IT Life: Ruling The School

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We chat to business analyst Matthew Martin about the challenges of running IT for Frances King School

Keeping track of over 6,000 students a year is no easy task, especially when you consider the amount of scheduling and administration involved, but that is exactly the challenge that faces Matthew Martin.

In the latest installment of our IT Life series, Matthew discusses the challenges that he and his department face, his belief that BYOD is the future and his admiration for Sir Clive Sinclair.

Who do you work for, how long have you worked for in IT and what is your area of expertise?

I work for an educational company called Business Education Limited, and we have several parts to the business. One part is an English language school which trades under the name Frances King Limited and we also have Quest Business College, which is a completely different sector of education.

Frances King is an English language school for foreigners based in South Kensington and Quest Business College is based in Victoria and that’s almost all English students, aged between 19 and their mid-twenties. We have an online education section as well for English as a foreign language, which is called FK Teacher.

My role is business analyst, so my job is to capture requirements from the users and then to use that to come up with specifications. Most of the implementation is done by one full-time programmer who works for us and by contract workers to work on various projects. I’ve also worked with external suppliers for the purchase and installation of off-the-shelf software.

Has there been a favourite project of yours during your career?

One that we finished just before Christmas and that was implementation of a system based on Microsoft CRM Dynamics. That was the replacement of our school management system, so a student database which has all the data for the students on that, including what classes. It’s not a full timetabling system, but it has some of the functionality, and it also takes the payments, so it’s also a point of sale system.

We have quite a high turnover of students and have about 6,000 students come through the school a year. It’s not like a normal school where you have terms. The system integrates with our accounts package as well, so all the payment details go straight through onto our accounts system.

The old system didn’t do that, so it was a manual process which was quite archaic. It used to be printing out a list of what had happened each week, and then someone else retyping that into the accounts system.

So, what technology were you working with ten years ago?

Ten years ago? That would be Windows working with Java. There was a project with an electronics part catalogue for General Motors Europe, so quite different.

And what do you think you’ll be working with in ten years time?

That’s incredibly hard to say, looking forward. One of the giant areas seems to be Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), so I think a lot more will be mobile. We’re seeing more students bringing mobile devices into the school and we’re looking to provide more content of our own for them to use. I think this will be very much the norm by that time and I think there will be a lot more software that’s flexible.

CRM is maybe beginning to provide that as you a very flexible system that’s customisable and you can add a lot of extra functionality to it. You can see that they’re trying to move towards an app store for it, but there’s virtually nothing there when you visit!

Contionued on page 2

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