GovWire

Submit learner data (data collection) live service assessment report

Government Digital Service

January 22
09:24 2021

From: Government Digital Service
Assessment date: 10/12/2020
Stage: Live
Result: Met
Service provider: DfE / ESFA

Previous assessment reports

Service description

This service collects learner and training/qualification level information from the Further Education (FE) sector. Data is submitted to ESFA to enable payments for some providers and build funding allocations for others.

This data covers learners who are at least 16 years old, not in schools or undertaking higher education, and comes from a range of training providers including FE colleges, private training providers and local authorities. It helps distribute around 8 billion of government funding.

This service validates on a submission then allows the data provider to cleanse the data before funding calculations are made. Once completed there are a number of reports made available that give detailed feedback on submissions.

Service users

There are over 2500 unique organisations in England that use the service with about 6000 users in total. Core users are responsible for managing and consuming data for financial forecasting and business intelligence within the following providers:

  • private training providers
  • local authorities
  • colleges
  • universities
  • employer providers
  • National Career Service

1. Understand user needs

Decision

The service met point 1 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • the team has carefully documented the specific needs of their professional user group, and keeps the needs as a living list which comes under review at each stage of development; user needs are written in plain English to reflect real needs as opposed to development-defined user stories
  • the team has developed simple personas which explain the needs and concerns of different types of user
  • there is a deep understanding of users, in terms of their different orientations, their background, and the language used. As an example, the team was able to defend their decision to retain well-understood educational jargon with reference to their knowledge of users and the learner data system
  • the user researcher has made great efforts to identify and include users with assisted digital needs and access needs and has carefully considered the barriers that might prevent people with these from volunteering for research activities

What the team needs to explore

Before their next assessment, the team needs to:

  • continue thinking about inclusion and what it means, in the context of a service that is typically used by office-based professionals
  • continue to consider the end-to-end journey

2. Do ongoing user research

Decision

The service met point 2 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • the user researcher and her team had managed to complete a considerable volume of user research, using multiple methods, despite the challenges of the pandemic and the restrictions of working from home (for both the team and their users
  • in particular, the researcher was working closely with a network of DfE researchers to share research opportunities and research findings and to prevent the duplication of effort/limit the burden of research on a stressed user base
  • there is a great use of a variety of feedback mechanisms, from regular user group meetings to Helpdesk data; this thinking about feedback as an ecosystem has really enabled the team to understand their users in the round
  • the team has tested and iterated their designs on a long list of issues, including name change, error reporting and tile design options
  • there is a clear plan for live, and a commitment to continuous research and improvement.

3. Have a multidisciplinary team

Decision

The service met point 3 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • the service has a multidisciplinary team with the necessary UCD roles. The only role missing is a performance analyst thats currently being recruited for
  • they have reduced the ratio of contractors to the permanent staff since the last assessment, including key roles like user researcher, despite the difficulty in hiring.

What the team needs to explore

The team needs to:

  • ensure that when the team moves into BAU mode, they have the necessary roles remaining on the team to continue improving the service, i.e. UCD roles alongside testers and developers
  • recruit a performance analyst for the team

4. Use agile methods

Decision

The service met point 4 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • the team is showing good agile practices and enables the team to iterate, make incremental improvements and prioritise work
  • they are making changes and improvement from retrospectives
  • they are adapting their teams working practices to the challenges of remote working due to COVID-19.

5. Iterate and improve frequently

Decision

The service met point 5 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • the team have clear structured processes to evaluate and prioritise work coming into the team from a variety of sources
  • they have incorporated what they learnt from user research and other parts of the organisation, like help desk, to make improvements to their service
  • there are defined processes that align with agile working practices to define, build and test user stories
  • there is a team in place and plans to make a continuous improvement when the team transitions to BAU.

6. Evaluate tools and systems

Decision

The service met point 6 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • the team uses a modern development approach, making full use of the capabilities offered by the Azure platform, providing much of the advantages of using a public cloud
  • likewise, the team has made use of the GOV.UK Design System and not tried to rewrite it to fit the development framework used

What the team needs to explore

Before their next assessment, the team needs to:

  • the downside of fully embracing Azure is that theres a risk of vendor lock-in, which might act against being able to change cloud providers, should the DfE consider doing so for commercial reasons. The team should make sure changing cloud platforms is not too difficult by identifying and documenting whether similar functionality exists elsewhere and what effort it would take to switch over.

7. Understand security and privacy issues

Decision

The service met point 7 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • the service team is well aware of the security aspects of the service and has evaluated what possible disruptions or fraud vectors are and have tools and processes to deal with the risk
  • regular IT health checks will be run against the system during its lifetime

What the team needs to explore

Before their next assessment, the team needs to:

  • add a privacy policy page

8. Make all new source code open

Decision

The

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