Where we have got to with the programme
It’s hard to believe that 2017 is nearly finished, and interesting to look back on all that we’ve accomplished this year. We have nearly finished with the design of SAAT services, and for some have started service transition to turn them into reality. Alongside completing the design we have made major strides towards bringing in the most important new tool we have to support our new operating model – the new student record system. This summer we decided to procure TechnologyOne’s OneUniversity system to support our new ways of working. We are one of the first three universities in the UK to implement OneUniversity, which we chose because of its modern architectures and interface, and because it best suited SAAT’s transformation objectives – including that it is mobile device-friendly and will support more flexible ways of all users dealing with the system. Now that the contract has been signed we are well underway with the work to implement our new tool. In October we kicked off an exciting, important, and challenging stage for implementation – verification, which the rest of this blog post describes in more detail.
What is verification?
Verification is where we begin to ‘make things real’ with the new student records system, OneUniversity. We do this through a series of workshops (yes, more workshops!) to review the functionality of OneUniversity against the requirements we developed during the tendering process, service designs, and work of our business analysis team. So far we have run five of the eight series of workshops which comprise ‘Phase 1’ of verification. Some of these have been ‘building blocks’ sessions which are defining the foundations of the system, such as how the curriculum will be structured, and how student data and fee information will be held. Others have then focussed on how we will use these building blocks to manage our work at the university through to the point a student is ready to enrol, such as our Admissions, and Scholarship and Funding Applications. We are very grateful to all of our subject matter expert participants (SMEs) for their time and contributions to the sessions we’ve run so far.
Why it’s exciting
We are getting a tangible sense of what it will be like to use OneUniversity (and often, how it is going to make life better!), developing a detailed understanding of what functionality is available ‘off the shelf’ and identifying where we may need some configuration. As Adam Willsmore, one of the SAAT Service Design Officers, observed, ‘We’re beginning to understand how the new technical solution will meet the high ambitions set out in our service design workshops over the past year.’ It is exciting to uncover seemingly small things, too, which will benefit the University – for example, during our Direct Admissions series we determined that it will no longer be necessary for the PGT Admissions team to manually enter the fees students will be charged onto their offer letters. This removes the need for a very labour-intensive process and will free up time for the team to focus on other activities.
Why it’s important
While there are many cases where the new system will make life better, it will also make life different, and for a little while, whilst we get used to using the new system, possibly uncomfortable. Verification is our opportunity to have honest and direct conversations about how we do things (or plan to do things) and why, and understand where the trade-offs will be. Whilst these conversations are not always easy, SAAT Business Analyst Sam Elmer noticed, ‘The outlook of our SMEs is a big asset for the programme – they have been very open to and accepting of the need to do things differently, which is not always the case on projects bringing about such big changes.’
Why it’s hard work
There are some new and exciting opportunities for the University, but trying stay in a ‘future’ mind set for extended periods of times is hard work and can be tiring. It is also a tough balance to be thorough and think through a comprehensive set of situations that teams might deal with, without trying to account for every single possibility.
After we complete our Phase 1 workshops, we’ll validate the documentation of the workshop discussions with the subject matter expert participants who joined us. The SAAT Programme Business Design Authority will then take their recommendations and sign off the documentation, which will pave the way for configuration and user testing to begin, moving one stage closer to implementation! Phase 2 verification will begin in early 2018, and run until December 2018 – it will cover the remainder of the student life cycle.