly need analytical capability and need to be able to identify when to involve analytical professionals in decisions, the strategy stated.
The analysis profession includes actuaries, economists, engineers, operational researchers, scientists, social researchers, statisticians and data scientists – and was challenged this year by civil service head Sir Jeremy Heywood to become more visible to help shape important decisions including on Brexit and economic productivity.
The 15,000-strong analysis function was created at the end of 2017, and the first senior leaders’ analysis function conference was held in January this year.
The function’s new strategy covers its visions and objectives; how it adds value; how it will set standards in analysis across government; and how the function works in practice.
The analysis function has four skills objections: to build capability across the function through a learning and development programme; to increase the integration of analysis into other functions; to strengthen career paths for analysis professionals; and to promote diversity and leadership within the profession.
On adding value, the strategy emphasises the need to improve access to skills and set standards in analysis in order to better inform decision-making across government – especially as increasing amounts of data are available to civil servants. Officials need to “understand what is possible and have ready access to the skills”, while all professions need core analytical skills, the document says.
John Manzoni, civil service chief executive and Cabinet Office permanent secretary, was quoted in the strategy: “With data analysis and its supporting technologies increasingly a factor in new digital services, analysis is gradually moving from being a preserve of policy to powering decisions made in the moment by civil servants on the front line.”
The document adds: “An expanding opportunity for analysis to have an impact is set against a backdrop of insufficient recruitment to meet the existing demand in most analyst professions.”
This understaffing should be mitigated by the opportunity to collaborate on career and learning initiatives made possible by the creation of the analysis community, according to the strategy.
The plan – which was drawn up by the analysis function board headed by national statistician and head of the analysis function John Pullinger – also said that setting standards would make it easier to upskill partners, and help them to identify analysis they can use to take decisions.
It insisted that while those in the various analytical professions have common core skills, bringing them together would not lead to a diluting of specialist skillsets.
Anna Edwards, an actuary in the Government Actuary’s Department, wrote on GOV.UK that each profession related to analysis, including GAD, had committed a range of representatives to support the analysis function. She said she was looking forward to learning from other professions and gaining the opportunity to work on loans and secondments within the function.
“Actuaries, like other professional analysts, need to communicate analytical concepts clearly to non-analysts,” she said. “From the discussions I have had with other analytical professionals, it is clear that these challenges apply more broadly across many areas of analysis in government... By collaborating with the other analytical professions, hopefully we can communicate more effectively than the sum of our parts.”