How ONS changed workplace culture to get best out of cloud

Project objective

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) wanted to move some of its services to the cloud to help its core functions operate more efficiently and effectively.

Migrating to the cloud and changing workplace culture was important to help the Digital Services Technology (DST) directorate fulfil 4 strategic outcomes. The function wanted to develop:

  • a highly capable, digitally skilled workforce
  • efficient automated operational processes
  • robust leading edge technology
  • flexible and adaptive delivery methods

The purpose of the directorate was to “enable innovation at speed and scale to keep ONS at the forefront of providing data, statistics and insights which matter”. It was important to the organisation to use cloud technologies so they could provide faster access to technology services and greater scalability.

About the ONS

The ONS is the UK’s largest independent producer of official statistics. They are responsible for collecting and publishing statistics about the UK economy, population and society.

The ONS is also responsible for running the census in England and Wales every 10 years.

Why the ONS decided it was ok to use the cloud

The DST directorate worked with other teams across ONS to adopt a cloud-first approach. Technology leaders agreed that using mature cloud tools would help the organisation:

  • better collect, process and interpret data to produce higher quality statistics
  • improve data sharing with users, stakeholders and policy makers
  • store data more securely
  • efficiently complete the large-scale online census in 2021

Overcoming blockers to using the cloud

It’s important for the ONS to maintain trust in the data and statistics it produces. The first step was to engage the ONS board and demonstrate that using the cloud was as secure as existing on-premise solutions.

The ONS Chief Security Officer submitted a security paper alongside a technology cloud paper to the board. These papers explained that the organisation needed to move to the cloud to meet business needs and that migration was not just a cost-saving exercise.

Senior leaders were concerned that putting data into the cloud would cause security issues. This led to limited innovation when developing digital and technology products. One of the main reasons for ONS using cloud technology is to have more scalability and faster access to technology services across all areas of the business.

ONS took responsibility for the security of its cloud usage within the provider’s service. This meant taking on the security management of people, data, applications, operating system and networks. The organisation developed 8 security principles which helps it to make sure:

  1. Data in transit is properly protected.
  2. Data at rest is properly protected.
  3. Cloud services are security assured.
  4. Cloud services are securely managed.
  5. Cloud services are secured by design.
  6. Access and use of cloud services is controlled.
  7. Cloud services interfaces are protected.
  8. Cloud services are protectively monitored.

If the organisation wanted to achieve core business objectives, such as getting 75% of the population to fill out the 2021 Census online, it would need to use scalable cloud services.

DST set up round table discussions with subject matter experts from different professions across the organisation. This helped staff to

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