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MIS Systems Thread, SIMS.Net vs Serco Facility in Technical; Hello everyone. We currently use Phoenix Gold as our MIS, our partner school has recently moved over to Phoenix E1. ...
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    SIMS.Net vs Serco Facility

    Hello everyone.

    We currently use Phoenix Gold as our MIS, our partner school has recently moved over to Phoenix E1. It was decided that they would take the plunge with E1 before us to test the water. Well the water has been tested and it is cold and murky so we are shopping around for a new MIS for our 2 schools and annother, which is soon to be added to the federation.

    The other school use Serco Facility already and we had them (Serco), and SIMS in to give us a brief overview of the features of each.

    There is some disagreement between teaching/technical staff and SMT over which to go with. SMT heading down the Facility route while everyone else wants SIMS.

    While I would appreciate any fuel for my fire when it comes to SIMS I'm sure we can all tell which product we will end up using. So without further ado:

    Serco Facility - Discuss.

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    Re: SIMS.Net vs Serco Facility

    Jo - Would be interested to know why your SMT prefer Serco. When our school went through a similar review some years ago it was nearly the opposite view point. We had used SIMS for many years and were going through a difficult move to SIMS .net that impacted on the staff more than the SMT. The staff then had an impressive demonstration from a nearby school that was going so well until the last 2 questions - getting data for some of our key school reports required some bespoke programming, the admission that the demoing school would receive a "reward" if we moved. In the end it was close and we stayed with SIMS possibly due to the excellent support from the local team. Although there are still some challenges I don't think we would change now.

    Not sure it helps other than to possibly closely question schools recommending other products carefully.

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    Re: SIMS.Net vs Serco Facility

    The question is, What one does your LEA Support, it makes a dramatic difference in time, as both MIS's have their strong points but there will ALWAYS be a bug and the faster response you can get the smother your school runs.

    SIMS has been doing some dramatic changes to their system over the past 4 years, with SIMS.net replacing STAR and then as many modules as possible being intergrated straight into the SIMS.net module itself, then the Dramatic improvement in timetablung from Nova-T4 to Nova-T6.

    The one thing that sealed for us was a little bit us techies picked up in the demonstration, The SIMS demontration was running off SQL but the Serco one was running off a M$-Access database, if your demonstration cannot show me it running they way it will in the school, I honestly don't want to know.

    Gaz

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    Re: SIMS.Net vs Serco Facility

    We use SIMS. Am I 100% happy with it? No. Would I swap? No.

    The Local Authority support us and although the quality of support has declined over the last 18 months it is still fairly good.

    Two local schools have recently changed to Serco and then gone back to SIMS, how bad the Serco system must have been to make them think that changing back to SIMS was a good idea I have no idea.

    There is no golden MIS for schools, we just don't pay companies enough to deliver it, they are too complex and the government keeps putting ludicrous demands on the suppliers. It is just a case of finding one and trying to force it to fit what you want to do with it.

    As for SIMS Assesment Manager, it is a central database that all staff have access to, it's pretty good. It exports to Excel and imports from Excel so you don't have to try to perform anything more complex than a simple Mean calculation. If you do want to use the more complex calculations then be prepared to spend a LOT (I mean aeons) of time getting it right.

    Anyway, good luck.

    Skunk

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    Re: SIMS.Net vs Serco Facility

    Indeed support is one issue that needs to be looked at with a great degree of thought, however many schools dont get their support from their local LA and many are more than happy with support from further afield.

    I dont quite understand the relevance of not choosing a MIS because it was demonstrated on MS Access - Serco's Facility is designed to operate on various DB's including SQL and Oracle - most schools operate it on SQL, however most demo's running on a laptop for example would generally be run on Access..

    The structure of the software shouldnt really be the deciding issue - schools should clearly choose their MIS system based on many factors, including (mainly) can it do what you need it to. For example many schools now operate complex assessment systems, not all MIS systems have the ability to be customised to meet the requirements of some schools, whilst other schools dont wish to have the overhead in terms of support/training required to make such a custom instillation.

    The best solution is obviously to ask all the possible suppliers a set of specific questions designed around what you need to get out of your MIS system - but of course also ask about support etc, and talk to other schools who are users.

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    Re: SIMS.Net vs Serco Facility

    The database system put me off too. SIMS will integrate with our existing SQL Server and Sharepoint technologies.

    I was also put off Serco because the demonstrator either ignored me or patronised me when I asked technical questions, the system crashed mid-demo, the other school currently running it told us how patches are relased late and untested (sometimes breaking the system), they made false claims about remote access and administration and the whole thing looks like it comes from Soviet Russia.

    I spoke to SMT about it and they used phrases like "easy to use" and "intuitive" all of which made me think that they had been watching a completely different demo to me.

    LEA support is moot as we do not currently recieve support from our LEA regarding technology. Lincolnshire schools IT is run by a comany called NetLinc who demand too much control. We seceded from NetLinc a while ago and, other than not recieving any financial support for our internet connection, we haven't really missed out on anything.

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    Re: SIMS.Net vs Serco Facility

    Serco Facility will use your sql server without a problem and has its own web-based front end for teaching staff.

    Just remember that who ever does a demo will be a 'sales type' person and not one who can answer technical questions... ALL systems have bugs in them..

    Just see postings here re untested patches etc for almost any MIS you could name....

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    Re: SIMS.Net vs Serco Facility

    He did specifically say that he would answer technical questions. I understand that he was a salesman but he wouldn't admit to not knowing. If he didn't know he just ignored the question or patronised. I know you shouldn't base your decision on the personality of the salesman so I tried to focus on the technical issues in my report to SMT.

    I really like the import/export features of SIMS, and prefer the UI. It seems like SIMS has the power behind the scenes if you need it but is clean and concise initially. I am concerned that our less computer literate teachers will be put off by the vast amounts of data on display in Serco.

    Also, as SIMS is the market leader, most of our teachers have used it before so there could be a certain amount of peer support in the userbase.

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    Re: SIMS.Net vs Serco Facility

    Facility's had its fair share of issues, but then so has SIMS. Facility's taken us 3 years to bed in, though.

    My own advice would be to get the right system, the first time, and stick with it and run with it.

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    Re: SIMS.Net vs Serco Facility

    I really like SIMS.net as user - and I think staff like it too in comparison to a web based interface!! It of course has its ups and downs like any other MIS but it's a really exciting time for SIMS as the .net upgrade seems to be in full flow with new modules and enhancements being phased in incrementally.

    I say stick with Sims.net.... Its interesting that academies are turning to CMIS though... I hope we don't!

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    Re: SIMS.Net vs Serco Facility

    Back at the start of the thread reference was made to to Phoenix e1. I understand that this is a true web based system,- is this the way forward ?- has any had any experience of the product in their schoool ?

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    Re: SIMS.Net vs Serco Facility

    As I suggested - our partner school uses Phoenx E1.

    They are having a lot of problems with it from what I can gather. It does not seem to be a finnished product (which I could have told them, and did, from the demo we had a year ago) with modules being released as they become available.

    My main issue with it is that it is externally hosted (by Pearson Phoenix).

    I am going to visit our partner school tomorrow so I shall have a word with the IS manager about the issues he is having.

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    Re: SIMS.Net vs Serco Facility

    Externally Hosted School Data??????
    Where does that fall within a Disaster Recovery Scheme, Is there not a greater risk of them having a fire/incident rather than you?

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    Re: SIMS.Net vs Serco Facility

    Indeed all systems have their fair share of issues. Having swapped from Capita SIMS to Facility CMIS when I worked in a school the learning curve was quite steep - however then again we only changed systems because 'at that time' SIMS was unable to offer the functunality that was available from CMIS.

    That was 7years ago and SIMS has changed significantly. However I get the impression that a similar level of learning has been required by those schools moving from the old SIMS to SIMS.NET.. so as stated above you need to make your choice based on the schools specific requirements and not just the technical ones - here the decision needs to be a joint one made by all the stakeholders not just those of the technician/NW manager.

    Once that decision is made you will no-doubt at times move forwards quickly and at others struggle to get the results you expect - but thats software...

    As for hosted systems such as E1 - this is no-doubt the way forwards for MIS systems, it simplifies so much and makes support (costs) far less... however then again there is the issue of 'customisation' to meet school requirements - back to the beginning again...

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    Re: SIMS.Net vs Serco Facility

    believe me the decision is not mine alone. In fact it is mirraculous that I get to give input at all. I present my ideas from a technical perspective because that is the area in which I am most qualified.

    Obviously the fitness for purpose has to be examined but the needs of teaching staff are represented by the teaching staff while the technical staff present the technical side. E1 is a prime example; it doesn't really matter to teachers wether we host the MIS or some other company does. Technical staff, however, can see that external hosting is a consideration which cannot be ignored due to problems dedicating external bandwidth etc.

    It may seem as if I am only thinking about this from a technical standpoint but that is because that is what I am paid to do and if I don't do it no one else will.

    And BKGarry - yes externally hosted school data. Hosted in 2 replicated datacentres in geographically disparate locations.

    However if some stupid Anglian Water workers cut through NTLs fibre at our partner school again then no amount of disaster recovery will allow them to access their data. Apparently it works over 56k but I would not want to be doing the PLASC when that happens.

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