Figure.NZ's goals and how we set them
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Our mission is to get the people of New Zealand using data to thrive.
It’s hard to measure this mission, because there are so many ways the benefits from more people using data flow through communities. We’re focused on these benefits, not on getting more people to click on our website.
We’ve identified 2 contributing measures for success that can act as proxies. They’re based on the main things we do. We believe if we achieve these proxies, we’re more likely to succeed in our mission.
We’ve picked 24 February 2022 for hitting our big goals for each of these proxies, because it’ll be exactly 10 years since Lillian first had the idea for Figure.NZ — read more about that in our story.
We work towards these measures using our objectives process.
Publish NZ’s scattered government data in machine-readable, linked forms, in a centralised location, and visualise it into charts and maps.
Goal: 80% of the data.
What data is included:
- Tabular data
- Available in Excel or CSV form¹
- Non-personal, aggregate
- Released by a government agency, crown entity, or state-owned enterprise
- Released under a public license, such as Creative Commons, that allows re-use¹
- Slow data (release frequency of 1 month or longer)²
- Univariate data²
¹ We’ll continue to advocate for more data to be released in open, licensed formats alongside PDF reports.
² We’d like to revise this, but cannot currently support it.
Make it easy and compelling for people to find, understand, and use New Zealand’s data.
Goal: 2 million interactions each month with our content by people reached through our website, newsletter, workshops, online learning, and people using our content (such as media).
We don’t measure these goals every month. This is because we find that can be demoralising, put undue pressure on the team, and encourage short-term thinking. We’re not looking for solutions that move the needle on these goals rapidly. We’re looking to build systems that enable us to reach them. This means we think about them long-term, and once every 3/6 months, we check in to see how we’re doing.
Instead, to deliver on these goals, and our mission, vision, and purpose, we have a set of 9 objectives. These objectives cover our day-to-day operations, and our mission.
Each objective has a set of indicators or metrics that help us track our success and alert us when things need attention. We regularly monitor these. We believe monitoring and managing these indicators will lead us to achieve our objectives, and that achieving our objectives means we’ll achieve our goals
Delivering our goals via objectives
Our 9 objectives cover all the areas of work we need to do to succeed in our goals and deliver our mission. These objectives don’t change regularly. We review them every few years or if it becomes apparent something needs to change.
Objectives are progressed through activities in work streams and projects. Work streams are business-as-usual (BAU) activities that we work on continuously, and projects are one-off activities that end or are eventually moved into a work stream if we decide they warrant ongoing effort.
There’s a lot of autonomy in the Figure.NZ team and we expect everyone to be part of coming up with ideas for projects and work streams, and helping decide our priorities so we can deliver on our long-term goals.
The 9 objectives
These are objectives that help us keep running smoothly.
- Access enough funding to deliver on our mission.
- Operate a great organisation.
- Support our team to ensure they can deliver on our mission
These are objectives that work towards our mission.
- Build systems to efficiently, reliably and sustainably publish data in a way that is economically viable.
- Publish and share data in clean, accessible, good formats that can be found and used.
- Publish data on the topics people care about.
- Keep data up to date.
- Be known and trusted by communities.
- Deliver resources that help people use data to thrive.
Objective 1: Access enough funding to deliver on our mission
Type: Operating objective
Responsible teams: Partners, Communications, and Board
- Revenue pipeline. Build, explore, and manage an active pipeline of potential revenue sources. This includes ongoing work on partnership proposals.
- Keep partners happy. Manage relationships with our partners to ensure committed revenue is paid and explore areas of new revenue from existing partners. This includes coordinating the rest of the team to do work for partners.
- Reporting to partners. This currently includes annual and quarterly reporting for some partners, but there may be different requirements in future.
- Sustainable funding. Identify and activate a future sustainable funding model for future-proofing Figure.NZ.
- Cornerstone partner. Secure a multi-year cornerstone partner to provide financial security while we establish a sustainable funding model.
- Figure.NZ event. Establish and run our first annual event, which strengthens current funding relationships and opens up new revenue opportunities.
Objective 2: Operate a great organisation
Type: Operating objective
Responsible teams: Board, Organisation.
- Coordinate process for regularly reporting on progress. Manage goals, metrics, and reporting processes so that the team know what to work towards and we’re able to report to partners as required.
- Manage legal and risk requirements. Ensure we meet all legal requirements for charitable status and ongoing business operation. This includes managing our risk registers.
- Report to board. Regularly report to board on operational progress.
- Mission, vision, purpose, objectives, and metrics. Redefine our mission, vision, and purpose, and wrap them into a new process that defines our objectives and risks, and how we measure them.
Objective 3: Support our team to ensure they can deliver on our mission
Type: Operating objective
Responsible teams: Organisation, Board.
- Work environments. Ensure happy and healthy work environments for our team, including managing remote environments and health and safety.
- Team support. Regular 1:1s and ad hoc team support to ensure team members have the support they need to succeed. This includes supporting professional development where possible.
- Recruitment and onboarding. Manage recruitment process for any new staff. This includes preparing job descriptions, advertising, interviewing, and onboarding.
- Organisational administration and finances. Manage organisational finances. This includes leave, pay, accounts, payments.
- Board engagement. Work with our board on necessary operational requirements.
- Team tech support. Provide team with technical guidance and support on hardware and software, and management of internal software tools.
- Tohu internal resources. Reflection on and documentation of our practices so we can continuously improve them.
- HR tidy up. Clean up and finish the documentation of our HR process.
- Update Tohu with HR process documentation. This is based on what comes out of the above project.
Objective 4: Build systems to efficiently, reliably, and sustainably publish data in a way that is economically viable
Type: Mission objective
Responsible teams: Development, Product, Operations, Data
- Dataset documentation. Documentation of how we manage particular datasets to make it easier for ourselves next time we work with them.
- Data team documentation. Documentation of how we use Grace to ensure consistency and ability to onboard new data officers.
- Technical safety and sustainability. Ensure our technical platforms are built and managed in a way that promotes long-term sustainability.
- Improvement of Grace. Ongoing bug fixes and quality of life improvements to Grace as we work through other projects. Shared with objective 5.
- Enumerations 2.0. Upgrade the enumerations system to meet new requirements and make management easier for the data team.
- Content update project. A complete relook at our content migrations and updates to incorporate all the use-cases we have identified, and make it faster and easier to update content whilst ensuring URL continuity.
Objective 5: Publish and share data in clean, accessible, good formats that can be found and used.
Type: Mission objective
Responsible teams: Development, Product, Data, Communications
- Maintaining and building what’s on our website. Ongoing bug fixes and quality of life improvements to the Figure.NZ website as we work through other projects.
- Publishing data that meets format needs. Ensuring data that is published on our site is consistent, uses user-friendly language, and is accessible.
- Search management. Improving the quality of search results on the Figure.NZ website, and improving how and where our results are displayed in external search engines.
- Test out new formats. Test sharing data in different formats and channels.
Objective 6: Publish data on the topics people care about
Type: Mission objective
Responsible teams: Data, Product, Development, Communications
- Manage data prioritisation. Maintain the data prioritisation system to ensure that we are meeting partner, community, and general needs.
- Publish new data. Add new datasets based on demand and availability.
- Identify data most needed by communities. Add an input into the data team prioritisation that identifies what the data people care about the most is. Some of this may be long-term, and some may be reactive based on media interest and current events.
Objective 7: Keep data up to date
Type: Mission objective
Responsible teams: Data, Product, Development
- Processing data updates. Continue to process data updates according to the data update timeline.
- Ongoing Grace bugfixes Continue regular bugfixes to improve efficiency of data team.
- Census 2018 update. Complete Census upgrades once the data is available. This is contingent on the content updates work allowing it.
- Content update projects. A complete relook at our content migrations and updates to incorporate all the use-cases we have identified, and make it faster and easier to update content whilst ensuring URL continuity. Shared with objective 4.
Objective 8: Be known and trusted by communities as a source of quality, free data and guidance
Type: Mission objective
Responsible teams: Communications, Data, Product
Note: By “communities” we mean any group of people or organisations than live or work in the same place, or share some common ground — whether that be through work, leisure, background, issues they care about, or life experience. Communities may also share a sense of place in online spaces.
- Build our story to create public awareness. Build the story and public profile of Figure.NZ so that more people hear about our work.
- Proactive and reactive sharing of data. Proactively share data and respond to trends in online conversations with relevant data. Note: Reactive data sharing is reliant on having communications team time to put towards it — it’s not currently a high priority, but it’s not off the table either. We also encourage team members to do this on an individual basis if they want to.
- Tohu external resources. Create ongoing Tohu resources on how we think about creating a healthy organisation that is data informed.
- Public queries and responses. Manage and respond to queries.
- Proactive and reactive media engagement. Develop and manage relationships with media, and respond to queries.
- External presentations. Deliver and support external presentations, ensuring they are on message and on brand.
Objective 9: Deliver resources that help people use data to thrive
Type: Mission objective
Responsible teams: Communications, Product
- External workshops. Ongoing delivery of existing workshops materials.
- Development of data use guides. Extension of this format to other verticals, following on from the first successful test.
- Ongoing development of maori.figure.nz. Continue to develop resources and add data that supports Māori.
- Develop resources and workshops for Learn This includes creating a well-thought-out series of workshops to help people new to data build critical analysis and data skills, and a workshop that helps expert data users think differently about data and build their influence.
Managing our objectives, workstreams, and projects
At the beginning of the calendar year we come together to review our existing objectives and think about direction of potential projects for the year. This doesn’t mean we lock in projects for a year, or that this is the only work we’re going to do, but setting aside time gives us space to step back, reflect, and think about where we want to go, and to talk about priorities and issues.
Changes to objectives are discussed and agreed by all of us, with the exception of Ngapera exercising her veto right to remove, add, or reorder objectives.
Managing workstreams and projects
Teams are assigned responsibility at the objective level. Teams then work together with the other objective owners to define which activities in the work streams and projects they work on. Before a project is added, every team whose work is impacted should be consulted.
When a project is completed, it should be removed from the list in Tohu. When a team adds a new project to their objective, they must add it to this list in Tohu. As a rule of thumb, the list of projects is a rolling list of projects you’re working on now and intend to work on next. At each monthly team meeting, we briefly discuss new projects added, as well as projects completed.
Our planning process is done on a best-effort basis. This is a software industry term that means an agreement that something will be attempted without any guarantee provided that it will succeed. The term implies use of an improvised approach and extraordinary efforts in the context of challenging conditions or constraints. There’s no punishment for incorrect estimates, and the purpose of the planning is to establish the relative priority of different streams of work, and show the tasks and their dependencies to other teams. It’s understood and accepted that the plan will change throughout the year.
In exchange for a blameless approach to project and workstream planning, we’re each expected to be upfront about all work we see as important and honestly believe will be worked on, and the time these things will take to the best of our ability. We expect everyone to take part in planning, and to take responsibility for raising issues or gaps they might see. We also expect everyone to respect the consensus we come to on the work that will and will not be currently planned for.
Generally, you can expect a Trello card or GitHub issue to exist for a project. Some BAU work streams will also have a Trello card if it helps the team to manage the work, such as ongoing content creation. Others, like regular talks with partners, may not. These cards are important as they help ensure the rest of the team is aware of how you’re going with a project.
Every month we have an all team meeting to regroup on how we’re going with objectives — this could be in person or remotely.
In the week before each monthly meeting, Miekes sets up a new Google Document called “Figure.NZ Monthly Team Report” and shares this in our #announcements Slack channel. There are sections in this report to be completed for each objective and by each individual.
Make sure to read the report’s introduction when it’s first shared and note any deadlines for completion, allowing a maximum of 2 hours for filling in your sections. Everyone is individually responsible for completing, reading, and commenting on the report ahead of the meeting.
As part of this process, you can also add items to the meeting agenda for discussion.
The report covers:
- Wins or achievements on projects and workstreams. This includes what we’ve ticked off and whether there are any new developments.
- Anything that is frustrating or concerning us. This includes things that may be blocking the next action on an objective. This could be just feeling stuck, a lack of resource, or external forces.
- Anything we’ve learned
- Our plans for the next month.
- Our personal commentary on how we’re doing.
After that, we have the team meeting. Ngapera facilitates the meetings, with someone else volunteering to take notes, including summarising actions from the meeting.
Here’s what we cover during that meeting.
- Review and discuss anything raised in the team report.
- A review of the risk register and objectives that relate to it.
- Any news that may affect objectives or completion times, or put an objective in jeopardy.
If substantial changes to objectives are proposed, everyone has 24 hours after the meeting to talk to Ngapera about any concerns before we commit to those changes.
We get together in December for an in-person team day, as well as an end of year team celebration.
We start the day by going through objectives, celebrating how the year’s gone, and identifying what we’ve learned for the following year.
Things to note
- Give people and teams a heads up as soon as you think you might need them to help achieve your projects and work streams.
- Celebrating wins is important! Sometimes, it’s hard to see progress because BAU work doesn’t always have a Trello card. We encourage you to share wins and progress in the #announcements Slack channel, and we encourage the team to celebrate these.
- When things aren’t moving or going as planned, get in touch with the relevant people or bring it up at the monthly meeting, if it can wait. If you don’t know what to do about the situation, talk directly to Ngapera.
- Everything we all do should be covered by our objectives. If you find yourself doing things outside of these objectives, make a note of it in the monthly team report, and add it to the agenda. We’ll discuss these in our meeting.
Setting up meetings
At the end of our 2 day meeting in February, we set dates for that year’s monthly meetings and decide which ones will be in person. Any meetings that aren’t in person are done on an hour-long Slack call.
If you live somewhere other than where in-person meetings are going to be held, Ngapera will work with you to book your flights as soon as possible after the meeting date is set.