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MIS Systems Thread, Anyone using SERCO ? in Technical; Hi all!! I am the Network Manager at a large high school in Kings Lynn, Norfolk and our SMT are ...
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    Anyone using SERCO ?

    Hi all!!

    I am the Network Manager at a large high school in Kings Lynn, Norfolk and our SMT are interested in changing over from SIMS to SERCO.

    I was wondering if anyone is using Serco and have anything they would like to share about this package? Like technical details etc.

    I have checked out their website and its all Sales crap.

    Got a couple of key points that I am interested in:

    1) Are their support any good? Quick responses etc? I am Network Manager and Sims manager for over 700 computers so obviously have to hand some jobs over regarding SIMS to the SIMS help desk. I rate SIMS support very highly.

    2) Does it work with IE7? We've recently upgraded!!

    Cheers

    Chris

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    Re: Anyone using SERCO ?

    well, my school has serco and from a technicians point of view I like it. We don't have people phoning up saying SIMs isn't working anymore. If there is something wrong you just tend to stop and start the services on the server.

    I have IE7 on my machine and it works fine.

    As for the support, I'm not too sure. I think its ok. We don't need to use it that often!

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    Re: Anyone using SERCO ?

    The administrative software is an awful mess of a UI, the database structure is god-awful and makes no sense, the nice web front end for staff is ok but sometimes suffers from memory issues which will cane your server and costs extra. Report building is ok but a shame when you realise all of the really useful functions are undocumented and only known by the devs who wrote them.

    Support is generally very good if you do have issues however.
    Patches are required quite often and seem to fix 5 bugs but cause 50 more.

    It's not all bad though in reality, it could be a lot worse.

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    Re: Anyone using SERCO ?

    oh by the way... we are using it on an RM network... just incase!

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    Re: Anyone using SERCO ?

    I'd say that CMIS is more a beginning point than a finished system. As stated the database design is a mess and the UI is dodgy - but on the other hand you can configure it - add fields and alter screens.

    The web front end is OK - and the memory issues are sorted now.

    We have found suppor tto be awfully slow, but perhaps we are unlucky. The patches need to be tested - but the application of them is very simple and quick.

    I still think you need a proper dba to get the best out of it.

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    Re: Anyone using SERCO ?

    Running it just over a year here -

    Yes, database is a mess / full-version app GUI is untidy - However, less issues than SIMS, & far more powerful/configurable.

    Support is often slow, and majority aren't very knowledgeable. That said, when you DO get someone good on the phone, they're supurb. Flip a coin.

    NEVER EVER do an upgrade as soon as it's released. Every other new version seems to introduce crippling "features".

    A choice between SIMS or CMIS? CMIS all the way. Lesser of 2 evils. At the end of the day, there doesn't exist a truly decent MIS for schools.

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    Re: Anyone using SERCO ?

    Been running it 2 years here, I'd go along with a lot mentioned above.

    The user interface of CMIS is un-inspiring and can appear complex to users who are used to the more colourful and user friendly UI of SIMS. Staff retraining would be required. Some procedures are un-necessarily long, in terms of more mouse clicks to achieve a simple goal. This includes the reporting interface, which is very good once you know how it works, and is very capeable, but takes a while to master properly.

    E-Portal is their web based front end that all teaching staff will use for taking registration, accessing pupil information and for assesment and logging purposes. This is actually a well written interface, fairly intuative to use as well which means staff will only need basic training to use it. It's also possible to seperate e-portal from CMIS onto it's own server, and run more than once instance of e-portal connected to the same dataset. This is handy if you want to host a copy on your webserver for external access like we do.

    On the down side, e-portal is a rsource hog, and has suffered from, and still does a bit from bad programming, which means the server tends to fall over from time to time, although much less frequently in the latest releases. It does work in IE7, and works even better in firefox, which enables a nice feature on the front page of eportal letting teachers arrange the information blocks in a custom style by dragging them round the screen, very slick.

    Their support is good now, ask me that 6 months ago, and it would be a different story. Serco have spent a lot of money recently on improving their support, and it's worked. They have much more knowledgeable staff on their helpdesk now. They also have web based call tracking so you can see the exact status of any support calls, and submit new ones on line. This does work, you do get calls back fairly quickly when you log calls online. They are also building a knowledge base, which is getting better now and can help you answer common queries. You do ocassionally get the odd call that disappears into the black hole of '2nd line support' but if you speak to the right person you can usually get a satisfactory response.

    The back end is SQL, and it will work on SQL server 2005 with no issues. They are also quite happy for you to have access to the database structure, which is handy when you like developing custom apps like I do.

    Just incase you don't know about the history of Serco and CMIS, they actually brought the program from another company that were developing it, therefore Sercos developers don't actually know the entire structure of the program, there are database tables that I've heard senior support staff say they have no idea what thy do, and features in the program that are there but don't work properly, like LDAP authentication in E-Portal. Sercos official response on this one was 'we don't support it, but you can try it if you like' Well why is it in your program I ask?!

    One thing to bear in mind is Facility CMIS is much more relaxed on its data entry, we all knows sims is a fussy bugger of a program. While this isn't a problem in its self, it does pose this issue which is it's very easy to move from SIMS to Facility, but much more difficult to go back the other way should you decide in a few years time that you want to. I guess the message here is only move if you're absolutely sure and you're going to take advantage of functions that Facility offers you that SIMS doesn't.

    Mike.

    Blimy, that was quite an essay for 3:00 am. In fact, why am I here? :P

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    Re: Anyone using SERCO ?

    Quote Originally Posted by maniac
    and features in the program that are there but don't work properly, like LDAP authentication in E-Portal. Sercos official response on this one was 'we don't support it, but you can try it if you like' Well why is it in your program I ask?!
    That is a dodgy response. However, LDAP authentication does work but you need a license key for it, and yes it is supported 8O

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    Re: Anyone using SERCO ?

    I am confused!

    Serco, CMIS and Facility seem to be used interchangeably. I thought Serco was the company and Facility the name of the software/system. So where does CMIS fit in please?

    Many thanks

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    Re: Anyone using SERCO ?

    Serco Learning are the company

    The suite of software (CMIS/ePortal) is Facility

    CMIS is the MIS system

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    Re: Anyone using SERCO ?

    Quote Originally Posted by dataserver
    Quote Originally Posted by maniac
    and features in the program that are there but don't work properly, like LDAP authentication in E-Portal. Sercos official response on this one was 'we don't support it, but you can try it if you like' Well why is it in your program I ask?!
    That is a dodgy response. However, LDAP authentication does work but you need a license key for it, and yes it is supported 8O
    May re-ring support on that one then, this was a while back when I asked about it.

    Mike.

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    Re: Anyone using SERCO ?

    Quote Originally Posted by hmd01
    I am confused!

    Serco, CMIS and Facility seem to be used interchangeably. I thought Serco was the company and Facility the name of the software/system. So where does CMIS fit in please?

    Many thanks
    Apologies for confusing people, my post did use different terms at different points. Officially they don't use the term CMIS any more, it is called 'facility administraton' now.

    Mike
    .

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    Re: Anyone using SERCO ?

    Thanks for the clarification, appreciate it.

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    Re: Anyone using SERCO ?

    Good to know there is an alternative to Sims, I'm getting more and more annoyed at the amount of time I spend upgrading sims and the problems it introduces.

    I just wonder if there are products out there that just run and don't need 1 full day a month spent upgrading and checking.

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    Re: Anyone using SERCO ?

    Its important that before you take the plunge that you assess why your moving - personally I know of schools who take the plunge with 2 systems run in parallel and decide to stay with SIMS.net - due to various issues but key staff such as those doing cover/timetable and assessment finding the interface awful and it not doing what Sims does is some cases.

    Think wisely - Sims.net isn't perfect - but it is evolving all the time and personally I prefer it and so do most staff!!!

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