Carl Hibbard wrote:You need some some sort of working group with sufficient IT knowledge to make the call on an LMS choice.
Indeed. Some information about the proposal and its impact would also be a good idea. Maybe even a Business Case. Maybe a cost / benefit analysis. And maybe the existence of a Manager for ICT to advise Board and Council.
It seems to be that the Council is being invited to approve the LMS proposal without any of the above, and with no clear understanding of the potential impacts on either the way Chess Leagues are managed or the way that results are submitted for grading. Given that, how can they possibly approve it? Are the Council members confident that they thoroughly understand what they might be letting UK chess in for?
I make no accusations and intend no disrespect, but someone making an independent assessment of this situation might wonder if some subterfuge is being attempted here, or if perhaps it’s simply a lack of experience / awareness of how an IT project of this significance is best managed. The potential impact up and down the country is huge, and it seems to me a nonsense that Council is being invited to approve it when all they can see by way of explanation is a line in a budget proposal! The ECF LMS idea is a significant project, and needs a Project Manager. There has to be some consultation and investigation and a full assessment of the requirements, costs, potential benefits, risks, timescales, implementation options, etc, etc before any (and there could be several) proposal can be approved and taken forward.
When I first saw the LMS idea mentioned, I was concerned that it might be an attempt by the ECF to introduce a Mandatory, centralised LMS – and to drive the existing LMSs, already used by many Leagues, out of existence. I was assured that this is not the case and was advised to read this “Plans for the Grading System” discussion thread. I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of the assurance I was given and I am grateful to be pointed to this thread. However, the very first item on this thread refers to Alex Holowczak’s election address where he says:
Alex Holowczak wrote:In order to facilitate faster result collection, I propose to tender out for League Management Software (LMS), of which several already exist in different areas of England. This will be optional for Leagues to use, but its main benefit would be that it will be linked directly with the ECF grading system. As a consequence, Leagues using the LMS will only need their captains, club secretaries or league secretary to report results via the website, and the ECF can grade the results centrally.
This would be optional for Leagues to use, and Leagues wishing to report results in their traditional manner would be at liberty to do so.
The change to monthly grading lists cannot exist without the LMS in place, and as a consequence, the change would not happen for several years.
That's not quite as clear cut as the assurance I was given seemed to be. Alex’s words could be interpreted to mean that although the ECF LMS will not be Mandatory, it will be the only LMS that has a direct, IT interface to the Grading System and that any Leagues that use their own LMS will not be able to interface directly to the Grading system
Brian Valentine seemed to confirm my fears when he said in reply to an earlier post of mine about the ECF LMS idea
Brian Valentine wrote:LMS is the main enabler to simplify grading submission.
So, my tendency to paranoia (and long years of experience!) forces me to ask again, is this the intention? Is the ECF LMS intended as the only route that will be available for direct submission of results to the Grading system? (And, perhaps, is the ECF trying to drive LMS, other than its (proposed) own, out of the UK chess scene?)
If someone could give a specific, definitive and authoritative answer to this question, then I would be most obliged!
Let’s hope that's not the intention. Otherwise, if the ECF LMS is aimed at being the only one with an interface to the Grading System, then that is unfortunate for a great many reasons. Not least, because it very much works against Alex’s stated objective for the LMS in the first place – to facilitate the rapid submission of results to the grading system so that monthly grading lists become possible. The quickest way to achieve that, as I’ve pointed out in other posts, is for ECF to specify an interface to the Grading System that all the existing LMS can use. If that were to happen, then results could start being submitted via that interface potentially within a matter of weeks, not months or years. And the costs and risks the ECF would be exposed to would be much less that those arising from the development of a full ECF LMS.
Why isn’t this option being considered, in preference to a full LMS? I’ve asked for an interface to the Grading system so that the Shropshire LMS (which I’ve helped develop and, in case you are wondering, for which no charge has ever been levied. It's an entirely voluntary, free offering.) can submit results directly. No response or reaction at all.
So, let’s at least consider the option of a Grading system interface, available to all. Let’s make that happen. Let’s start, now, to remove the burden of reporting from local Grading Officers. And let’s not launch into a poorly understood project for an ECF LMS without first considering all the alternatives, their costs, benefits and risks. And, finally (sorry for the length of this post...), let’s consider:
1. Do we really want an ECF LMS that is to become the only channel for quick and efficient result submission, pushing the existing systems out of existence? Or do we want Leagues to have the freedom to choose or develop LMS that suit their own needs, and can themselves interface to the Grading System to deliver results efficiently?
2. Which of the above two approaches is the most likely to deliver an effective result submission capability in the shortest time and with least cost and risk?
3. Should the Council be urged to reject the existing proposal and concept for an ECF LMS?