Another meeting of the IT Working Group for the implementation of the Points Based Immigration system took place today. The meeting was followed by a session for the suppliers that are developing their student records systems software to interact with UKBA’s Sponsor Management System (SMS).
The main issue that was discussed was testing. The timescale to submit test data to UKBA for the bulk data upload and bulk data reporting mechanisms is very short – the deadline is the end of September. After that, it is expected that the latest release of the SMS incorporating Tier 4 (students) will be live and as a result the testing environment will be decommissioned. All of which leaves the suppliers with something of a problem – if they fail to submit test data by the end of next month then they will have to rely on one of their customers to submit uploads to the live system in order to test that part of the application. Testing the bulk reporting mechanism will be even harder – although the syntax can be tested an end to end test cannot be achieved since there will not be any data in the SMS to match against.
My understanding is that UKBA are not resourced to host a test instance once the current release has gone live. I have some sympathy with the UKBA staff implementing the system – the situation is not perfect but one they have to live with. It is doubly unfortunate that, in an earlier meeting of the IT Working Group, one of the senior UKBA staff made great play of the need for student records systems to generate and handle migrant data correctly. One of the supplier representatives present today commented that ‘they (UKBA) aren’t treating us as stakeholders’. It does seem that suppliers are being recognised as partners on the one hand but are being expected to deliver a quality system without a mechanism to quality assure their own products.