Beacon Upgrade: where we are now

After the Third Age Trust’s AGM on Thursday, Sam Mauger (Chief Executive) updated the conference on the progress of the Beacon Upgrade Project. The event was the perfect opportunity to bring members up to date with the work that has been taking place over the past months.

If you weren’t able to attend, do not fear. The presentation has been filmed and will be published on the Beacon website as soon as it is available.

What is Beacon?

The first item on the agenda was to give a quick summary of what Beacon is, for the benefit of those who have not yet experienced it.

Sam was keen to highlight that the most important aspect of the Beacon system is the Beacon Team, a skilled group of U3A members who work to ensure that U3As wanting to use Beacon are supported to do so.

Why upgrade?

Then, we looked at the reasons behind the upgrade. One important aim was to reduce risk, recognising that software needs constant maintenance and development to keep up with evolving needs and changing legislation.

Another reason was the huge opportunity that presents itself – to take what we’ve learnt from the current Beacon and drive it forwards, ensuring that Beacon has the capacity and flexibility needed so all U3As that want to use it can use it – both now and in the future.

What’s been done?

Sam then gave a run-down of what has been done so far. Various consultation exercises have taken place, some of which we have reported in Beacon News, and this has allowed us to arrive at an outline specification, including both functional and non-functional requirements. We will share this with U3As as it develops.

Based on the outline specification, the Beacon Upgrade Working Group has embarked on a procurement process which is nearing its final stages. This process will ensure that we pick a partner that can deliver what U3As need.

What’s next?

Once a partner has been chosen, it will be time to get down to business. The first thing will be a detailed period of discovery, where the working group and the partner can work together to look in depth at what U3As do and how they do it.

Based on this and on the knowledge gained from the existing Beacon software, the partner will begin to build the system. This will take us into the first months of 2020, and once it is complete, a few brave U3As will make the switch and take it for a test drive. Their feedback will be used to refine the system before it is rolled out more widely.

If you are reading this, and your U3A is not already using Beacon, you may be asking yourself, ‘should I migrate, or should I wait?’. And the answer is migrate. U3As already on Beacon will have priority access to the new software, as once you have migrated onto Beacon your data will be cleaned and prepared into a common format. The Beacon Team are as ever on hand to help you tidy your data and get you ready for the change.

Get involved

Beacon is designed with U3As in mind, and so its upgrade will depend on the involvement of U3A members. In the coming weeks U3As will be contacted with information on how to get involved – so watch this space.