Gerald Haigh talk's to Capita's Graham Cooper about SIMS in the cloud
Graham CooperGraham CooperGraham Cooper, head of marketing at Capita Children’s Services is well known to SIMS users – a familiar figure at conferences and regional SIMS User Group Meetings. He’s also a former school leader and good company, and I thoroughly enjoyed having an hour with him recently in an hotel near to my home.

What I wanted to talk to him about particularly was the prospect of “SIMS in the cloud”. Most SIMS competitors, after all, are already there.

Pearson e1, RM Integris and Serco Progresso are all heavily promoted on the strength of the well known cloud benefits – in particular the potential savings of cost, time and sheer hassle that come with handing over the whole technical infrastructure to someone somewhere else. There’s no sign yet, though, of SIMS going down the same road. So are they being left behind?

Well, yes and no, I’d say. As Graham explains, SIMS, with by far the biggest share of the MIS market, has correspondingly to be much more careful. I sense a strong belief at Capita that SIMS is currently meeting customer needs more effectively than ever before and along with that goes caution about risking any loss of functionality. Could it be that it’s a matter of ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’?

'Cloud-based SIMS can’t just be as good as it is now, it has to be better'

As Graham says, “We’ve experienced times when a SIMS innovation may have been at the expense of losing something somewhere in the system.  But any cloud-based SIMS can’t just be as good as it is now, it has to be better.”

SIMS DiscoverBehind that remark is the very much unspoken sense that perhaps some, at least, of the current generation of cloud-based offerings might in the end fail to deliver on all their promises. Graham recalled an article on this site I wrote about Serco Progresso in which I said that SIMS may be pulling Sir Stirling Moss’s strategy of sometimes letting a more reckless driver go ahead and find the oil on the track. Graham also refuses to accept that they are holding customers back, stating that nearly 40 local authorities already successfully host SIMS for their schools.

What he’s clearly right about is that it’s possible to overemphasise the cost and convenience benefits of the cloud when what customers actually need is a highly functional product, better than the one they already have. The rapid spread of cloud-based email systems demonstrates that. Yes, they’re cheaper, but talk to the decision makers and they’ll tell you that it’s the hugely improved service that really counts.

Still, you just know, and Graham acknowledges, that SIMS-in-the-cloud is inevitable. OK, not yet. Not at BETT 2012, but purely personally, on no evidence at all, I wouldn’t take money on there being no hint or mention at BETT 2013. I suggested to Graham that there’s a locked door somewhere at SIMS in Bedford behind which something’s going on. He laughed and offered to show me round, but really I prefer to stick with my mental picture.
Capita Children's Services

Gerald HaighGerald Haigh is a freelance journalist and the author of Inspirational – and Cautionary – Tales for Would be School Leaders (Routledge) and Jobs and Interviews Pocketbook (Teachers' Pocketbooks)  His regular Five Things To Think About columns can be seen on the National College's Future website.
You can follow Gerald Haigh on Twitter.

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