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Preparing for Beta: the Data Futures specification team's top five activities

We’ve recently sent out a survey asking for expressions of interest in Beta, which is due to kick off in February 2022 and I’m sure many of you will be considering taking part and working through what it will mean for you and your provider. 

I wanted to share how my team and I are getting ready for Beta to give some insight and context; I hope it helps your planning, and that you decide to join us for the Beta phase.  

As part of my role, I’m the product owner for the Data Futures specification team, made up of quality analysts and data stewards across HESA. We are responsible for creating the specifications that feed into the HESA Data Platform and helping the development teams understand HESA’s requirements.   

Here is my whistle-stop tour of the top five things my team is doing to prepare for the Data Futures Beta phase.  

1. Writing quality rules

We’ve written over 1,000 quality rules specifications so far. I’m delighted to say that we recently reached a significant quality milestone with 500 rules now developed in the HESA Data Platform (HDP).  

Many rules are equivalent to the business as usual (BAU) quality rules. However, we’re now fully writing all the technical parts of the specifications, which includes making new quality rules where appropriate.  

2. Working on the Beta coding manual

We released the Beta coding manual at the end of September 2021, which included updates following HESA’s personal characteristics and equality data consultation. Last month I wrote more about the changes that came out of this sizable, and important, consultation.

We’ve now published an update to the data migration specifications for the Beta phase. Please review and check they make sense to you, and please give any feedback. Your perspective helps us refine and improve the migration specification during Beta.

View update to data migration specifications for Beta

We’re making continual additions to guidance and tweaks to codes/labels to keep up with the changes in BAU collections.  

We expect to release an update every one or two months, and we’ll notify you through the HESA weekly update.

3. Engaging with providers and software suppliers

Your questions help us test the data model with different real-world scenarios – some of which even make it into the guidance!  

To give you just a few examples: we have answered questions on calculating FTE, how to return module data, and returning outcomes after a module has finished.  

4. Creating test files

We have been creating various test files to cover a range of requirements: 

  • User Acceptance Testing before a release.  
  • Testing new reports (for credibility reports we make files to show a figure in every single box). 
  • Files which pass with any schema changes.  

5. Writing additional collection report specifications

The latest have been frequency counts reports and PGR transfers In and Out reports. You can expect to see these appear in the coding manual at the start of the Beta phase. 

By the way, one of my top tips for getting ready for Data Futures is to learn the model. A really good way to do this is by going through the steps of the data entry tool (we will communicate when it is available). I encourage any new members joining my team to do this – though I don’t just limit it to new staff! 

This is merely a snapshot of all the work going on to prepare for Beta, but I hope it’s helpful. We really need and value your input and I’m looking forward to working with many of you in 2022!  


Rachel Wilkes

Collections Development Manager