The Edugeek MIS Challenge
4This particular forum is one of the busiest on all of Edugeek, proving we have a real interest in data systems in schools (proving too that some more than others have a bug here and there!). A set of recent conversations, at BETT, on here and elsewhere in the last 2 weeks have reignited a burning desire (no pun intended!) to formulate, ask and publish a set of probing questions to the MIS supplier market.
A little bit of back story: Most regulars here know a bit about me, my past working life on both sides of the MIS fence, and my often unrestrained opinions on any number of subjects. Tell it how it is but give credit where credit is due, and yes I do even praise Capita now and then! For a long time now, I have felt that the MIS market is due a revolution, but perhaps not in the way most think; that a new player will emerge and take away huge swathes of the market with a ground braking new system or concept. Lets be fair, the technology is primed for this, but the implementation, market restrictions, legislation, etc etc makes this a difficult task before you start... we've see two large suppliers exit in recent times.
My feeling is such that the MIS as we see it today is actually trying to do far too much, and by doing that the market is stifled of innovation. Now don't get me wrong I am never going to say that an MIS will not try and expand to make more money, of course it will. But in doing so, most of the time the ability to plug in alternate systems is made that much more difficult, often as a consequence of the development, sometimes deliberately (I will not go further here but I know it has happened). I have always seen an MIS as being the jack of all trades, master of none, and very much feel this is where a school could look to ensure it gets the very best from it's data systems as a whole. An MIS whose jot it is to store and process the data, complete statutory data exchanges, perhaps perform some of the administrative tasks, but have the ability to hand off specialist services to dedicated software vendors who are experts in the field. Areas that spring to mind include messaging, finance, assessment/progress tracking/performance analysis, hardware integration (things like cashless catering), learning environments... there are loads more. Real time data integration is a real thing and very active in schools, and I find schools that take elements of the services mentioned above, but on the whole stick to their MIS for most services, even though they might be more expensive or less functional.
With the governments Data Exchange & Warehouse coming online in the next few years data movement will be increasing ten fold and I foresee inter school and internal school data interconnectivity following suit, but this still relies on the core MIS, it's capabilities and ultimately a school's desire to have the very best from their systems, or being able to choose from the systems on offer now that switching from MIS to MIS has finally left the shadows of the taboo... And here lies another problem. We all know Capita. Most know Advanced Learning (because it is no longer SERCO), a lot know RM, fewer know Pearson (because it is gone now!), on and on. I've actually had an 'argument' with an exec from one of the suppliers when I said that most schools STILL only know of SIMS and CMIS, regardless of how much marketing you have done or how good your product is... that is still most public opinion, and it is a very old opinion!
So, as part of that, I'm planning on writing to all 14 (yes, 14! There are 3 others but one is an in house system used by a leading Academy chain, and two others are entering the market in the next 6-12 months) of the known MIS suppliers with a set of probing questions about their products, their plans for the future, etc. Get everything out in the open for all us on here to see and to finally be able to make an informed choice on what is best for my school. Or at least be informed as to who is actually out there!
Questions will be standardised for everyone, will not be biased, will not be offensive or look to suggest offence, and will be framed as an opportunity to positively present ones MIS product without promoting or saying 'my MIS is the best because...', all with the aim of providing unbiased information on the MIS market to the masses. Something I have wanted to do for 2 years (but my previous employment prevented that somewhat!).
I'd like to invite contributions to the question pool. Remember, they need to be open for everyone to answer!
I will find a suitable media with which to present responses, on Edugeek directly would be great but logistically it might be a problem.
Once again, everything will be objective, I'm not looking to bash anyone here, I want responses to present so the market know who it actually available (and not just Capita and Serco... opps I mean Advanced Learning... see!)
Oh and for reference, my list of known MIS suppliers operating in the UK is below, a useful reference in itself (and do let me know if I have missed anyone, no matter how small):
SEEMIS (Scotland Only really)
Feedback on this project welcome too