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SEVIS Outages and Batch Communications

Background

Stakeholders request that the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) provide more advanced notice for planned Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) outages and other events that may affect a school’s batch processing capabilities.

Government Response

SEVP acknowledges the need for more timely communication of SEVIS changes that affect batch users. Software developers need sufficient time to revise their software code and roll those changes out to their clients. The schools and sponsors that use batch also need time to test their institutional implementation of those changes. As a result:

  1. SEVP agreed to release draft versions of the batch schema to batch software developers at least 90 days prior to a release so they could modify their software to reflect the changes. 
  2. In March 2015, SEVP established the SEVIS Alpha Testing environment to serve as the testing site for batch software developers and batch users. The site reflects future SEVIS functionality. SEVP agreed to give the developers, the schools and the sponsors 90 days to test their software prior to a release that affects SEVIS batch processing, unless otherwise agreed to by the majority of the batch developers.
  3. SEVP instituted a weekly conference call with developers of SEVIS batch software. This call allows SEVP to communicate directly with the developers about SEVIS changes. It also allows developers to ask questions about the upcoming changes to SEVIS and raise problems they may have encountered.
  4. SEVP instituted a monthly teleconference with batch users to brief them on upcoming changes to SEVIS that affect batch.
  5. SEVP posts a Release Planning Guide on the SEVIS Help Hub that allows users to see the content of a planned release. SEVP produces a planning guide for each release and publishes it to the SEVIS Help Hub well in advance of each release. The guides list the functionality included in the release, the resources SEVP is developing or has produced, and the date and time of any system outage. The document is updated as specifics change.

SEVP is unable to predict all SEVIS outages that affect batch processing. Some outages are the result of other U.S. Department of Homeland Security considerations and there may be little advance notice. SEVP is committed to providing its partners with as much advance warning as possible.

Timeline

The timeline below illustrates the steps taken to communicate SEVP's progress to date.

2014
June 2014

SEVP established a monthly teleconference with batch users.

2015
February 2015
March 2015

SEVP launches the SEVIS Alpha Testing environment to allow developers to test their software changes for the next SEVIS release. The SEVIS Beta environment reflects functionality that is live in the SEVIS Production environment.

May 2015

SEVP launches the SEVIS Help Hub, which contains a page for SEVIS enhancements. This page provides links to any available release planning guide. 

2016
January 2016

SEVP implements weekly conference calls with developers of batch software. These calls allow vendors and SEVP to communicate more effectively about changes to SEVIS timelines and functionality, and to address problems.

February 2016

SEVP begins sharing summaries of work completed by SEVP developers during their development sprints. This allows the batch developers to gain better real-time understanding of the changes as they are being developed.