ONS case study: big data management

​Turning big data into an engine of economic growth - BT Advise team helps explore a new world of information for the betterment of business and society


Tackling the digital transformation challenge

Big data doesn’t come much bigger than the national census. Taken every ten years, it’s a multi-terabyte treasure trove, yielding astonishingly detailed insights into changing patterns in British life.

Glen Watson, director general of the Office for National Statistics, had his imagination tested after the 2011 census. Starting right there, his challenge was to transform all ONS data and make it available online.

Watching closely were government, business and academia. Working alongside him were BT professional services consultants – whose collaborative way of working was central to Glen’s success.

Click here to watch the 20-second video trailer


Fast facts

  • 1.6TB of data logged during 2011 census
  • 8 billion separate pieces of information recorded
  • A single data-set can amount to 100 million items
  • Transformation saw Data Management System, Data Explorer, Open Data Interface and API modules developed
  • 120 BT professional services people involved at project’s peak


With 120 BT people working on the project at its height, collaboration was a critical success factor and dedicated BT office space was allocated to house the joint BT/ONS team, just one benefit of working with an organisation having unmatched global resources.

A creative pairing of our organisation with the deep big data expertise brought by BT was an ideal match when we decided to transform public access to our information.

- Glen Watson, Director General, Office for National Statistics


Perfectly suited to that collaborative mind-set the Agile project management methodology was another key to the team’s success, offering an iterative approach that’s tolerant of specification and scope changes.


With 1.6 terabytes of information in just the census alone, the sheer scale of the data configuration and management task was daunting, underlining the wisdom of engaging with industry-recognised experts.

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