3. Delivering Better Outcomes
To help consider how this new analytical function might be delivered, a project group from across the enterprise and skills agencies and Scottish Government has been working together to look at the process and outputs which comprises the current model of analytical function in the agencies in order to develop recommendations for an improved system.
As a first stage, an Asset Register was developed by each agency and SG to describe current analytical activity and outputs. Following this, the project group then considered each aspect of the analytical process in more detail looking at what works well and where there are potential opportunities for improvement.
Alongside this, Scottish Government officials have been considering the form that a new analytical function may take based on input from the agencies and wider stakeholders, including the Ministerial Review Group.
This report sets out recommendations on the issues outlined above. There are nine primary recommendations relating to the establishment of a new analytical unit to serve the Strategic Board, the principles underpinning the unit's operations, consideration of structure and a commitment to improvements in use of administrative data.
There are a further set of secondary recommendations developed through our consideration of how analytical functions are currently carried out and based on what we consider to be best practice going forward. These have been developed in close collaboration with the agencies. They should help to shape the initial direction of the analytical unit and should be considered further by the head of the analytical unit and Strategic Board.
Strategic Approach to Analysis
All four agencies, to a greater or lesser extent, currently follow a process of collecting and analysing research and data to help them to plan, deliver, report on and evaluate the effectiveness of their delivery functions. The process broadly comprises:
- Insight activity - undertaking research and analysis to determine economic context and better understand the policy issues facing Scotland.
- Planning and Performance activity - to describe and align policy deliverables with agreed outcomes and measure progress.
- Evaluation - to assess the impact of the activities undertaken.
- Data Collection and Reporting - management information to support performance reporting and to collect information from clients about what they want.
The primary focus of this activity in the agencies is their own area of delivery/responsibility. This is not to suggest that there is no joint-working on analysis across agencies, indeed there is already good practice to build on in relation to information sharing and collaboration.
Supporting the Strategic Board to address strategic issues that impact on outcomes will require continued collaborative effort to join up analytical activity - including research, data gathering, performance monitoring and importantly evaluation - across the enterprise and skills system. This will help the Strategic Board focus on high-level issues informed by shared objectives, the best available intelligence and a rigorous assessment of current policies, programmes and the performance of the agencies.
While there is the need to develop strategic analysis to support the Strategic Board, the individual agencies require analytical capacity to deal with delivery and process issues.
Figure 1 shows how the different components of the analytical process could operate at different levels within the system. Analytical planning across the system will need to make clear how the analytical activities, at each level, will join up to provide the right focus for each level without duplication.
Figure 1. Analytical functions in the Enterprise and Skills System
An immediate action for the Strategic Board will be the setting of shared outcomes and support for the development of the framework for a single Strategic Plan. Delivery of this will need to be aligned with the timetable to implement the Strategic Board.
This report is focussed on the Strategic Board, the four main agencies and the Scottish Government, however, there is a recognition that other stakeholders and delivery bodies (including Transport Scotland, VisitScotland, Local Authorities etc.) have an important role in the system. These other partners are not in scope for this work but it is anticipated that the strategic analytical function would work with these bodies to provide a coherent evidence base for the enterprise and skills system as a whole.
A small working group drawn from staff in each of the agencies has considered in more detail the analytical process described in Figure 1. This has led to a number of technical recommendations in relation to improvements at each stage of the analytical process. These will be considered further by the analytical unit and Strategic Board.