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MIS Systems Thread, SIMS Performance Reporting Questions in Technical; Hi all, I've been looking at enhancing the performance reporting available from SIMS on behalf of a local school. After ...
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    DBMan's Avatar
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    SIMS Performance Reporting Questions

    Hi all, I've been looking at enhancing the performance reporting available from SIMS on behalf of a local school.

    After reading a lot of posts on this (most excellent) forum, I think I have gleaned the following:

    - SIMS has Business Objects capability
    - existing reporting capability is hard to use
    - no direct access to the SQL Server database is allowed, including read only (!)
    - existing tools must be used to export data from SIMS

    So, it appears that if schools are unhappy with the existing SIMS reporting capability they either have to master Business Objects, pay for Business Objects consultancy (ouch), or use another tool that feeds off SIMS data.

    Am I right so far???

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    More or less yes. In our school reporting in SIMS is a nightmare and really not all user friendly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DBMan View Post
    - SIMS has Business Objects capability
    - existing reporting capability is hard to use
    - no direct access to the SQL Server database is allowed, including read only (!)
    - existing tools must be used to export data from SIMS
    ...
    master Business Objects, pay for Business Objects consultancy (ouch)
    Close, but "business objects" in SIMS terms is not the SAP Business Objects that can swallow the GDP of a small developing nation. It's a COM-based api to SIMS that allows access to the data. It's free to licence holders for read-only use, or to other people (e.g. third-party developers) for (I think) about £5K. It is possible to write back using the API, but obviously this brings with it support charges and the potential risk of having to pay Capita to fix the data if something goes wrong.

    To use the API you have to get Capita to licence you first - the free use setup is dependent on the licence holder agreeing (for support implications). Apparently the documentation on it is slim to none in this scenario, although I'm hoping to see some myself soon so I'll let you know then!

    It sounds like you are wanting to do the kind of stuff I'm going to be implementing over the next couple of months where I am! I'm new to SIMS (and education) but not to databases and development.

    On the plus side, the reports can do some stuff - I've not found a way to do full cross-tab queries yet, but I have seen it do something close to it. The reporting isn't amazing, but it can do a few things that will be helpful to you. Mostly it's oriented around outputting rows from one of the main tables (students, staff, grades) and letting you select which fields you want, but it's not quite as limited as all that.

    As far as the difficulty factor goes, mostly this comes down to learning how it works and describes things. Most schools aren't very expert in using the package, and it sounds like most people using it here are coming from a network manager direction rather than a developer direction, so you may find it easier than you think.

    If the worst comes to the absolute worst, it will output data into an excel template, which would allow you to build the analysis in at that point, with appropriate OnOpen event handlers to tidy/rearrange it first. I'm trying to avoid the excel route mostly, as my remit involves creating live report data for people to use without needing to know how to produce it.

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    Oh, and IMHO the general interface to SIMS sucks! There's not a lot of customisation available, and although there are "Categories" (a bit like tags to aid people in selecting reports/fieldnames/whatever from a list) most of the time, users have to select a choice from a long single list of items.

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    Sivadam's Avatar
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    Reporting in SIMS is actually very, very good. You just need plenty of training, practice and experience.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sivadam View Post
    Reporting in SIMS is actually very, very good. You just need plenty of training, practice and experience.
    I agree -- You can do quite complex things with in built outputs to rtf, excel; you need time to fiddle and play with it so you get what you want.

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    Sivadam's Avatar
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    Good for you kiran!
    I have been reading these forums for quite a while before I started subscribing. There always seems to be a very negative attitude to SIMS by many subscribers.
    It is about time that those who know that SIMS is an excellent system started refuting some of the adverse comments that regularly appear.

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    OK, I'll rephrase myself. The reporting and ouputting of data IS good, it has a good interface and allows setting up reports with year group / subject group / whatever selection by users at runtime.

    What is a little more lacking (as far as I've seen so far) is the analysis side of things. As soon as row and column headings become field values rather than field names, it seems not have all the features one might want then.

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    Try and get hold of an advanced reporting training manual. This will give you a good idea of some of the things that are achievable in SIMS reporting before you start designing your own system. It is possible to set up quite complex templates which are populated from the database at runtime. If you want to do analysis of exams results etc look at AMPARK first

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    MattMichell - take a look at PA (Performance Analysis) which is an extremely poweful tool. Data experts tend to feel at home with PA; I personally I think it could be a little more intuitive! You certainly shouldn't have to take data out of SIMS to turn your school into an out performer.

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    AMPARK might be the way then! Certainly I've seen some very good things being done with SIMS at Serlby Park (there's a good interview with their data manager online).

    I'm probably being a little unfair as I haven't been through any formal training yet on what SIMS can do; it's just the frequent responses of "you can do all that with it in excel" tend to give me a bad impression!

    I'm still going to push at the LA for the business objects link as well, if only for certain other things we're likely to be doing in the medium term.

    PhilNeal - one feature I do really like about SIMS is the way related records are linked; for example, viewing a student's records brings up links to related assessment, behaviour, etc. Similarly the ability to drill down into summaries (at least I've seen this on the multifunction panels) and view the lists of students in a particular grouping is very good, and allows teaching staff and leadership teams to identify key students. I've not seen it link right through to the actual student focus though - can this be done from the panels (or ideally from analysis reports!), or is it a planned future improvement?

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    Matt, sorry I forgot about your question.

    PA in itself only drills to the pupil names however you can create PA template and attach it to a home page panel which does allow a drill to the pupil/teacher view. The advantage of creating a template for staff and attaching it to the home page is that it avoids them having to come to grips with PA. Although PA is very very powerful and data experts love it, its a little hard to get to grips with to start off with.

  13. Thanks to PhilNeal from:

    MattMitchell (28th May 2009)

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    Attaching a template to the homepage is pretty much the approach I'm after - it fits well with the "make reports available without effort" model we're going to!

    And thanks for the answer - I quite like the free support you offer in here! ;-) (We do have a support contract, don't worry...)

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    Thanks Matt - If you want answers to in depth SIMS questions try SupportNet. It is free and there is a large community that is keen to help. They know far more than I do!!

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    Flattery will get you everywhere, Phil!
    Matt is on SupportNet now so I am sure he will pick a few brains!

    And Matt - yep, get on those courses.

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