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Chart your progress

Now for some INSET. Sit up and pay attention to my flipchart. Here is the school management software supplier Key Solutions. Over here is a set of specialist timetabling products from CCM Software - Facility Timetabler, Facility Options and Facility Cover. Here, and here, are some other management software firms - Scott Reed Associates, for example, who supply the Phoenix system, and Sanderson PSS who have Script for Windows.

Now the question is this: does Key Solutions have the exclusive right to market CCM's Facility along with its own management system? If so, I can draw a circle enclosing Key Solutions and Facility. Inevitably, I have left the other software suppliers outside this circle, much to their consternation and to that of their customers, who become understandably anxious at the idea that Facility will only be available as part of Key Solutions.

This is the position I described in the March "Management File". My source was Key Solutions itself, which had just announced in a press release that it had "acquired the exclusive UK schools marketing rights" to these CCM timetabling products.

I was quickly taken to task by David Collery, a director of CCM Software. Far from cutting an exclusive deal with Key Solutions, he told me, CCM has made partnerships with a number of school administration software suppliers, "one of which is Key Solutions". Others - Phoenix and Sanderson's Script - "are now marketing Facility Timetabler as totally integrating with their products". Furthermore, David Collery extended a similar invitation to other suppliers.

So, on the flipchart, we draw not a circle but linking lines, from each of the three admin systems to Facility. And we add some lines that emerge from Facility and end in question marks, to indicate future links.

Why should you be interested in this? For one thing, it highlights how essential it is for schools to have as unimpeded a choice of administrative software as possible. Ideally, a school should be able to choose any central admin system, any library system, any timetabler, knowing that they will integrate successfully together, using, for example, the same list of pupil names for everything.

A typical key question to ask of any school management software supplier, therefore, is: "We like your system, but want to continue with our existing library software - how easily can we link them up so our library system can use your pupil database?" All I can add for schools is that Facility, whether it comes alone, with Key Solutions, or with another system, looks like an excellent product. It impressed me when I first saw it in CCM's home in Dublin over a year ago. CCM now has training centres for Facility users in Birmingham, Manchester and London, with one shortly to come in Scotland.

Gerald Haigh. Facility Systems Ltd, Lenton Business Centre, Lenton Boulevard, Nottingham NG7 2BY; Key Solutions, Wharfe House, Ilkley Road, Otley LS21 3JP

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