Bromcom are launching another customer driven update at BETT 2020, can it deliver all it promises?

As the festive season sadly ends for another year, in order to defeat the ‘January blues’ I like to take a moment to assess what I have in the work diary in the first half term that I really look forward to. I know that for myself and many others like me, the chance to see some nifty new gadgets and being able to catch up with colleagues and peers at BETT 2020, is a unique highlight of my calendar.

I am particularly looking forward to visiting the different MIS providers that will be on show at the event, (although for a second year, Capita SIMS are conspicuous by their absence!) and along with catching up with Bromcom, I will probably stick my head in to look at as many of them as I can.

Whilst I have absolutely no desire to move to a different MIS from our current supplier, I am always interested to see what else is on the market, to see what new ideas are out there because frankly, you don’t know what you don’t know!

As I talked about it my previous blog (link) I firmly believe that the only way a MIS provider can continue to make headway and stand out in what is an oligopolistic market, is to constantly evaluate their product and react to industry and customer demands. Doing the job that Ido, I feel it is important for me to know what else is out there, what new ideas are being brought to the forefront, and importantly, make sure that my MIS provider delivers these to my schools!

This constant evolution on MIS products is something again that fascinates me. It’s amazing to think how far modern school MIS’ have progressed from the basic administration systems they originated from. Functionality has grown through a mixture of organic change and customer demand. With that constant evolution, these “basic admin tools” have now become intrinsic to our daily working life.

With that change however, comes a level of complexity that I don’t think is often appreciated. Whilst most end users typically spend the majority their time working in only a few key areas, they are only seeing tip of an iceberg that has much more underneath. It is true that in some cases these additional features would have no intrinsic value to the user, but quite often, if could be something that could revolutionise their daily practice or spark an idea that will lead to procedural improvements.

This for me raises two key questions. Firstly, why isn’t the full repertoire of capabilities not being captured during training, and secondly, a key challenge to the supplier, how do they create a user experience that’s intuitive and inspires the confidence to explore, yet retain the depth of functionality that one would expect from an MIS?

I think the first question is quite easy to answer in simply that everyone’s role is different. An office manager in one school can have a very different role to an office manager in another, so delivering training to suit all is very difficult. I think it is fair to say that most MIS training is “introductory” and there is an onus on the end user to be inquisitive and to explore the system, ask questions and find out for yourself.

It’s a little bit like an iPhone (other phones are available!). I used to tell people that Bromcom was a bit like an iPhone, in that, when you buy an iPhone you never read the instructions, you just switch it on and because it is well designed, you figure it out yourself with a bit of time.

Looking back pre-2016, CMIS and SIMS the complete opposite was true. Menu items in odd places and labels that didn’t describe the actual task that it was designed to solve were commonplace.

I think it is fair to say that there are some UI/UX hits in the MIS industry, but there are definitely a fair number of misses! With SIMS in particular, their dated interface is probably permanently burnt into the retinas of their customers; perhaps this is why people are so scared to leave! From what I have seen, I can’t say that anything really shouts ‘2020’ modern interface when looking at the various MIS’ on the market, and I would include Bromcom in this.

So, true to form, over the last 12 months I have raised with Bromcom the prospect of them redeveloping their UI/UX to try to create that nirvana of being able to inspire user confidence whilst retaining its intuitive and functional design. I have always been keen on looking to reduce the number of clicks needed to complete a task and to enter data once and use it in many places.

As a result of this feedback, Bromcom are undertaking a UI/UX refresh of their MIS and will be launching at BETT 2020; so, yet another reason to go to BETT!

I am looking forward to piloting this with a number of our schools. Firstly, because I think it will bring about some great efficiency savings, but secondly and importantly, so we can ensure that we have a measured roll out across our academies and ensure that we continue to use the system to its fullest.

So, what will Bromcom’s new UI/UX mean to our schools? From what I have seen of the demo system, there is a common, standardised feel to it that, like the iPhone, will make it much easier to use. It looks and feels really intuitive and retains a modern feel to it. There is a marked reduction in the use of menus with most key tasks being accessible through a global search tool. I think this has the potential to be a bit of a game changer in both time efficiency and training effectiveness.

I am looking forward to seeing more powerful dashboards and analytics to improve the quality of reporting in Bromcom (something I have been critical of in the past) and having the ability to “drill through” to view the pupils who make up the numbers. Again, this is something I have always been deeply passionate about and I am pleased that this is a feature of the new UI/UX.

There are a few other updates, such as integrating editable calendars for pupils, staff, rooms, equipment and so on, but for me, I think this is a step too far as the vast majority of people use their Outlook/G-Mail calendars; they don’t want to have to manage two. If they can plug into Outlook/G-Mail, then again, this has the potential to add some real value.

Lastly, I think it will benefit generally from an aesthetic refresh. As the system has evolved in the last few years, its natural that things become a bit untidy, so I am pleased to see the refresh will de-clutter the interface and make the user experience a much more welcoming one.

In summary

So what is Bromcom’s new UI/UX promising to deliver:

1. A time saving global search tool

2. New more intuitive reporting dashboards and analytics

3. Drill-down functionality throughout

4. Standardised approach, look and feel

5. A new modern aesthetic refresh

If they can deliver what they have promised, then this will be another triumph for them and a win for all the customers that have been asking for these improvements.

So make sure you stop by their stand at BETT in January and judge for yourself…. I know I will be!

Married father of 2. Yorkshireman, Head of Data&MIS @harrisfed. Chair of Govs, Decent cook, half baked Masterchef contestant. WHUFC Fan. Views are entirely mine