Some vendors still fail Kiwi education test

Australian IT managers looking to crack the whip on vendors hoping to reshape enterprises in their own image may care to take a lesson in diplomacy from across the ditch.

For the second time in as many years, the New Zealand Ministry of Education has refused to grant government accreditation to nearly half of the vendor community trying to sell student management systems (SMS) into New Zealand's 2600 schools because they fail to meet basic interoperability, data sharing and developmental criteria.

The poor result has come about following the New Zealand Ministry of Education's current effort to create common data standards across its schools base, which at last count had around 30 disparate and siloed student management systems.

With many schools in New Zealand yet to procure SMS technology, the government has made procurement funding for the applications contingent on accreditations to the governments standard so the Ministry of Education can get a handle on how its schools are performing.

"My mission statement is reducing disparity. The SMS systems were a poor match for what we were looking at doing. Most schools do not have time to deal with ICT issues such as needs analysis, requirements mapping and business process analysis," said Ministry of Education student management systems project manager Paul Seiler.

To press his point, Seiler added that around 850 of New Zealand's 2600 schools had enrolments of fewer than 100 pupils.

"We were very open in telling vendors that if products did not meet minimum standards, they would be adversely affected," Seiler said, adding this year's accreditation round of seven out of 13 applicant vendors passing accreditation testing was a big improvement on last year which saw only one vendor pass.

"There was a lot of complaining from vendors, so we went for another round of accreditation," Seiler said, adding that many vendors had complained directly to New Zealand's education minister.

However, Seiler makes no apologies for his tactics saying, "If you can't front those disaffected by your decisions, you shouldn't be the person making the decisions."

"We have also assisted some vendors from the market. Not with a golden handshake, because that is not legal," he said but with a talk about where their efforts may be more appropriately applied and meet with more success.

Seiler said the result has been greatly improved data quality and accuracy, improved business practices and has been achieved "at a reasonable cost".

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