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MIS Systems Thread, Schoolcomms - import list of recipients in Technical; Hi, I regularly get an email saying 'can you send this letter to the attached list of people'. If I ...
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    Schoolcomms - import list of recipients

    Hi,

    I regularly get an email saying 'can you send this letter to the attached list of people'.

    If I suspect the list is one or more groups from SIMS, I check with sender and use the relevant group in Schoolcomms if so.

    But often it isn't, so I have to find each person manually.

    Have Schoolcomms considered a quick importer that takes either a copy/pasted text list of names (& forms?) or a CSV/XLS, and parses any matching persons into the recipients box (having asked whether to send to Parents, Members, Teachers etc). It would have to chuck up a list (preferably non-modal) of unmatched people for us to find manually, but would cut out a huge load of work.

    Peter

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    Schoolcomms's Avatar
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    It's a nice idea - it would require some pretty complex matching criteria and UI to resolve mismatches. As per my other reply, we are thinking about more sophisticated functionality around selecting recipients but it will form part of a larger project so wont come immediately.

    Interested to know if this is something that other people would find useful? It's not a request we have had much...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Schoolcomms View Post
    It's a nice idea - it would require some pretty complex matching criteria and UI to resolve mismatches.
    Just thinking about this a bit further.

    Currently if I search for a full name ("Peter Howarth") it very often only returns one result.

    When selecting people manually, if the name on the list I've been given matches with one result only, I take that as being the correct person and use it. I have been wrong once, as James somebody should have been Jamie but it happened to match another student called James, but that's not my problem if I'm given inaccurate names.

    Therefore the bulk of your 'complex matching criteria' is already written - just pass each name in the list through your existing search code; if one result is returned, use it.

    If more than one is returned, but there is a form given and it matches, use that.

    Then you just have those with multiple or non-matches to deal with; probably the easiest method is to populate the search box with each unmatched name in turn and ask us to select the right student (even if we have to delete part of the name to find that Samantha is only Sam, then have a 'Next' button to populate the next name, and repeat.

    Only change needed to your existing GUI and programming is a Next/Back button which is disabled or hidden by default. Then just a new bit of code which enables the next/back buttons and sets searchBox.text = list[x].

    Peter

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    Me again...

    Nobody else seems to be asking for this, but I'm getting increasingly impatient for it. :-)

    Just sent out an email to all Prize Winners from year 9-10 then again from year 7-8. The list of names was in various grids in the programme (per award), which I quickly copied into Excel and parsed down so I had one name to a cell in one column, ready to copy manually into Schoolcomms.

    Took about 15/20 minutes to copy/paste 100 or so names from the excel sheet and match them; a CSV or list-import would have reduced this to 5 minutes.

    Then when I had to resend it because I forgot to change the time of the second event, and realised that you can't "reply" or "resend" to an email you've already sent in Schoolcomms and had to re-open the programme PDF, re-copy to Excel, re-parse and re-add everyone to Schoolcomms - I got fed up!

    Any news on the 'sophisticated functionality' you mention?

    Peter

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    matt40k's Avatar
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    Lack of knowledge here, but wouldn't you want to in SIMS create a "group", call it Prize Winners, add it as a positive behaviour to each pupils record then somehow SchoolComms to pick-up on that behaviour action and give a list of students? Just thinking the whole export to Excel seems a wasted step.

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    Schoolcomms - import list of recipients

    We do use custom SIMS groups for Trips and other recurring lists of users, but the interface for that isn't great either.

    Getting the data from the (DTP'd) PDF programme into a single column in Excel took minutes - I'm an advanced Excel user and regularly use Excel as an intermediate step for data manipulation.

    However if you put this example aside and think instead of the detention list for this week, or those who are helping with event_xyz next week, or those 85 students who live on the local isolated village where gas works are preventing the school bus getting there (yes, this week!), or other random lists of students which you get sent in an email either as linear text, word list or excel spreadsheet and how it's seconds of a job to get such data into a CSV - the manual interface of Schoolcomms just makes the job a royal pain.

    As I've indicated earlier, I am a programmer so I've a good understanding of how this might be implemented and it isn't too difficult.

    Peter

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    matt40k's Avatar
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    Excel is amazing tool, it really is. I've been designing cubes this week and using excel to interrogate the data and it's so much better then other tools, even expensive enterprise grade tools! My current saying is "everything goes via Excel, so it's a nature starting point for any type of data analysis. Why bother using a third party presentation layer to get at the data when you just going to slap it in Excel THEN start working on it. Get Excel pointed at the data". Really is a shame Capita hasn't embraced analysis services.

    With that said, I do feel you missing the crucial step of passing back to the source system. The problem with Excel, or any other application for that matter, is the second you don't pass the data back you create silos of data. Silo data will fast become out of date and inaccurate. Detentions should be in SIMS, helping out at events should be in SIMS (you really need to record the good things children do otherwise you end up with a database full of failings and a bleak outlook on an actually really positive school environment). Pulling a group together by geographical SHOULDN'T be hard - I bet it is however which is a real shame. I agree with the fact you'll get some random list come from a somewhere external, and you should be able to import it - but that should be Capita doing it. Not a third party.

    Anyway, just my 2p.

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    Not sure if this works, but...
    @PhilNeal, please can we have list-import facilities in custom group definition in SIMS?

    And in Report Designer, have output to custom group as one of the options?

    :-)

    Peter

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    @howartp I can't promise that. Personally I would devolve responsibility to the people creating the demand so they send the messages out.

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    But that still doesn't help anyone speed up this laborious task!

    There are half a dozen PAs who do their own messages; I only do whole-school or emergency ones most of the time.

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    matt40k's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhilNeal View Post
    @howartp I can't promise that. Personally I would devolve responsibility to the people creating the demand so they send the messages out.
    That's not always possible. Think about it in terms of third parties the school works with. You don't want to give them access to your data, so you need a way to funnel the information back in to SIMS to then send it out (via InTouch \ SLG \ SchoolComms) and it needs to be quick, easy and accurate.

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    Quote Originally Posted by howartp View Post
    Nobody else seems to be asking for this, but I'm getting increasingly impatient for it. :-)
    ...
    Any news on the 'sophisticated functionality' you mention?
    We would like to do this, but it wont be for some time I'm afraid - next year at the earliest. I can completely appreciate why it would be useful, especially for those who use Excel as the go to ad-hoc data manipulation tool (I count myself in there). But we just don't get many requests for this and we have a really long list of stuff that we want to do at the moment and not enough people to do it all.

    We do of course import all your groups from SIMS (or you can create groups in Schoolcomms - but as other posters have said, probably better to keep them in SIMS). That way you can re-use the groups if you are doing more than one piece of comms.

    I'm sorry we can't do something sooner - but we have to make tough priority calls.

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    We always and for many years asked for a way to run a report in SIMS and then the output list to be something you can do something with, i.e. make it a custom user define group or something. All to no avail. Then with the advent of Discover, that became the go to place for dynamic groups.

    If you can't find a way to do that, i'd make a report in SIMS for them to use as source and for it to contain, names, IDs and emails. Then you can worst case in an emergency take the email from the list. Presumably, they get a list of names from somewhere then cherry pick people they want, or are they hand producing this stuff?

    Sometimes, it's just easier to do things by hand, as although it's bulk email, it's not a simple group. Though if you don't want to import the names, but just want to send to them via Schoolcomms - isn't there a way to just send to a list input via CSV @Schoolcomms ? Rather than affect the current setup, wouldn't it be possible to do a one-off send to a CSV..? So rather than getting it to do the lookup, the user can just supply the emails from a SIMS list, which is the original source of info anyway.

    Failing that, for some of the things you want InTouch probably has tools, e.g. detention emails, stuff linked to behaviour, which as Matt said, some of the lists e.g. prize winners should be recorded as achievements.

  14. Thanks to vikpaw from:

    howartp (14th July 2014)

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    The other aspect of this request is data protection. We've recently had very practical discussions with the ICO and they are all for appropriate communication electronically as long as there are adequate safeguards. Importing a pupil list and auto matching to records seems to me to be a little risky. Get the wrong pupil and you are in trouble. In many schools there are duplicate names - loads of them. The CTF match includes DOB etc. to try to minimise the problem.

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    Depends where the list is coming from. Person ID would be better on a SIMS reports then DOB, both from a matching and from a data protection aspect.

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