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MIS Systems Thread, Serco Progresso in Technical; Chatted to the Serco people on the stand at BETT, lets say I was less than impressed, two static pages, ...
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    Chatted to the Serco people on the stand at BETT, lets say I was less than impressed, two static pages, and that was it, and apparently it will be based on the the same database as the current one, and anyone who has prodded the old database knows that it was probably designed by crack monkeys.

    They claimed to have one hundred developers working it, so that sounds like none of them has ever read Fred Brooks, The Mythical Man month.

    So in reality, I reckon it's just a new version of eportal that has been expanded, and they are throwing out the C++ front end.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tricky_Dicky View Post
    Fair enough, I suppose a lot depends on how reliable your internet connection is. But I still like the idea that someone else is looking after the hosting/backups/upadates, it just means one less thing to worry about. Like Banjo said though, it might be possible to host it in house or at least at the LA which might be a better option for yourself.
    Having spoken to the reps from Serco I believe there are 25 trial schools who are starting using it in November, I don't suppose that is anyone on here is it?
    we will be trialling it , heard back today around feb , will post here when i know more

  3. Thanks to victory2009 from:

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    Quote Originally Posted by penfold_99 View Post
    Serco wouldn't need to be registered with the Data Commissioner (ICO) under the Data Protection Act as they would be a Data Processor not Data Controller. In a cloud environment the school would still be the Data Controller.
    Indeed this is true; however it seems impossible to get this point over to schools. Our product is web based and we hold pupil data. No matter how many times I explained that we do not need to be registered at the ICO, schools refused to believe we didn't need to be. You cannot register as a data processor, only as a data controller. In the end we registered as data controllers ourselves so now I can say, "yes we're registered with the ICO" even though it makes sod all difference; but it seems to make them happy.

    I also get the worries about "Ooh, what happens if our internet goes down?" Well, what happens if your server fails, if your comms room catches fire/floods etc, etc? No system is 100% reliable and web is not less reliable than anything else. To be fair, schools that get their connection via the LA or GfL often have exceptionally poor service, so that is a legitimate concern.

    I also get the worries about data security, how secure is the data? Well, it's a hell of lot more secure that it was when you kept in a filing cabinet in the main office! This from people who regularly use internet banking, PayPal, Amazon etc on a daily basis without giving security a second thought.
    I would be quite happy to have my kid's data on Progresso, it's probably safer there than in school, lol!
    Last edited by EdWhittaker; 17th January 2011 at 04:04 PM. Reason: typo

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    Quote Originally Posted by EdWhittaker View Post
    I also get the worries about "Ooh, what happens if our internet goes down?" Well, what happens if your server fails, if your comms room catches fire/floods etc, etc? No system is 100% reliable and web is not less reliable than anything else. To be fair, schools that get their connection via the LA or GfL often have exceptionally poor service, so that is a legitimate concern.
    In fact a huge concern, if there is a flood/fire that takes out the comms room, chances are the school is going to be closed. If my internet connection goes down somewhere between my premises and the data centre then I can't do registration, I have no contact details for parents/carers.

    So unless I keep paper based records up to date as well as the remote server, there is a good chance I will have to send students home as soon as my internet connection goes down. Whereas currently in a pinch I can run CMIS from a laptop if I want to.

    And my LAN is always going to be more stable than a load of random hops over the internet. And if you think the the web is not less reliable than anything else, I think it's time for you to re-take your fundamental networking classes again.

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    Quote Originally Posted by budgester View Post
    In fact a huge concern, if there is a flood/fire that takes out the comms room, chances are the school is going to be closed. If my internet connection goes down somewhere between my premises and the data centre then I can't do registration, I have no contact details for parents/carers.
    Close the school? Fat chance! When some bright spark turned off the air con to the comms room at my old school all the servers went down. It took a full week to get everything up and running again. Meanwhile the school carried on and everything had to be done on paper. Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter and the rest have been operating on 'random hops over the internet' for years; if it's good enough for them it's good enough for me.

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    Serco Response

    I am the Head of Product at Serco Learning and would like to correct some of the inaccuracies in this thread and address some of the other valid issues raised.

    Progresso has a completely new database structure and has been designed from the ground up, with none of the legacy Facility system or architecture. We have been working with a large number of customers and will be able to resolve a number of outstanding issues that schools face and introduce significant new functionality. Focus has been given to the user experience and utilising the rapid developments in technology to provide a powerful yet intuitive system.

    Progresso will incorporate market leading reporting tools that allow all users to access the information within the system through a web interface.

    In terms of hosting, we will in the first release be offering a fully hosted version with all the benefits that this will bring. It is disappointing to read about some of your experiences with internet availability and I would like to hear how you manage to maintain access to the invaluable internet research tools that learners require in this technology age.

    We have engineered Progresso to enable us to provide an in school deployment, but believe that over time more and more schools will opt for a hosted managed service and all the benefits that this brings, including data security.

    We will be releasing a fully functional API to enable the developer community to create apps to provide added value. This will enable the development of an app, such as Emerge (from Groupcall) that has been requested in this thread.

    Finally, we do have more than 100 engineers working on the project and are conversant with the Mythical Man Month. This is why we develop prototypes that will be presented to our Pioneer group before committing to development. The Pioneer group are 25 schools that were invited to provide feedback and to be early adopters of the product. News of this program will be on our website and twitter account @Serco_Learning. If any one has further questions, please don't hesitate to ask here or DM me.

  8. 3 Thanks to PaulHarrington:

    jcollings (18th January 2011), OverWorked (19th January 2011), zag (27th January 2011)

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    Quote Originally Posted by PaulHarrington View Post
    Progresso has a completely new database structure and has been designed from the ground up, with none of the legacy Facility system or architecture.
    .....
    Progresso will incorporate market leading reporting tools that allow all users to access the information within the system through a web interface.
    .......
    It is disappointing to read about some of your experiences with internet availability and I would like to hear how you manage to maintain access to the invaluable internet research tools that learners require in this technology age.
    Nice to hear from Serco directly.
    Which Database technology is this being built on?

    Will we be able to access all resources from the web interface or will some sort of local program be required?

    That was a beautifully written side swipe by the way

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    Totally agree, it's nice to hear from a Serco Technical Person, and the comment actually gave me more information that I was able to glean from the stand at BETT.

    100 engineers is certainly slightly different to 100 developers, and it's good to know that hopefully there will be a decent database schema.

    As for the API, I assume we are talking about a web service, something like SOAP, XML-RPC, Rest ?

    What about the migration strategy ? Assessment templates, events, reports etc. For those of us that have puts years of work into getting the system working as we want it too, to fit our environment, the possibility of having to throw all that work away and start again is pretty appalling.

    User syncronisation, links to AD, training, embedded knowledge, links to MIS and various other software systems that'll have to be re-written.

    It can sometimes feel that it is a case of throwing the baby out with the bath water, when a supplier turns round and says we are re-writing the whole application from the ground up.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PaulHarrington View Post
    We will be releasing a fully functional API to enable the developer community to create apps to provide added value. This will enable the development of an app, such as Emerge (from Groupcall) that has been requested in this thread.
    .
    Hopefully this will not be restricted to those that pay an additional license fee.

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    Can I ask what it is being developed in language wise?

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    One important question would be how long do you intend to support the current facility as i am sure it is going to take time to migrate - training needed etc...

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    Thanks for your replies, and thanks Paul for posting out in the community. I'm sure Paul will be keeping track of this thread.
    Care to add anything John? A Serco related thread without your input is rare, were you not invited? lol

    Mic, techie @ Serco

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    Quote Originally Posted by budgester View Post
    What about the migration strategy ? Assessment templates, events, reports etc. For those of us that have puts years of work into getting the system working as we want it too, to fit our environment, the possibility of having to throw all that work away and start again is pretty appalling.
    Appalling yes, but also an opportunity to look at alternatives. If we are essentially being forced to go through the churn of introducing a new product then there is no particular reason to be tied in to Serco.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pcstru View Post
    Appalling yes, but also an opportunity to look at alternatives. If we are essentially being forced to go through the churn of introducing a new product then there is no particular reason to be tied in to Serco.
    Its typical isn't it, you wait for ages for a Serco reply then 3 come at once

    Obviously we want to make it as easy as possible to move to Progresso; and while I'm not aware of the specifics, I do know that a significant amount of work has gone in to managing the transition of data across to Progresso to maintain as much of your current setup as possible.

    That said, as you point out it is also a good opportunity to look at how MIS is used in your school and we are confident that Progresso will be just as good, if not an even better fit for your school than Facility currently is.

    To answer a couple of the other questions raised:

    Progresso is being built around an SQL database.

    An API is also being developed.

    Progresso will be entirely web-based with the exception of the scheduling package which will continue to operate in a similar way to facility does now: with the timetabler taking an extract of data offline to work on and then integrating it back in to the main database.

    Sorry I can't really be more specific than that, hopefully Paul will be able to respond with more detail soon.

    Nick

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    Quote Originally Posted by NickBuckel View Post
    Its typical isn't it, you wait for ages for a Serco reply then 3 come at once

    Obviously we want to make it as easy as possible to move to Progresso; and while I'm not aware of the specifics, I do know that a significant amount of work has gone in to managing the transition of data across to Progresso to maintain as much of your current setup as possible.

    That said, as you point out it is also a good opportunity to look at how MIS is used in your school and we are confident that Progresso will be just as good, if not an even better fit for your school than Facility currently is.
    It's not just the data, there are training issues as well as (for us) significant issues in how we have integrated cmis with external systems, both our own and those supplied by 3rd parties. I'm sure you will try and make the transition as easy as possible but I fear it will still be very costly and painful -certainly compared to just ticking along.

    Progresso will be entirely web-based with the exception of the scheduling package which will continue to operate in a similar way to facility does now: with the timetabler taking an extract of data offline to work on and then integrating it back in to the main database.
    When you say 'similar way', is it still a new product on a new database or does it somehow integrate with the old db and the new one?

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