The Transition Begins…

Our four days of meetings with Veracross last week in Boston went very well. We learned a great deal about how to work collaboratively with the firm to increase the likelihood of a successful transition.

The big challenge for us is that we are planning to switch over to approximately 12 modules at once. (LS, MS, HS, Admissions, HR, Admissions, Transcripts, etc.) We also have a relatively limited time frame to do this (eight months).

Other schools have done three year transitions to their system, but in those cases the schools may have had three different student information systems (one per division) that weren’t necessarily talking to either much anyway, so replacing one a year was much easier.

Our other big challenge is to migrate away from FileMaker Pro, which has the ability to be rapidly customized on a daily basis for new fields, new interfaces and new push-button reports. This can be great for a smaller school, but trying to maintain and update all the changes in a larger school is a lot harder. The tough part is now that we can’t bring over every single report and every interface easily into Veracross and still meet our deadlines.

Thus, we left Boston last week with three large objectives. First, we are going to build scripts to export, label and rationalized data from all FileMaker files (and document the column headers with a Data Dictionary) so that Veracross can spend its time customizing the models for us instead of trying to figure out our FileMaker data. (Filemaker files are known for have 2500 columns of which fifty might be important.)

Second, we need to rationalize some of our existing interfaces and cut them down a bit to what is really needed to get started. There are a lot of functions in our current system that aren’t used, so we intend/need to take them away (at least for the start). We can alter the Veracross interfaces over time, but we are not going to be able to move 10 years of FileMaker tweaks into Veracross all at once.

Third, we are going to use the API in Veracross to have a local FileMaker Pro server to crank out basic reports on a nightly basis. For example, the main volume of our reports are basic class lists, but in six different formats. For example, the Grade 2 teacher may want six different reports for their class lists (with pictures, with boxes, for labels, and more). So, our local FileMaker Pro server can crank out a long set of these reports, grade by grade, into pdf files that are downloadable from a single web page in the facutly/staff portal. Thus, we don’t need to build a query interface, and all the files are simply ready for downloading and use.

Of course, we have more planned, but this is our job for the next two months. We will have all data scripted and exported and documented for Veracross by 1 February, as well as greater clarification about the interfaces. The good news is that it appears will will achieve a working Transportation module in year one, but we will need to be very careful about how far we build out other modules.

As for today, Thanksgiving, I just got done sleeping for 15 hours, and in an hour or two we are heading for the boat for the long weekend, even if we just find ourselves looking at other boats and walking the town of Gosport.

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