- Identify who will use the MIS and ask them what services they require from it. Ask them for their lists of must-haves and nice-to-haves.
- Canvass colleagues from other schools about what works for them (by department, not just for SBMs or the IT manager).
- Research the marketplace: what is available and what does it do? How closely do they match the wishlists of your colleagues from the first point?
- Shortlist prospective suppliers and invite them to present their products (and invite all key personnel to attend).
- It is unlikely that you will find a system that is expert at everything you need. The first question that you should ask any potential MIS provider is how their system will fit with other software you are reviewing or intending to keep.
- If a system appears to closely match your requirements, ask about the training on offer (which should be included in the price): how often, where, for whom and by whom. Have the trainer(s) worked in a school before? Will the company manage the transfer of data too?
- Ask about helplines: are the people on the end of the telephone/email going to understand the question? Are they contactable at weekends and after the usual working day?
- Ask for client lists and references. Visit other schools that are using the system.
- Ask about the company’s ongoing commitment to the education sector and about any future developments. Do they have a five-year plan they can share with you?
- Insist on an individual client manager who will always be available to you.
At some stage, every school will have to consider whether it needs to change or upgrade its management information system (MIS). This is invariably a trying process, but here are some tips to help make it as painless as possible
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