DCFT changes for 2013/14

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This topic contains 16 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  Matt 7 years, 3 months ago.

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  • Martin West
    Participant

    Hi All,

    I am currently being held back due to the lack of information on the LIS and LARA replacements for 2013/14.

    I know an alpha version of the Desktop Service – LIS replacement was released months ago but for some reason not to own or software suppliers. While waiting for the beta release due on the 8th April does anyone have any news or details from the recent Own Software Writers Group meeting as minutes for this group are never published?

    I am particularly interested in the re-architecture, data platform and structure for the Desktop Service (LIS or whatever the new name is to be) as data analysis from this application is an important aspect for most providers and many changes may be necessary to existing reporting if the changes are extensive.

    Did the Data Service say that we should be prepared for in year changes next year and or give any reason or indication why or what this would be applicable to?

    Any help appreciated
    Regards

     
    #783

    Caspar Verney
    Participant

    Hi Martin,

    I made it to Coventry for the last Own Software Writers Meeting and can give you some flavour on this.

    Ian Tress & Hardip Ratan appeared on behalf of DCFT and Ian trotted out the same presentation about what is to come – fairly high level and non-specific. Hardip then told us a bit more. The replacement for LIS (which will have some new name that they can’t agree on yet, probably with an unpronounceable acronym) will be a single installation file that will require local administrative rights to install. It will require .Net 4.5 and will install (if not already present) SQL Server 2012 Express – this may require some intelligent user intervention during the install, but they don’t know any details yet. It appears to me that these sort of decisions are being made by the software authors and that the IA are just saying yes (rather than the other way about, although my impression here may be inaccurate).

    I did ask about Windows XP since so many people will still be using it and there are zero plans to offer any support whatsoever. I then pointed out that this means that those on XP will be compelled to validate their Batch Files using OLDC and so there MUST be sufficient capacity to support this. I also asked about how quickly the reports and PFR will be available after submitting a file, but the only answer that they knew is “faster than at present” which is pretty unsatisfactory.

    Once installed the new LIS will get all of its static data and updates automatically online (so LARA, Postcodes, Employers, Providers, Rules, etc.). The user will be able to use the new updates or choose to run with a prior version if they want (although just how and what control will be allowed is unclear).

    The “LIS Beta” is supposed to be ready “soon” but one issue identified is that because of all the online updates and data and linking, it may be problematic to make this available for beta-testing to the likes of us (and also because some of these components must come from other people and so they may not all be available at the same time!). Security issues are also a trip wire. So on the one hand we are being told that they want everyone to be able to test, but on the other they are saying that it may not be possible.

    I therefore made the point that if EVERYONE cannot be involved in testing then the only testing opportunity will be after go-live and that will really be too late!

    I also asked if we could submit ILR Batch Files for them to run through, if we are not allowed access, and Ian suggested that the data should be anonymous (however I am not sure that I agree with that).

    The new “LIS” will still be able to produce the LIS_EMP.mdb, which most people agreed is essential, but the majority of other output reports will no longer produce Microsoft Access output files, only pdf’s (I think I am remembering that correctly, but won’t swear to it).

    The Data Service did not attend the meeting and there was no real clear comment about in-year updates, apart from what I have said already, that it should be easier on the end-user, allegedly.

    Apparently there are never any minutes from these Own Software Writers meetings, only Action Points, usually published by Selvy within 2 weeks of the meeting. I did ask Selvy to include an Action Point for next time about just what are the contingency plans should anything not be ready in sufficient time, as I did’nt get time to ask Ian & Hardip in the meeting.

    I hope that the above helps. If you want to know more then I suggest you post more specific questions to see if anyone else remembers (or jog my memory, if possible).

    Thanks,
    Caspar

     
    #784

    Martin West
    Participant

    Hi Caspar,

    Thanks for the heads up on the meeting, while I would agree with improvements and updating of OLDC systems and software for providers I am unable to understand what changes are being made as there seems to be a ‘let’s not let anyone know’ policy from the Data Service.

    As we are currently 8 months into the current year and as there are still problems with the LIS, provider table and LARA you will understand my concern for next year when they cannot even resolve the current issues.

    I am all for simplification but I do not believe that the powers to be know what is going on or what simplification is as there seems to be a policy of ‘change everything’ even down to introducing new naming conventions.

    I have posted warnings in previous years over the late availability of systems and software for Providers, they tell us they understand and aim to improve but it only gets worst each year, I expect they can always make payments on profile again when it all goes wrong but this does not help Providers and Software Suppliers in getting systems ready for the new academic year. I think that this is why they have given the warning that Software suppliers should be prepared for in year changes next year and as for a communication process they are correct in identifying that they do need one.
    If the Data Service could be more like the Information Authority and provide us with information, specifications and detail to work from as surely they must have provided their own software subcontractors with the same, this would help own and software providers in delivering systems for providers before the first enrolments at the start of August.

    Let us hope that the Data Service see the light and tell us what is going on.

    With regard to the specific issues you raised

    Yes most users are not allowed admin rights by most providers and this may cause problems in installation and or use of the LIS replacement, the use of SQL Server may also be an issue for standalone or duplicate installations but without any detail who knows, as for intelligent user intervention as a requirement well we all know that as most problems are user problems this may be impossible in practice.

    Unfortunately as XP will not be supported by Microsoft in the future then Providers will need to upgrade but in my experience most have already done so.

    Let us hope they do make available both the new LIS and LARA replacement for beta testing on the 8th as excuses for not doing so will not be acceptable
    .
    It does look like systems are evolving rather than being planned but let us hope they are all ready for use in time but that may be a bit too optimistic.

    You have to be up for a challenge to work in this sector and the definition of simplicity seems to have changed to ‘it’s complicated’.

    Regards
    Martin

     
    #786

    Caspar Verney
    Participant

    Hi Martin,

    I am afraid that we must sound like a couple of old cynics, but I seem to remember good old Sir Humphrey Appleby saying once that “you have to get rid of the most awkward bit in the title” and hence “Simplification” is in the title, but not in the detail as the devil lives there.

    Personally I am not holding my breath for the 8th for the Beta testing. I doubt there will be excuses, just reasons if that date slips by without anything visible.

    I am afraid the abandonment of XP is very short-sighted. With more than 50% of the world’s PC’s running XP (that must be more than 500 million computers on XP) and austerity being the watchword, it is naive in the extreme to expect Providers to all upgrade their computers. I have heard of several for whom upgrading is not an option since there is no budget for it. In 2010 Microsoft themselves admitted that 74% of the world’s businesses were still using XP when it was 2 generations behind, so they are now trying to force the issue by discontinuing their support (my support won’t). The Authorities apparently only run XP (and are using one Virtual Machine to cope with next year). We all have to worry about backwards compatibility and it would not have been difficult to achieve that in this case, however someone has consciously or otherwise chosen not to do so.

    Incidentally I have also asked if the new “LIS” could be installed on a server (say SB2008) so that it could then be used by multiple clients without their having to worry about the installation – it remains to be seen if that question is understood and what the response may be.

    I have already built my system for next year based on the ILR Specification v1 (and then subsequently modified to suit v2) and so, if the Specification is correct, then testing should just be a formality – I do so wish that to be true! However perhaps you exploit some of the other functionality in LIS? I only treat the LIS as a file validation tool, but maybe I am missing a trick? Also it is used to create the file for the DSAT, although I don’t personally find much to help within DSAT either (I have tended to build in the important validation rules within the ILR MIS so that the user gets it Right First Time, that being a good standard to work towards).

    In-year changes for 2013/14 should not be so fundamental as to require anyone to have to revisit their software as the ILR Specification is only supposed to be changed now for clarification or refinement of rules, not any structural changes – this was confirmed at the meeting.

    With regard to fault in this year’s LIS/LARA/PFR, I have submitted requests to the Data Service to ask that the ones I have spotted be fixed in 2013/14, rather than expect them to be fixed in-year (unless they impact financially on the Providers). I don’t know about you, but I am finding the response time from the Data Service is getting worse and I did ask about this at the Own Software Writers meeting – apparently many of the “old hands” have move on to pastures new, such that there is an experience gap. When I rang up about one of my queries from November just before the Own Software Writers meeting, I was told that they have been chasing for an answer almost daily, but I had been told nothing about this – ironically I have just had a response (4 months later) from further up the line that it is now being considered for 2013/14, but no promises!

    Despite all of the well-meaning warnings, people have managed to muddle through and this year is quite likely to be the same. The DCFT has been committed to and whether it concludes in July 2013 or July 2014 doesn’t matter. They have said that there are contingency plans, just not what they are, but one might guess at payments on profile again, like before, which is better than nothing, but terribly inaccurate (especially since the Profiles are invented and not consulted on).

    The bit that I find most frustrating is knowing just what a specific Apprenticeship will be worth next year and how much Retention there will be – I am expecting 80/20, rather than 75/25, but I hear that this still hasn’t been confirmed properly. The much vaunted “Shadow Funding” was another case of unfulfilled promises.

    Like you, I have been forced to accept the shifting sands, some of which appear to be quicksand and I know that such practices would never be tolerated in other industries.

    Thanks,
    Caspar

     
    #787

    stewartsegal
    Participant

    The amount retained for achievement is likely to be 20%. It was set out in the February document but it does say that it will be confirmed by end March. They have not said when the 20% will be paid in Apprenticeships. I am sure there will be some other details confirmed in the next version of the funding simplification policy.

     
    #789

    Chris, SFA
    Participant

    Hi

    I am currently working with the DCFT project team to identify timings for publication of specifications for the 2013/14 LIS and release of the LIS beta as well as a LARA test file. I am hoping to publish a timetable for publication of these in the next week.

    regards

    Fazia

     
    #790

    lapsed_user
    Participant

    Dear all,

    I have only glanced at this thread. If there are to be major changes to LIS, then I would urge the IA / Data Service to consult with providers. Many colleges will have no problems accessing newer versions of windows, and fancy things like the internet. BUT, for those of us working in constrained settings we don’t have either of these! An Internet-only, non-XP system would be a real challenge for us.

    Thanks

    Steve

     
    #798

    Caspar Verney
    Participant

    Hi Martin,

    Referring to you original post in this thread, Selvy has today sent out the Action Points from that meeting and so they will presumably be on the IA website so that you can see them too.

    I have had to ask for one of them to be reopened about employers dealing with the EDRS as I think it has prematurely been closed without a full and proper answer to all the issues raised.

    Many thanks,
    Caspar

     
    #903

    Martin West
    Participant

    Hi Caspar,

    Presumably if you don’t go to the meetings you do not need to Know.

    Regards

     
    #921

    Caspar Verney
    Participant

    Hi Martin,

    How tongue in cheek is that remark of yours?

    Things discussed and noted from those sort of meetings do not immediately become policy, but they can influence policy to come supposedly. Therefore I would say that it is worth being aware of what is to come and even prodding there to try to influence future policy.

    An example is ensuring that the new LIS replacement can be run from a business server owing to the way that they are changing it so radically – this would not even have been considered had it not been raised in the last meeting.

    Ultimately the Rules and Specifications and Updates are, arguably, the things that you do Need To Know. And also that things will be on time!

    Many thanks,
    Caspar

     
    #922

    Caspar Verney
    Participant

    Incidentally, according to http://www.thedataservice.org.uk/News/DCFT/DCFT+schedule/ the LIS Beta is not due out today, but sometime next month

     
    #923

    Martin West
    Participant

    These were the dates from the draft schedule.

    Subsequently this was changed to Testing & Implementation -Mar 2013 –July 2013 which means before August.

    The schedule was updated on the 28th March to now indicate sometime in May.

    I may be sceptical in suggesting that this is later than originally planned.

    But not to worry as should there be any issues in delivering these systems to timescale they have planned for this and will have systems in place to enable providers to submit and process their ILR data for 2013/14.

     
    #924

    Martin West
    Participant

    Latest DCFT news

    News is information that wasn’t known before.

    So we now at least know the new names (LARS, SKIFS and DES) for the brand new, dynamic systems that will offer additional functionality to the current systems.

    It is only April and the next academic year does not start until August.

    No worries there then for software suppliers, own software writers or Provider Data Analyst’s as they count the weeks down.

    Call me an old cynic but this is not news but PR.

     
    #999

    Anonymous

    Hi all. I’m not part of the software writers group, but I do a fair bit of work for the training provider I work at using the LIS_EXP.mdb file. Have any of you heard whether this file (or an equivalent) will be available to us providers in the new LIS (SKIFS) in 2013-14?

    Can’t seem to get much out of the Data Service at the moment, but then again, it’s not July yet.

     
    #1055

    Martin West
    Participant

    Hi Matt (Anonymous),
    I have assumed rightly or wrongly that SKIFS being SQL based replaces the current LISData2000.mdw data that can be accessed using the LIS 20.02 Database (Read Only) shortcut.
    As for the LIS.mdb I am hoping that this will still be produced by SKIFS, if it is not then there is not a lot of time left for an old hand like me to reproduce all my reporting using SQL reporting.
    The data service must already know what their specifications for SKIFS are but for some reason they are not willing to tell us and that neither helps us nor inspires confidence.
    Fazia has said that ‘over the coming weeks we will be publishing further details on the features/functionality of 2013/14 SKIFS software’ so I think it is a case of wait and see.

     
    #1056

    Caspar Verney
    Participant

    Hi Matt & Martin,

    I have been told that LIS_EMP.mdb will still be available as an output from the new replacement LIS – this was stated by Hardip at the last Own Software Writers meeting in Coventry in March.

    HTH

    Thanks,
    Caspar

     
    #1060

    Matt
    Participant

    Thanks Martin & Casper

     
    #1067
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