Author: CBS
CBS Multi-annual Programme 2024-2028

Strategic objective 3: Maintaining high quality

As the statistical office of the Netherlands, CBS has acquired a solid reputation worldwide when it comes to standards and the quality of statistics. At a time when facts are in doubt and figures are often open to debate, the high-quality information from CBS is essential for proper conduct of the public debate. CBS therefore strives to maintain and, where possible, further improve the quality of statistics in order to do justice to its reputation as a supplier of reliable factual information and to continue to enable high-quality research. This is the third strategic objective for the planning period.

However, quality is not the same as accuracy. In some cases, an up-to-date figure is important for users to respond quickly and a less accurate figure may suffice; in other cases, the emphasis is on accuracy. This requires CBS to produce figures that are optimally applicable and thus able to meet such differing needs. CBS aims to provide greater insight into the various quality aspects so that users can take these into account when applying the information.

In order to maintain the high quality of our statistics and respond to all societal and technological developments, CBS invests in personnel, IT and processes, and targeted innovations are required.

Within this strategic objective, CBS therefore has the following ambitions:

1. Investing in high-calibre personnel

The organisation must be flexible and agile in order to achieve our organisational objectives, to remain an attractive employer and to enable our own staff to develop. CBS will therefore invest heavily in the development of its own staff during the planning period so that employees are deployed according to their qualities. This organisational development

Includes a number of elements:

Having and retaining the best people

The evaluation of CBS found that CBS is developing increasingly into a knowledge institution. CBS wishes to further expand its reputation as a knowledge institution with high quality standards. In order to maintain its optimum performance in the future, CBS aims to attract and retain the best people, taking into account the changing demands in society. Staff departures and population ageing mean that continuous and targeted effort is required to project our profile in the labour market and attract and retain experts. This requires CBS to remain an attractive employer, with adequate remuneration, but particularly also good fringe benefits, a pleasant working environment, an open atmosphere, a culture that stimulates personal and professional development and room for a good work-life balance. Clear career paths provide a basis for staff development.

Trainee programme

CBS is launching its own trainee programme. This will give talented entrants to the labour market the opportunity to get to know CBS, gain work experience in a societally relevant knowledge institution and develop themselves.

Making the workforce a reflection of society

CBS is at the heart of society and contributes in a transparent and unbiased way to greater knowledge and understanding of relevant societal themes. In order to continue improving its statistics, CBS aims to be an organisation that reflects society. CBS therefore strives for diversity in its workforce. The conviction that diversity strengthens cooperation is a guiding principle in the recruitment of new employees.

Developing everyone's talent in a learning organisation

The priorities require an environment in which all CBS colleagues count and can give the best of themselves. The organisation constantly challenges itself to improve through a learning organisational culture. Our management is talent-driven and development-oriented: employees are motivated in their work, receive constructive feedback and are coached where necessary. The organisation continuously trains and develops all layers of management.

Collaboration and flexibility

CBS is outward-looking, so we can respond appropriately and, if necessary, rapidly to changing demands in society. Issues are becoming increasingly complex and integrated and often involve multiple statistics and areas of expertise. This means that internal specialist capacity must increasingly be deployed in teams and that multidisciplinary collaboration is becoming important.

This requires more flexible use of our workforce. Employees will be challenged to grow with the technical and professional developments so that they can be deployed more widely. Mobility and growth will be stimulated to an even greater extent. In the case of new employees, the principle is that they will transfer to another division after three years. The organisation will monitor any friction losses in its output.

Further development of the CBS Academy

The CBS Academy has recently developed into a fully-fledged internal CBS training centre. The CBS Academy will continue this development and support employees in order to maintain professionalism, but also to continue developing personal skills. CBS will focus more than before on its role and task of helping the government to increase the accessibility of data and will develop training and education in the use of data and statistics for our government partners.
In line with the recommendation from the CBS evaluation, the CBS Academy therefore aims to collaborate with other educational institutions of government partners, such as the National Academy for Finance and Economics.

2. Investing in IT and processes

IT: keeping the base in order

CBS is an IT-intensive organisation and, like many other government organisations, faces a major challenge in keeping the base in order. A secure IT work environment is a paramount requirement for CBS. Enterprises and citizens provide a great deal of information, much of it privacy- and business-sensitive, trusting that it is in safe hands at CBS. If that trust is damaged, for example by a security breach, enterprises and citizens will no longer be willing to supply their data and CBS will no longer be able to perform its statutory duties. An extremely important development is therefore the sharp increase in cyber threats. In order to continue coping with these threats, CBS must continually raise the level of its IT security. This means the organisation will be strengthened substantially in this area.

The changing user requirements and CBS’ ambitions to maintain high quality are also leading to growing complexity in its own IT environment. The organisation requires more and increasingly advanced software, different IT environments for different types of work and adjustments to the technical infrastructure for the use of secure cloud services.

The increase in the amount of data also requires an expansion of storage capacity as well as the associated management, and fallback options that are necessary in order to restore the most essential services sufficiently quickly in the event of a disaster. Additional resources are required to manage standard software and security measures.

CBS has started migrating to a standard application platform to control development and management costs. The provision of a modern, controlled and secure environment for application development and further training and knowledge-sharing on modern best practices in that field contributes to the further professionalisation of CBS’ IT organisation in the field of software development.

All this requires structurally higher IT expenditure. CBS is therefore in a position to invest heavily in IT during the planning period, partly thanks to additional financial resources made available for this purpose by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy.

Robust, flexible and future-proof processes

CBS’ first strategic objective is to provide information on major societal challenges. These are not static, but evolve over time. The war in Ukraine, rising energy prices and shortages in labour markets demonstrate that not everything can be anticipated. Flexibility is therefore required on the part of both the organisation and the employees of CBS and that requires production processes that are easily to adapt and maintain. CBS is therefore working on a redesign of its statistical production processes.

It is developing and implementing a fundamentally new process for economic statistics. The input data are brought together and linked from the various sources at the earliest possible stage. Checking and correction is mainly done automatically and data are made available through a central data library. Standardised processes, methods, data and IT resources are used for this purpose. CBS is thus creating a more efficient and flexible process, which provides room for innovation. Flexibility and agility make an important contribution to CBS’ ambition to accelerate the production of new information responding to the latest economic developments.

For social statistics, CBS is developing a standardised process to incorporate register information. This will replace the existing processes that involve many different methods, IT solutions and processes. This will reduce the management burden, generate quality gains and allow room for innovation. The development time for new statistics is also falling, so here too there are increasing opportunities to respond quickly to changing needs.

3. Privacy and data protection

Society must have confidence that all data received by CBS will be used solely to produce statistics and that this will never result in disclosure of information about individuals, households, enterprises or institutions. CBS therefore not only seeks to comply with privacy legislation, but also aims to excel in that area.

Privacy protection is never complete: it is a dynamic process that must cope with increasing threats, including in the field of cybercrime, and must adapt to changing societal insights, technological developments and changed legislation and regulations.

CBS has therefore taken numerous technical and organisational measures to ensure privacy, often on the basis of the Statistics Netherlands Act and the European Statistics Code of Practice. This means among other things that CBS removes directly identifying data (citizen service number, name, address and place of residence etc.) as soon as possible on receipt, that CBS researchers are only given access to the data they need for the relevant research and that everything that CBS publishes is carefully checked for disclosure risks. The data must only be used for the purposes of statistical and scientific research. This means that data use for decisions at an individual level, such as enforcement and detection, is by definition excluded. CBS also invests in innovations to continue to exploit the power of data while protecting privacy to the fullest extent possible. In addition, an external auditor has been conducting privacy audits at CBS since 2015. On the basis of these audits, CBS has been awarded the “privacy-proof” certificate in accordance with NOREA's Privacy Control Framework.

In short, data protection is a top priority for CBS. CBS remains vigilant in this regard to ensure that the search for new opportunities for careful and efficient use of data is not compromised. It is very important that CBS retains its “social licence” so that it can continue to perform its duties legitimately with sufficient cooperation from society as a whole and from the individual citizen. Communication and transparency therefore require constant attention. Particularly in the case of complex methods and techniques, it is very important that CBS involves society and properly explains what it is doing, why it is necessary and how it safeguards privacy.

4. Administrative burden

The production of statistics naturally requires data. Although CBS seeks to use government records and innovative data collection methods as much as possible, requesting data by means of surveys remains indispensable. CBS will continue to take explicit account of the burden caused by data requests and aims to limit the increase in the administrative burden as much as possible. CBS puts enterprises at the centre of its data collection. Good services, predictable requests, easy submission and reuse of business data are essential aspects. Existing solutions such as the automatic importing of business records will be expanded in the years ahead. In order to limit the perceived administrative burden and maintain the quality of response, CBS provides a business portal to help enterprises provide the requested data correctly and in a timely manner. This makes it clear when each questionnaire must be completed. Where possible, CBS adapts the questionnaires to make submissions easier and shorten the completion time. It is also investigating the potential to make innovative use of new data sources jointly with partners in order to limit the number of questionnaires. As a last resort, CBS deploys its enforcement tools where necessary. Compliance with the survey obligations by businesses increases the response. CBS therefore aims to make appropriate use of enforcement in cases of statistics where the provision of data by businesses is mandatory. Enforcing survey obligations against enterprises that do not comply is fairer for enterprises as a whole and ultimately limits the administrative burden.

Attention is focused not only on the mandatory surveys for enterprises but also on the ever diminishing participation in surveys of individuals. This is a worrying development, since a quantitatively and qualitatively high level of response is needed to maintain the quality of the results. CBS is introducing new forms of data collection, improving the questions and providing targeted incentives to facilitate participation and thus increase the response rate.