I think there are a number of reasons (all covered by various topics I trawled through in my first few weeks in the job on these very forums) that we don't get open access to the data, mainly:
- Some of these systems have been growing and evolving for so long now, the structure of the database is an absolute labyrinth!
- This 'labyrinth' structure also (whether intentionally or not) serves a purpose: any fool with an internet connection can get in to an SQL database given enough time, but if they can't find any meaningful data once they're in it, what's the point? (I'm talking hackers and people with enough knowledge to access but not enough to realize the potential damage they could do, not the likes of us with genuine reason to look at the database)
Anyway, back on the topic: I'm with MShakeshaft on the business sense. If I were offered a choice of SIMS and Facility (which are fairly evenly matched), and one came with a freely-accessible and well documented API, I'd pick it straight away. Then I could enhance it without groping around in the dark. That's business sense.
That depends how you look at it: make the API free to users when the competition isn't doing and hope some authorities change the MIS for their schools (is that really likely?), or charge a huge sum of money for it knowing that software & hardware vendors will pay the fee to be able to make products aimed at schools using your MIS (surely that's much more likely given the number of schools in the country and the relatively low number of MIS used by those schools)
Or allow your user community to build a whole ecosystem of extra applications that enhance the value of your MIS and encourage new users to buy it on that strength.
The whole basis for companies that release source under open licenses is to do exactly this - for example, a hardware manufacturer that releases source for firmware. When the community contributes features, they get a better product and you get more attractive hardware. This is a similar opportunity, it's just a shame that none of the major players are taking it.
That's because the major players already have the vast majority of the market covered, I haven't researched this so I could be wrong, but how many new customers do they get each year these days? It can't be that many, it's not like they're throwing up new schools left right and center.
And just to play devils advocate, the other side to the community having free roam to make what they like is you end up with a lot of (potentially damaging) crap too and a much higher strain on the support teams.
Anyway, I'm saying no more on this as there are two sides to every argument and we could go on like this all day...
They actually didn't know what I was talking about! But I found more out about them here (including the fact you have to pay a licence fee to use them). I also discovered the commandreporter tool and that has proved to be very useful
A very expensive one at that.
Just to throw a spark into the fireworks factory, openness of data is pretty much what SIF is all about. SIF could open the door to the ecosystem of applications you suggest, and the security of the data relies only on the additional app's adherence to the SIF data model and the main MIS system's agent quality for importing that data back in. It would mean that any additional app that comes onto the market could interoperate with any of the major MIS systems that offer a SIF agent, and no fiddling about with several different APIs would be required.
Welcome to the Systems Interoperability Framework (SIF) Association UK
It is fine having an elaborate fully functioning MIS but the real problem I encounter is making the system accessible to staff so that they can easily input data in assessment for learning environment and then use the suitably collated information for analysis of pupil perfomance dialogues. Otherwise the MIS becomes just a housekeeping tool for pupil details.
Both Sims and Integris are capable of this - but have the staff the capacity and skills to really exploit the tools they are given?