back to article UK competition watchdog probes school software contract revisions

Britain's competition watchdog is probing the largest local provider of school management information systems to ascertain if it is abusing its market dominance to force customers to sign three-year agreements. Education Software Solutions told schools in November that it was ending the option of a one-year contract for MIS …

  1. Electronics'R'Us Silver badge
    FAIL

    Market share...

    So, they have between 70% and 80% market share and yet they claim ESS told us in November that lengthier agreements are "standard practise" and that SIMS had been "very much the anomaly" in the sector.

    That market share means that others would have been the anomaly if they were only offering multi-year contracts (single year contracts may be a major factor in why they have had that level of market share).

    The PR droids aren't very good at logical reasoning.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sims competitors Bromcom iSams and Arbour are gaining huge market share chunks currently from all the schools that jumped shit at this contract change and before. They are all modern cloud based systems with excellent development

    Capita (and now ESS) on the other hand outsourced their development to india and ended up in a terrible mess because of it with a legacy product filled with techincal debt. Nobody knows how to fix it and starting again is the only real option. Sadly ESS have decided to "build on top" of Sims like an upside down pyramid of code. Never a good idea but they still don't seem to have anyone. Their new cloud product appears to be a remote desktop server connection over HTML. Just pointless...

    Sims has no real cloud product at all and the companies behind it have failed to invest in Sims for years, just milking the monopoly they had. It's essentially their kodak moment and the private equity firm who bought it will pay the price for poor due dilligence.

    1. Lazlo Woodbine Silver badge

      We looked at Arbor a few years back, it was too early to move at the time because it was missing a good few features then.

      I'll have another look this year as our support provider School ICTS also support Arbor now

      I used iSAMS at my last job for a couple of years, I thought it was mostly tied to the Independent sector, do they do a state school version?

      It's a decent package, but I think you need a DBA on staff to handle the reporting

    2. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      Sims competitors Bromcom iSams and Arbour are gaining huge market share chunks currently from all the schools that jumped shit at this contract change and before.

      Ship happens.

    3. 42656e4d203239 Bronze badge

      >> Their new cloud product appears to be a remote desktop server connection over HTML.

      IIRC the old cloud product (available in 2014 for sure) was a citrix session in to a remote server... plus ca change...

      >>the private equity firm who bought it will pay the price for poor due dilligence

      We can only hope; sadly I expect that many schools will not have the expertise required to extract themselves from the SIMS ecosystem - and very few will have been able to do that effecitvely in the 6 months notice that ESS gave.

      The local authority here is looking at a move to another product (which, I do not know but Bromcom is a word drifting on the ether)

  3. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Education?

    "ESS told us in November that lengthier agreements are "standard practise""

    And they can't spell, despite being in education support. The word they wanted was 'practice'.

  4. Lazlo Woodbine Silver badge

    The simple fact is, SIMS is crap, but so are most of the others.

    We know this, they know this, but you're locked in, because changing MIS is an absolute ball ache.

    So much of the school operation is tied to your MIS - admissions, registration, timetable, behaviour management, HR, payroll (for some), even document storage - and you can't just switch package without a huge investment in time and money for training new staff.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It certainly is a big job moving MIS systems. The lock in doesn't really come from the ballache of switching, rather ESS gave their customers 6 months to move or pay a higher support/maintenance fee and get locked in for 3 years... I guess they knew that their main competitors (Bromcom/Arbor) have a 12 month backlog of Schools waiting for implementation date, due to the mass of Schools who want to move off sims asap.

      From a social POV... Bastards! These are Schools who have no money, trying to educate our children, and ESS does this. Almost as bad as the Tory government stripping Schools of funding

      From a evil business POV... May be a good strategy if the CMA doesn't haul them over the coals, they invest enough cash to out develop Bromcom/Arbor in 2 years time, and do a great job on the charm offensive to repair their reputation.... Lets see how that one goes :-d

  5. localzuk Silver badge

    Funny thing is, 3 year contracts are not standard

    Most of the other companies have their MIS solutions listed on the GCloud 12 procurement framework site. Which awards 2 year contracts, with options for 2 1 year extensions at the wish of the customer.

    At least 1 of their competitors is explicitly advertising 1 year contracts as well.

    So, where they got the idea that 3 year contracts are standard from is a mystery.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't mention Solus

    SIMS feels like umpteen different products bolted together like a scrap heap challenge and ESS paid big money for it .......

    1. Lazlo Woodbine Silver badge

      Re: Don't mention Solus

      For as long as I've been using SIMS (coming up to 10 years soon), they've been promising an integrated cloud based solution, yet we're still using a system which is 32-bit only, Windows only, and chucks of it are clearly DOS based.

      Look at Nova T, Options & Exams Organiser, these programs haven't evolved this millennium. Why should we have to install an unsupported database engine just to run Options?

      The user interface is appalling, with buttons that are seldom in the same place between screens, and windows that may or may not scroll, depending on whether the date is a prime or not.

      If 80% of school in England and Wales use it (CMIS seems to be biggest in Scotland), where does all the cash go, because it's not being spent on development...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And you can't simply fund an open source solution

    The bits that the government want you to collect change several times a year.

    And you can't find out in time to code for the changes unless you are on the "registered" suppliers list.

    1. Lazlo Woodbine Silver badge

      Re: And you can't simply fund an open source solution

      You can download the Census specs from the Dept for Education website, I generally accidentally download them when I'm trying to get the current Error code list

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like