Lighten your Higher Education admin load: Part Three

14 February 2024
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Inoapps HESA Staff Records in action at the University of Edinburgh

By Jennifer Tavano-Gallacher
VP Higher Education at Inoapps

If you’re in Human Resources (HR) in Higher Education, you’re familiar with the volume of work that surrounds the HESA Staff Records return every year.

Inoapps has developed a product called Inoapps HESA Staff Records that helps Higher Education bodies collect and collate their HESA data. It takes data from any source and converts it into the data the return requires. It’s robust, user friendly and highly configurable—so the frequent changes to HESA requirements can be quickly reflected.

But don’t just take our word for it. We recently caught up with Susan McLaren—HCM and Payroll Partner at the University of Edinburgh—to ask her about the difference the Inoapps HESA solution has made to her and her colleague, Debbie’s work year.

Hi Susan, thank you so much for joining us! Let’s jump straight in –

How long have you personally been doing HESA returns?

Well, I’ve been doing this for 30 years. It was called USR—Universities Statistical Record—before it was called HESA.

Can you tell us a bit about the return?

HESA gives us criteria—they tell us the data they want, but not how they want it. So not every university does the return in the same way. Some do it in spreadsheets. And Oracle has never built a module, which is why our in-house team had to build one for us.

When did you adopt the Inoapps solution?

So, we started using it with our 2021/22 HESA returns.

We’d tested it in 2020 against our already submitted return, to compare and make sure everything was working. Was the same population showing? Was the data the same as our manual return? And on the whole it was, and doing the return was so much easier and better.

Much better than your previous solution?

Yes, Debbie and I both love the new HESA module. Before we got it, doing the return was the bane of our lives because the amount of manual work and the time it took up was horrendous.

What were your main challenges doing the return in the past?

The main challenge was that over the years, the solution had to change each time HESA changed. Eventually it didn’t always pull out the correct data, so we had to manually key hundreds and hundreds of records.

And we couldn’t upload new data. When we do a return, we take a snapshot of our HCM system and start working on that. Sometimes we’d find something wasn’t right, or was missing in the data, and then we’d need to do an override in the system to pull in the missing value.

If we did that and then tried to run the extract again, we lost all the data. But our Inoapps module retains the data.

Has the Inoapps solution made life easier for you in other ways?

Yes. Things like, HESA compares returns against previous years and pulls up discrepancies. Now we can do that ourselves.

And previously we had to manually key whole records for different parts of the return—there are four or five. Now we have functionality that does a comparison of the report and creates the records for us, pulling the info from HCM. So no more manual keying.

We can also validate the data a lot earlier. Instead of having to wait until August or September, and then spending a huge amount of time on it, we can start validating from March to check if things have been missed.

We can now also upload data en masse into the record of the HESA module if we find anything is missing, which saves us a lot of time.  

And we’re confident the rules are accurate and can easily check and change them. Previously we couldn’t see the formulae and it was so complex. Now if we make changes and they knock something out, we can easily identify the issue.

Does that mean you’re more easily meeting your deadline now?

Well, that’s the thing, we absolutely had to ensure the deadlines were met. That meant weekend working, lots of late nights—whatever was required to do the return.

How much of your capacity did it need previously?

Before the Inoapps HSEA solution, the return took up 90% of our time in August and September. This year we moved it to our HR department because we’re confident the module works. I’m still responsible and do the checks and submit the return. But this year they spent about 40% of their time over August and September. Because we could cleanse the data earlier and do the data checks ahead of time, the data that’s coming out is more accurate and already populated for us.

We still found some fields that weren’t populated as they should be. So now we’re putting processes in place to check those fields every few months, so by next year, it could just be a matter of pressing a button.

So, what has it freed you up to do?

We’re able to focus on data quality issues early in the process. We have a less intensive August and September because we’ve already fixed the issues.

Now we have time again for the day-to-day work we had to stop doing to work on HESA. It’s given us a better work life balance. No more working weekends to catch up.

That’s why we’re saying—it’s wonderful!

How was your experience working with the Inoapps team?

The team was great and Phil has done some amazing work. It’s clear from his knowledge that he’s taken the time to learn about the HESA history, rules and requirements and he understands the deadlines. Each year he gets in touch to check that we met the commit. He responds fast when there’s a change to requirements. He’s always looking for ways to make things easier for us, always on hand to help us when we have a query.

That’s brilliant, thank you so much for your time!

If you’d like to find out more about how the Inoapps HESA Staff Records solution can help your Higher Education institution get on top of your HESA return and win back time for your staff, get in touch for a chat.

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