Bugs fixes in MIS should be free!
The proposal made to DfE that, 30p per pupil is a levy charged and put into central pot to reimburse cost incured in implementing Statutory Changes by the MIS Suppliers.
Originally Posted by matt40k
"... a bug in my database and ... someone needs to create a site specfic patch"
This is chargeable service between school and either LA support Team, 3rd party Support Centre or direct with the Software Supplier as a support service. This is nothing to do with 30p or software licence.
What Kent CC and other LAs is facing in April 2012 is the 'shock effect' of corrective action to put years of custom and practice which is clearly in breach of EU/UK Laws. The process will even out after the first year if centrally funding of Statutory Changes are in place. LAs and schools will receive updates for Statutory Changes free because they would be reimbursed for their cost directly from the central pot accumlated from 30p per pupil levy paid by LAs (or academies/schools if not maintained under LA).
Bugs fixes should be free:
Just as MS Office 2003 or Office 2007 for a given version of product bugs for MIS Software should be free under product warranty and liability and made available via web. As we all know, Microsoft even deliveries such patches to your door step to your PC FREE OF CHARGE!
Support charges to LA Support Units, independent 3rd parties or schools wishing to receive direct support from software suppliers should be totally independent of any software licence agreement or charges. This is the industry model of service/support structure that should be adapted by LAs and schools. Most LAs have their own support centre supporting 1st & 2nd line calls from schools. LA Support centres in turn would need to have 3rd line support contract for the level support that they will draw down from software suppliers. This does not need to be more than say 10 to 20 man days per annum - hence say £10,000 to £20,000. Any product training or training for 3rd line support can be applied on need basis as extra to the support centres.
As to product improvements, just as Office 2003 and Office 2007, software suppliers will need to bring distinct new versions out within their product life cycles, whilst maintaining each version for sensible number of years say minimum of 5 years for bug fixes under warranty/product liability and Statutory Changes.
LAs and schools will then procure such software new versions with fresh licence after market testing for value fo rmoney and hopefully through DfE Framework OJEU Tender for MIS.
The impact of the above will be in seismic scale on the present annual costs across LAs/schools which is identified as £110 million per annum [Becta Report 2010 para 1.4 page 3]. If the above applied, what we should see in the coming years is that this money is spent competitively in open market for fresh software licences across the suppliers, driving the cost down and providing choice and innovation for better software. This is what has not been happening over the past 15 years and hence increasing cost, market stagnation [Becta Report 2005 and 2010] and breaches in EU/UK Procurement and Competition Laws as per Becta Report 2010 findings and summed up nicely in the TES article in above links.
Changing to academy - a fairer arrangement for your MIS:
It is very unfortunate that Competition Act / OFT is being used as an ‘excuse’ for charging school becoming academy.
To date – dominant supplier for years has been breaching Competition Act and its annual mainteneance contracts breaching procurement laws every inch of the way despite so much protest from the industry and now trying to defend themselves by using OFT as an escape goat.
The issue surrounding Academy or change of entity is matter of copyright law rather than competition. When there is new entity, it is correct that software author can demand a new licence from the new entity. The question is whether a software supplier would do so depends how well the market is working from competitivemess point of view and whether the supplier feels it has the customer (school in this case) by the throat. Accepting that in the UK MIS market has not been working for the past 15 years (Becta Report 2005 and 2010) and added to the fact that dominant supplier has hold in the mind-set of schools, change of system is a high barrier, dominant supplier will be very tempted to make maximum charges that can get away with!
The only issue is if there a substantial cost associated with the transaction and if dominant supplier chooses to charge below the cost! However such cost is nowhere near that costs we are seeing being charged. But then the present annual charge model in the UK has been in breach of EU/UK procurement laws and it is unsafe to try to establish what should true licence cost vs what has been charged past 15 years or so non 'de minimis' services. Therefore it is best try to avoid estimating true cost/a valid licence charge until the market corrects itself over the next 12 month as LAs such as Kent CC cancels their annual mainteteance contract and re-think.
In reality, rather than trying to avoid breach of competition laws, what we see in the field and dominant suppliers behaviour is totally working against competitiveness in the following way:
1. Schools in the process of converting to Academy are already under great deal of burden due to various processes that will need to go through.
2. Deciding/changing MIS is a serious matter for a school – hence Headteacher/Senior Management can not spend quality time to make such decision and likely to stay with the same MIS (80% probability to be with the dominant supplier). Dominant supplier appear to be counting on this and cornering schools.
3. Having spent say £20,000 and to stay with the same MIS means that school inadvertently made a decision for wrong decisions that will live with at least for another 5 years!
4. For another words dominant supplier not only making more money but also ‘locking in’ school becoming Academy taking advantage of the situation.
A fairer arrangement:
A school changing to Academy is given by all MIS suppliers a period of 12 months grace to make their mind in changing or staying with the present MIS and not be cornered to make decision under duress! Within 12 months DfE’s Framework for MIS will be up and running and Academies can buy through this framework.
Bromcom is happy to support the above principle for their MIS and other systems!
OFT or other suppliers would have no complaint against this!