SIMPLEX – A Next Generation School Management Solution

The close Track 1 morning sessions, Turismo de Portugal brought a success case of the innovative School Management Solution (SMS).

This was not the average case study presentation: it was a true celebration of success with agile!

Hugo Sousa, IT Director for Turismo de Portugal, shared the stage with other 4 project stakeholders,and started the session by playing a video that introduced Turismo de Portugal, their business and needs, sprinkled with live testimonials and images of the School Management Solution being used. You can check the video here.


Hugo explained they evaluated several packages available in the market (both commercial and open source). Their conclusion was that they would either be forced to buy a package that included too much functionality they didn’t need or want; or buy a package that used relatively obsolete technology and would be very difficult (and costly) to adapt to their specific needs.

So, at the end of the day, they decided to build it from scratch. Many said they were crazy, but the team knew that building it was the right thing to do – and today they proved they really make the right decision.

The project involved 50 people, from several internal resources (both the Schools, and the Education, IT and Finance departments) and from two implementation partners (Normática and TrueWind).

Francisco Neto, from Normática, described the challenges they had: breaking away from manual and paper based processes and create a system to manage 16 schools, and be used by 1300 resources (including teachers and staff) and over 3000 students.

The main objectives? To create uniform processes that all schools would follow, to automate manual tasks to improve productivity and reduce lead times, and to optimize all processes during the whole analysis and implementation stages.

For the longer term, their vision is to increase the quality of educational services and the student’s satisfaction levels, improve the tourism offers in Portugal, and increase de demand for tourism and hospitality education in the country – and all of this with a strong focus on the environment and sustainability.

Here are some stats about the project:

  • An agile methodology was used, with 6 sprints of 3 weeks;
  • They chose 3 week sprints to ensure a bigger throughput of functionality for each sprint demo;
  • They created around 30 applications and components, with +500 web pages and 220 database tables;
  • To accelerate the development, they reused 5 pre-built components including “Resources and Meetings Management”, “Email Services” and “Charting”.

João Fernandes (one of the School directors involved in the project) said that originally information was coming from several sources and in different formats. With the launch of a centralized and shared new School Management System, they immediately attained process alignment.

Also, by segregating users by pre-defined profiles, they improved access to the right information for each user, as well as security. According to João, the administrative, financial and pedagogical areas where the ones that most benefited from the launch of the new system but “there is still a lot of potential to explore in this system!” he added.

Maria João, another School Director, presented a couple of slides showing the differences between the processes in 2008/2009 and what they look like today: the key takeout is that everything that once was managed with paper, has now migrated to the new web-based application.

Not only paper and waste are gone, but the whole organization became more “productive” – today they actually handover some of the responsibilities to the students. For example, students are responsible for managing their information and submit their absences in self-service. Another great example is that students don’t have to travel to the school they want to join for the enrollment process – they can do it in a school closer to them, saving time and money and simplifying the whole process.

To wrap the session, Hugo asked the audience if they remembered the chart that was presented during Paulo Rosado’s keynote yesterday (the example of a company who delivered 10K function points in less than a year.)

“That was OUR chart. Those were OUR numbers. That represents all that we’ve accomplished” he said proudly. After thanking the entire team he added “We chose the right technology, and in only 4 months we were able to deliver all of this!”

The session ended with even more celebration as Mike Jones (VP of Marketing at OutSystems) handed two Agility Awards to Turismo de Portugal and Normática, for such an innovative and successful agile project.


About the author

Michel Ozzello

Although he's been working in Marketing for the past decade or so, Michel is still a geeky Software Engineer at heart. He tries to fit technology in every bit of marketing activity he does - from SEO to websites and digital advertising.


Michel Ozzello

Here are some of the questions that were asked after the session:
Q1: What is missing to complete the dematerialization?
Turismo de Portugal explained that they are starting the implementation of a new major release that will include several new processes and integrate with some legacy systems like our ERP, sales system, and the printing system. For example, a student can print his own ID card, or buy and print his cafeteria tickets online.
“What is important for us is to promote educational excellence, and we’ll have many major and minor releases that will deliver continuous innovation. Our IT team wants to receive new features and change requests, and is ready to respond!”

Q2: What is needed to reproduce this kind of experience in other government agencies?
Hugo Sousa said that “Government Agencies have everything they need. There’s smart people working there, there’s good technology available (like OutSystems) and there are several good service companies. The only thing you need is good leadership and a strong will to get things done.“
Q3: You mentioned government has the people. How many people did you have in your team?
Hugo Sousa, answered by saying “Our IT department had 7 people involved, and outsourced the implementation work [to 2 IT service companies]. The internal resources evolved to a project management position and then interfaced with the service companies and schools.”

Q4: How much did this cost?
Hugo told the audience that the project cost was around 150.000 Euros (including all software and implementation services.
“The value we’re getting out of the system has been much greater than the 150K we spent. In terms of maintenance, we practically have no costs… the system is working and maintenance is residual.”

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