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Choosing a school MIS system

How to choose a school information system

Finding the ideal school information system for your school takes more than guess work and can result in lots of stress for the unprepared. Here you'll find a selection of tools that help you make an informed decision.

Questions you should ask before choosing a new MIS system

1) Decide what you want to achieve

While this may sound obvious, it's a good idea to set down a list of problems that you want to solve before you start looking at brochures and product feature lists. That way you can focus on the real problems and you won't get seduced in to playing "MIS Top Trumps", making the assumption that more features are bound to cover all your needs.

There's a good article from Independent Education Today that you can download that offers good pointers to working out your objectives.

2) Make a shortlist of potential solutions

The choice of credible solutions to school admin problems has never been greater, so why is this?

The very fact that brand new systems have been developed in the past 3-4 years certainly indicates that the established names don't have everything right. A long client list may just be an indication that the company has been around a long time.

  • Talk to a number of different suppliers to find out how they would solve your problems.
  • Try to meet with the technical people and those that you'll be dealing with once the salesman has moved on to the next prospect.
  • Find out if you're on the same wavelength and feel confident that you could rely on them to understand your situation.
  • Take a look at what other people are saying about each system
  • Community support websites such as http://www.edugeek.net/forums/mis-systems/ are a good source of inside knowledge on the sort of problems you might face. However, do bear in mind that some people's mountains are other people's mole hills.

3) Do your homework

Now is the time to reach for a checklist of features and put competing systems to the test.

In the good old days it was relatively straightforward to compare one system with another because the hardware arrived in a box, the software on a disc and the support engineer in a van. Once the system was handed over, it was up to you to make it work for you and pay IT staff or the supplier to sort out all the things you hadn't thought of.

With the now ubiquitous availability of the internet, not only do teachers and parents expect to be able to access data off-site at home, but in general the number of system users who's needs have to be considered has grown. This presents new challenges to make sure everyone has the right information at the right time, that is stored safely and securely.

A new breed of internet based solutions if engineered well can provide the same level of security, access and reliability as internet banks, but do check this carefully as many lightweight systems may look good, but lack the levels of security that many tech savvy parents will notice straightaway.

Take care also to compare like with like. Plus! for Schools for example combines software with a very high level of personal support geared to helping you achieve your objectives of running a successful school.

Take a look at our quick evaluation checklist tool to explore these points further

4) De-risk your choice

So you think you've found the solution that on paper solves your problems. You've even seen a working demo running on a salesman's laptop, showed your colleagues and all seemed fine. Your personal judgment/reputation now has maximum exposure.

At this stage you probably don't fully appreciate what it will take to actually implement most solutions you might choose:-

  • How long to deliver and install the system all around the school?
  • How long to personalise and set it up to actually meet your needs? Who will do it?
  • What will happen when the system is scaled up for rollout?

With conventional software+hardware solutions and tight budgets, it's always tempting to cut back on paid-for installation, configuration, project management and training days. Don't underestimate how long it will take for you as a novice to learn the deep configurations of a brand new system!

However, you can mitigate this major cost/time risk by choosing a payment-by-results or service based solution like Plus! for Schools where everything is included.

Go back to your problem list and make sure you agree the key items that must be satisfied before you will sign off the project.

Also ask some searching questions about such things as how many users can connect to the system at a time before it slows down noticeably (particularly for parent portals and home working where school based systems will really struggle to keep up). The last thing you want is to roll out a new system to parents that can't keep up.

For more on this, take a look at our technology comparison tool to see how different solutions measure up to modern day requirements.

5) Congratulate yourself on making a sound investment

If you've chosen well, your investment in a new information system can make you a hero for saving everyone lots of time and effort, as well as really making your school stand out from the crowd. That reassures parents that they've made a good choice in selecting your forward thinking school!


Read more about Plus! for Schools:

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