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MIS Systems Thread, What do you hate about your MIS system in Technical; I'll preface this by saying that regardless of which MIS system you administer, it will invariably be the piece of ...
  1. #16


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    I'll preface this by saying that regardless of which MIS system you administer, it will invariably be the piece of software you dislike the most. They're all evil in their own way.

    SIMS

    1) For an application used by less than 8% of my users, it creates a disproportionate amount of grief. This will be no doubt be met by "it's complicated and .gov keep changing stuff" - tough, most of the systems I administer are complicated and all of them are more reliable than SIMS in terms of "user enters info, system does correct thing".

    2) Checking of inputs, especially bulk imports. One module will happily accept data in a format (or with missing info) that will cause another module to fall over the first time it tries to access it. See: CTF files, for example. It will also allow you to create duplicate records when a simple regex query / search would show that the entry that just got put in already exists to within 2 characters. "Mrs Blloggs, 2 Evergreen Terrace" and "Mrs Blogs, 2 Evergreen Terrace".

    3) Inconsistent user interface. If I can press "G" on a list field and have the cursor move to "Garp", I expect this to work across all list fields, especially if the UI is identical (except for that not working). See also: UI that is consistent within SIMS, but makes absolutely no sense to anyone used to standard desktop packages.

    4) The amount we pay, in conjunction with the need to adopt a "wait till someone else has tested it approach". See: The game of SIMS update chicken that happens in the MIS subforum on every update.

    5) The "Launch acrobat reader to tell every end-user sims has been updated" that happens on every update. It's annoying.

    6) Not really a SIMS problem, but I agree about the "but it's a computer, surely you know how to use every piece of software under the sun?" problem. Yes, because I RTFM. If it's broken or not behaving I will fix it, I will not walk you through (bad) documentation which you can read for yourself.

    I'll stop before I rant.

  2. 2 Thanks to pete:

    johnhunsley (28th November 2008), Willzzz (11th December 2008)

  3. #17

    webman's Avatar
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    SIMS

    Requires Microsoft technologies on both sides - Windows server, Windows clients, and Office. This is expensive. It also prevents cheap and easy external access (idea: could be web based), and makes it awkward if you don't run Windows clients (Linux or OS X - idea: could be web-based).

    No freely-usable read-only API for adventurous/ambitious schools - this restricts the way we can use our own data in our own applications and/or VLEs. If there's something you want to do, the chances are there is a company that will do it; but will charge you the earth because they had to pay the earth to get the developers' licence from Capita. Chances are the solution will also be MS-only (Sharepoint, webparts).

    They use the learning platform export format that only they support, not the more standards-compliant and widely-used one that everyone else supports (IMS/SIF). You have to ask/beg for this to be enabled.

  4. Thanks to webman from:

    johnhunsley (28th November 2008)

  5. #18
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    CMIS/ePortal

    Main issue with CMIS is the reliability of the reporting structure. It is not easy to compile reports due to the fact that the reporting tree doesnt tell you what information it holds without compiling a report and running it!! Plus on some reporting trees there is what seems an infinite way of drilling down (odd )

    I can run reports in CMIS and with the exact same data do it in excel and come up with different answers

    My biggest gripe at the moment is with the Behaviour Management module they have introduced. They want £2,000 upfront, no trial or nothing, infact they refused to give me a trial. As you all know schools are all different and the one that SERCO are providing might not suit our needs.

    We have trialled IRIS & iBehave but they did not meet our expectations - but we arent £2,000 worse off for trying

    Quote Originally Posted by powdarrmonkey View Post
    CMIS/ePortal
    And as far as ePortal goes, I've had to write my own app to store letters against girls for their parents to see, which I really shouldn't have to do.
    Have you not bought in to the Document Storage facility?

  6. Thanks to mark80 from:

    johnhunsley (28th November 2008)

  7. #19
    ben
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    I have lots of small issues with SIMS, all minor irritations which make the program sometimes frustrating to use. e.g.

    I agree with pete's point 3 about all listboxes accepting keyboard input to jump to a specific row. This would be really useful e.g. in Candidate Chooser in Exams Organiser - it would be a lot faster to locate a student by typing the first few letters of their surname rather than click-click-clicking to find their name in the list.

    Cover 7 - No page breaks when printing class lists for supply teachers. As far as I can tell from SupportNet, this issue has been known about for several months without being fixed. And it isn't a difficult fix either. (It could be fixed by modifying the <table> elements in the generated HTML, replacing every occurance of frame="box" with class="Pagebreak" frame="box")

    Student details / Find Student - There's a gap of about a second between clicking on a student and the row actually becoming highlighted. Makes the program feel sluggish to use.

    System Manager - when adding a member of staff to a group, I always click the plus (+) on the toolbar, instead of the one to the right of the list. This attempts to add a whole new GROUP. (Why would anyone need to do this?) Any attempt to get off this screen results in the message

    "Insert mode will be cancelled. Cursor will be positioned on the next record. Do you want to continue?"

    What does this even MEAN?


    Import facilities - Despite having pretty good export abilities (via Report Designer), the only parts of SIMS which have import facilities seem to be student details (CTF) and Assessment Manager (Excel/XML) e.g. it seems impossible to bulk import
    * Linked documents
    * Behaviour incidents (e.g. import from another database)
    and no standard way to create lots of Aspects or Templates all at once
    This sort of thing would be really useful.


    I have to say SIMS has improved in recent years though. It could be worse.

  8. Thanks to ben from:

    johnhunsley (28th November 2008)

  9. #20
    ChrisP's Avatar
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    Installed NOVMAIN - borked. needs NOV2
    Installed NOV2 - broken timetableing, needs a patch
    Installed PATCH - now waiting for the next problem.

  10. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by webman View Post
    SIMS

    Requires Microsoft technologies on both sides - Windows server, Windows clients, and Office. This is expensive. It also prevents cheap and easy external access (idea: could be web based), and makes it awkward if you don't run Windows clients (Linux or OS X - idea: could be web-based).

    No freely-usable read-only API for adventurous/ambitious schools - this restricts the way we can use our own data in our own applications and/or VLEs. If there's something you want to do, the chances are there is a company that will do it; but will charge you the earth because they had to pay the earth to get the developers' licence from Capita. Chances are the solution will also be MS-only (Sharepoint, webparts).

    They use the learning platform export format that only they support, not the more standards-compliant and widely-used one that everyone else supports (IMS/SIF). You have to ask/beg for this to be enabled.

    Go have a look at the raw SQL data - it is easier than what you think to write code that dips directly into the DB and extracts whatever you need from it.

    My gripe is that the SIMS DB is exceptionally complex and poorly designed. By comparison the CMIS DB is clean, simple and straightforward!

  11. #22

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    Have another SIMS one: the error messages and trying to correct them.

    This has cropped up a few times, when the error message you get is completely incomprehensible or at best unhelpful. When setting up our VLE we needed to set up an export from SIMS but the routine returned an absolutely mammoth error message that meant nothing. It was sent to the LA who escalated it to Capita. Actually took months to get it fixed and turned out just to be a duplicate phone number

    Moving on fixing errors: quite a few times I have come to alter someones record and get an error. Current problem is "Destination cannot be null" - Ok poke around and find the destination field buried in a submenu and correct it, but wait now I have another error that really means nothing

    Problem arose as the bursar entered the details wrong, but wait! how can the bursar enter incorrect information and is allowed to save it, but when I try to alter the record it flags up the error and won't save?

  12. #23

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    To be fair, a massive failing of both SIMS.Net and CMIS is found in data validation, or rather lack of it.

    Many schools experience masses of problems with their MIS system simply because their data is "dirty" e.g. alphabetic characters in numeric-only fields, etc.

    These MIS failing can be managed at the point of data entry and if done correctly will lead to increased system stability.

  13. #24
    TYO
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    Serco CMIS/ePortal

    crap support
    expensive
    unreliable
    restarting the services for every little problem

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