X-13 (4th February 2013)
Been a SIMS school here for what seems like for ever and after converting to academy renewed our SIMS licences direct with CAPITA.
Unless we have just been extremely lucky compared to most of the posts I see on here and the SupportNet site, it just seems to be fine for us and we rarely if ever have had a major support issue. The majority of the things I can fix myself either as I have seen it before or through the searching of the knowledge base on the SupportNet site. In effect, our LA have had £6.5k off us for SIMS support for a number of years for very little.
Hi, as you went to BETT and took a look at SIMS- you might know- do they offer voice calls yet for Truancy?
SIMS is okay, but take a look at some of the newer offerings (if you have any influence) as they may have more features. That side of things is probably not your concern though. Technically, it works most of the time. Just don't be the first to install an upgrade........
X-13 (7th February 2013)
I would agree with Sylv3r about Capita support, we buy it through our LA but deal with Capita directly and find the service to be very good. It can be annoying to wait for the upgrades but site specific fixes are normally sorted out quickly. The cost is quite good when compare to the fees charged by some our our other suppliers. If we become an academy we would stay with SIMS and Capita, that is not to say it is the best but we have too much data and too much experience with it to even contemplate the costs and upheaval involved with changing.
X-13 (8th February 2013)
And no disrespect to SIMS, it could be any MIS including Aspen, there has to be the weigh up between what is good and what is the cost of change.
Last edited by GREED; 8th February 2013 at 02:43 PM.
I have 5 years SIMS experience across two seperate schools. Here are my views of it:
+ Very comprehensive with a wide range of modules that are kept up-to-date as needed according to government standards (e.g, Modules for census returns are kept up to date).
+ It does actually do the job.
+ There are a lot of sources to acquire support when encountering problems with SIMS. Even SupportNet. It is very well documented.
+ There are always useful little corners of SIMS that I am discovering five years later.
+ Virtually all third party software I have found includes support for importing from SIMS in some form or another (e.g, TASC Extractor).
+ Patches are often released in a timely manner for serious issues affecting multiple schools, especially post-update, census or exam days.
+ Chances are new staff will have seen SIMS at a previous school, so they may have a vague idea of how to use it.
+ You can walk from one side of the school to the other and, provided you don't touch SIMS during transit, it will still connect if you have a network connection (but it crashes if you don't).
+ For non-Windows environments, you can use Terminal Services to push SIMS to more exotic desktops.
- The user interface is questionable and often jumps around or acts in an unintelligable way, even new modules.
- Like the user interface, workflows are often long and time consuming (assuming they are even obvious from the outset).
- Capita do not think of the user and ease of use when designing the software! AM7 and (especially) Profiles are terrible in this area!
- Prices are eye-poppingly expensive. Academies found this out when their SIMS licences were revoked and they had to buy new ones. I can't remember what came of this event and if Capita relented, they claimed they were doing it to avoid anti-competition complaints from rival MIS providers.
- Modules prices also very pricey.
- SIMS Learning Gateway...
- Microsoft exclusive as it requires .NET.
- No proper error trapping. Every piece of software regardless of vendor crashes eventually, but they don't need to dump a .NET error across my entire screen filling it with red text gibberish. Or crash because I pressed a Cancel button on IEP writer.
- Some core modules such as Exams look like they have been dragged out of the Windows 3.1 age. They are slowly updating these.
- Support times from Capita can be lengthly at times. My record for support (contacted by LA) was months for a critical issue with SLG. Partly because when we adopted it, SLG felt like it was a half finished product rushed out to meet the now dead Becta deadline!
- You must use Office, no alternatives. Even then compatibility is ropey. It cannot be coincidence that over two sites and all fixes and efforts exhausted, opening a template with spell check breaks it until you close, Save and verify it.
NOTE: This post is neither for nor against SIMS. It is a fair and balanced list.
Last edited by CAM; 8th February 2013 at 03:27 PM.
Good summary @CAM .
I must say, i'm well experienced in it, and on the whole it works well. I have some issues which are a pain and don't / won't get resolved. Some things it just won't do. When there is a major problem, especially site specific is when you'll suffer, but i guess all systems have that. There are some limitations we suffer as an international which again, won't be resolved for a long time.
I think the underlying issue is that it's old, and built up in layers so lots of legacy stuff to deal with, on the other hand, it's probably the most comprehensive system out there - if you can put up with the modular pricing structure.
I have to ask @X-13 :
What do you use now? What swayed the head? Why do you need to change?
If you're in the market for a new MIS, analyse your current system, what if fails at, and what you want to do. Are you looking for a web based interface is a massive question? As that affects usability. Do you want access from home? That is not built in, and comes at the cost of an in software and an extra headache if you go with Sharepoint.
There are a lot of really flexible systems out there, i encountered 3 unheard/unseen recently, so it's not just a case of what is the truth about SIMS, it's what do you want out of it and can it provide that? I do fear, for all it's completeness / robustness, it is getting a bit left behind when you see all these new flash bang whizz systems springing up all over the place.
It has massively improved from an already sound base, and the new homepage features coming in Spring are awesome, but it's still an interface to an aged underlying structure.
All that said, we work fine, have got used to it, and i have lots of little workarounds to fix things how we want them. If i had to buy in to it now, i would have to think hard about it, but as we have it, and we're comfy, it comes back to the question i asked you, why do you need to change?
And fact it's RM is why people want to change it.
We're not sure whats going to happen when we strip out the RM stuff we have, and our finance lady is worried that we won't be able to use it anymore. [Due to it being bought through the borough... Who is RM... Who don't particularly like us.]
Ultimately it comes down to RM support. It's shoddy at best and we've had enough of relying on them.
This would be one of the main issues I found. Even though they had a massive 'refresh' from the old DOS days everything still seems very dated and the update seems to still be on going. Also some bits that need updating seem to get forgotten (System Manager I'm looking at you) and then when they do it is almost a half hearted attempt and you end up using 2 tools to deal with something. NovaT is another example. They also need to fire their icon designer.I think the underlying issue is that it's old, and built up in layers so lots of legacy stuff to deal with, on the other hand, it's probably the most comprehensive system out there - if you can put up with the modular pricing structure.
The model is also a bit tired, things seem to be bolted on now. Discovery, InTouch, SLG. All good systems but they seem to be stretching the whole environment in ways it feels it shouldn't be.
But as a system it mostly works. CAM has hit the nail on the head with most things good and bad. I wouldn't say discount it but I would say look at other newer systems that aren't weighed down by their legacy roots. When you hear of new systems that include a whole raft of features that are incredibly expensive add-ons and know from experience were painful or involved to get working, you do wonder.
Our modular pricing is to allow other companies to offer alternatives.
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