I'm a new data manager (2 weeks into my job), with a detailed IT background in Sytems Analysis, Data Analysis, Business Analysis and Data Base Design.
Whatever application I work on, I always try to understand the data structures behind the application.
I realise that SIMS is a package and therefore we have no direct access to any SQL Server database tables, but what would help me from a knowledge base point of view is a high level logical data diagram / entity relationship diagram.
The more complex areas of Assesment, in particular ... Aspects / Results Sets / Grade Sets / Templates would benefit form a high level ERD type diagram.
I'm not looking for all the table definintions, I'm only looking for the logical relationships within the application.
Has anybody ever drawn one up or indeed ever felt that they needed to have one?
Am I being too detailed in my analysis or looking at it too theoretically?
@bwfc_nottingham your over thinking it, you don't access the SQL directly, you don't use a data warehouse for reporting. It's been designed to be end-user friendly, don't work where the data sits, or how it connects - most people will say it's wrong and Capita should have done it differently, like the person who said they could knock together a MIS system in a few months (still waiting by the way) - worry about what data is in SIMS and what isn't and how your going to get it in and how your going to pull it apart - David Pott | SIMS Assessment Manager Consultancy and Training pretty handy. Welcome to the school sector, Excel is your tool of choice now
like the person who said they could knock together a MIS system in a few months (still waiting by the way)
It would be possible to knock together an MIS in a few months that would work for a primary, the problem is, is the flexibility schools require, schools really are unique and all have different requirements. An MIS built in 6 months might be able to work for a single school but would have very limited functionality. As far as Data Models go I have never looked into SIMS data model so I cannot comment on it. However if the front end was user friendly I dont think end users would ever even think of asking about the data model. Full disclosure I work for an MIS company
If you really want to see the structure, the simplest way is to grab a backup of the database and restore it to a new SQL server instance, so you can look at all the various entities and relationships there. To be honest, it probably won't be much use unless you're looking to export/import data in some specific ways, or you're looking to hook into the backend (I'm guessing not recommended without the relevant docs from Capita as these things are always subject to change from version to version).
Funnily enough, despite loads of people saying the database wasn't normalised, if anything I'd be tempted to say it looked a little over-normalised, although you're not exactly processing anything like a large dataset in a UK school. The data is often exposed through the reporting interface through views that give a different impression of the underlying tables, or that combine many together (I think I saw a reporting view several versions back that joined about 17 tables together to show information that's presented in the "Student" focus, along with a good few unions...)
The other things that could complicate matters for you are that (and I'm going on memory from a few years back now!) some of the functionality that you would imagine is coded into the back end is actually dependent on various values in different tables, especially with some of the group membership stuff; also some schools have a different SQL database in terms of functionality, due to patches that work with specific data, etc.
What's more useful, to start with, is to get a good feel for how Assessment Manager works, for how Nova works if you have any involvement with timetabling or curriculum, and for how curriculum memberships work in SIMS. And how all three work together. And how in many schools these, attendance and behaviour, often fall within different areas of responsibility at management level, making a joined-up approach "challenging" at times!
Oh, and Exams Organiser is a very strange beast too, and there are exciting opportunities for growth (or whatever the right euphemism is) in working with this and curriculum when it comes to Census time ;-)
You might like to look into using Discover, as that can make certain types of analysis a lot simpler, and also other things like Performance Analysis, and simpler tasks like grade distributions from marksheets, using the new Excel-style filter functionality on marksheets, etc.
There's a lot to play with, without going anywhere near the backend!