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Preparing for Beta phase

Alpha to Beta blogpost series

This is part of a series of blogposts aimed at those joining the Beta phase, which we’ve prepared in discussion with Alpha participants. All quotes are from Alpha participants. We hope to encourage those still considering joining to understand how they can participate and the benefits it could bring to their organisation.

We’ve ensured the blogposts are agnostic of nation or provision, as a key theme that came out of our discussions is the commonality between providers as they prepare for Data Futures.

"Saying yes to [Alpha] was around [knowing] what is everyone else doing; are we in the same place? Finding out those things is just as useful as actually being guided through the systems in all the pilots that we've been involved in in the past, and I think that's a key reason that signing up for Beta as well is [useful]…you just want to continue to see how everyone else is doing, and it's been really useful to learn from others"

Don’t wait until you have everything ready to start

You don’t need to be fully ready to start the Beta phase; many Alpha participants joined with an awareness that they had a lot still to learn and understand. 

"I think it's worth letting [providers] know that [they] don't have to have a complete finished file ready for Beta … [they] can do whatever segment [they are] ready for"

We are looking for end-to-end testing during the Beta phase, but this does not mean those providers unable to commit to that in the beginning should wait until they can before joining. 

"Whatever you do within Beta will be a benefit even if [your team] can't do all of it"

The Alpha phase confirmed the HESA Data Platform (HDP) is robust and now we are working towards supporting provider readiness ahead of the first collection launching in August 2022.

Allow time to process the participation agreement

We need sign-off from your accountable officer or head of provider before we can onboard you to the HESA Data Platform. We have made a reference copy of the participation agreement available, so please use this to prepare your colleagues and address and understand any internal queries or changes you might need to make to your internal process or plans for involvement. Advance work will mean you can sign promptly when the agreement is made available to you in early 2022.

Review terminology and e-learning

An additional recommendation from Alpha participants was to familiarise yourself with HESA-specific terminology and acronyms, such as the HESA Data Platform (HDP), Issue Management system (IMS) and Online validation toolkit (OVT). 

We have a HESA glossary and we will always be available to answer queries. There is no such thing as a silly question: every query helps us to improve and refine our content and communication.

Alpha participants recommend you engage colleagues via online learning.This is a strong way to clarify understanding across your organisation, especially for those newer to Data Futures and even HESA:

"…the online training has been really good. With the new modules coming out especially, it gets most people onto at least the same base starting level, especially those who've never involved with before or [who] just know that little segment of it [and] it's also really useful to go back to"

Make Beta work for you

Alpha participants repeatedly observed that the Alpha phase was a safe space to ask questions, to collaborate and to learn from each other. 

We are working with you during the Beta phase to support you and sometimes challenge you, so we can ensure the system, the model, and the collection works across provisions and nations. 

"[We’re] all in the same boat and everybody should be able to ask a question of [HESA] or you ask us. That might seem like silly to somebody else, but it's not about that. It's about ensuring that we all have a clear understanding, don't you think?"

Take the opportunity to network with other providers and share tips and understanding for mutual benefit:

"Everyone is a specialist in their own way…Having that context to [discuss and understand with other providers] has shown that we have it quite easy. Yes, we have some unique way that we deal with provision, but we don't have to deal with other things that are on the model and so that was a nice bit of perspective"

Everyone has unique parts to their organisation, but the HDP needs to serve everybody.

Having said this, we have often found that during the more informal Alpha sessions, what may have seemed like an innocuous, individual query often ends up applying across a broad range of providers and has helped us to shape activity and feedback accordingly.

Make the most of online access

"…actually doing it [online] is so much easier than previous engagements I've had. Because we all just stay where we were and it's more equal because I used to get [to a face-to-face event] and the people who [lived nearby] were fresh as anything and I’d been travelling for six hours before having to do an eight-hour day…this format worked well"

Stay informed via the HESA weekly update and Data Futures monthly update. We send both newsletters out to operational contacts, but non-operational colleagues can also sign up for these:

Sign up for the HESA weekly update

Sign up for the Data Futures monthly update

Above all, we are here to assist and help where necessary, so please do contact [email protected] if you need clarification or further information. We look forward to working with you during the Beta phase.

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