The provision of a high quality national statistical service is a complex management exercise due to the diverse nature of user requirements and, in most instances, the lead time required to develop or update statistical collections. While the ABS recognises that it is impossible to satisfy all demands, in order to maintain relevance, it seeks to react positively and responsibly to the demonstrated needs of its users. At the same time, the ABS is conscious of the constraints on public spending and on the workload placed on providers of information for its collections. Continued effort is made to review and, where possible, reduce provider/respondent load.
How the ABS understands client needs
For the ABS, determining future priorities involves consulting and planning with statistics users. Users of statistics are consulted to determine their information needs. These needs are used as an input to decisions on the scope, content and frequency of statistical collections.
Consultation takes place through ABS-organised statistics user groups including the Australian Statistics Advisory Council; direct discussion with interested Australian government, state or local agencies, academics, industry bodies; and through the release of information or discussion papers inviting comment.
Consultations cover both needs for data on new or emerging topics, and modifications to existing data collections. For new surveys that are incorporated into the work program, contact with consulted groups continues throughout the survey cycle to keep them informed on progress and as a check that developments towards statistical outputs remain on track to meet survey objectives.
See chapter 9 for more information on engagement with users of statistics. In addition, a list of user groups the ABS organises for consultation on work program decisions is provided in Appendix 2.
How the ABS determines its work program
The ABS mission statement and corporate plan provide the context and high level framework for making decisions on the ABS' forward work program.
While much of the ABS work program remains constant from year to year, the planning process tries to make some resources available to pursue new high priority work.
Within this framework, the annual ABS planning cycle comprises a structured series of high level meetings and forums where senior managers formally and extensively consider the relative priorities and competing resource requirements of program components. In doing this, particular attention is given to:
Proposals from managers of program components are considered by senior management, generally following consultation with major users.
- input from user consultations
- the extent to which particular statistical activities continue to be justified in relation to other work for which a demand has been expressed by users
- the contribution statistical activities make to achieving National Statistical Service objectives
- the cost imposed on respondents to collections, in terms of time and effort
- prospective total resources available to the ABS within the upcoming three-year period
- the market potential and revenue implications of the various initiatives proposed
- productivity gains, which have been achieved or, which might be possible in the future
- the relative share of resources spent on statistical and non-statistical work.
Aspects of the proposed forward work program and resource estimates that emerge are considered by the Australian Statistics Advisory Council (ASAC). The statistical work program is then finalised in the light of ASAC advice.
The Forward Work Program 2006–07 to 2008–09 is published in hard copy and it is available on the ABS website.