SIMS-Exchange Timetable Exporter

Project Name: SIMS-Exchange Timetable Exporter

Summary

Exports staff timetables from SIMS and creates Exchange appointments in a user’s mailbox for all the lessons that they teach.

The purpose of this application is to remove the need for staff to manually input their timetables into their Outlook calendars. With teaching and support staff using email and calendars more in schools to organise meetings, it is becoming more important to ensure that their calendars are as up-to-date as possible. Secondly, with the increase in use of Unified Communications technologies in schools such as Microsoft Lync, which draws information from the user’s Outlook calendar to set their status – which means requiring appointments to be present for this information to be drawn from.

Application Specification

  • Will run as a service
  • Will have a configuration GUI allowing the user to set up various options
  • Will export data from SIMS using Capita provided solutions
  • Will be able to write appointments to Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 and 2010
  • Will have full tracking of all actions so that any changes can be undone
  • Will not require user intervention on a day-to-day basis
  • Will run regularly, monitoring the SIMS timetable in order to update appointments based on changes to the timetable
  • Will have the option to email users with details of what has been added to their calendars

Application Requirements

For this application to function, you need to have the following:

  • Capita SIMS, in the currently support versions
  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 SP1, 2010 RTM/SP1/SP2 or 2013
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 or newer, Express edition is fine
  • Windows Server 2008 or newer
  • Microsoft .net Framework 4

Project Update – 11th February 2014

Administrator emails complete, providing useful information for monitoring the service. User emails tweaked and improved, providing flexibility in what is sent.

GUI changes implemented. Number of bug fixes following testing. One major area that I have failed to consider is schools that are using 2 week timetables. Now investigating how to extract the data that I need and send it across to Exchange. Now working through the test plan though.

Project Update – 6th February 2014

Emails to users with notifications are now included and provide some useful information. One of the ‘future enhancements’ has been brought forward, the appointments now use full HTML instead of RTF (thanks to MS and a lack of a decent RTF-HTML converter). UI has been updated with new preview of the appointment too. Needs some tidying, and possibly some form of code verification – not sure what is best here. Few more performance enhancements too.

Currently building up a thorough test plan ready for execution.

Project Update – 29th January 2014

Lot more tidying and tweaking. Improving any error handling and checking that my logging is both relevant and useful.

SMTP configuration now integrated within the project, outputting some information. Requires some formatting and meaningful information to be included.

Appointments are now being written with the correct character spacing, although everything is still in plain text.

Installer updated, made simpler. Documentation is well under way with the initial setup guide pretty complete.

Project Update – 14th January 2014

Another good coding day. Finished off the logic for modifying appointments. Now onto testing for random occurences, such as users deleting appointments. UI is looking polished, service itself is running. A basic installer set up, although needs some work. SMTP interface is written, just not integrated into any of the processes yet.

Resisting the urge to add more features, and reserve them for a later version.

Project Update – 9th January 2014

New Year – new coding burst.

Since December have been working on the tool. Great number of improvements to the database, Exchange communications, logging enhancements, and data coming in. Have done some full on testing, and have it creating all appointments for all users on a test environment. Pretty pleased as I was able to process 40,000 appointments in a test scenario in around 10 minutes – from pulling the data into SIMS to having fully generated appointments in Exchange.

My current coding hit list includes including a method for determining if details of a lesson have changed, modifying appointments in Exchange, and the sending of email notifications.

So, definitely still in progress, but taking a very nice shape.

Project Update – 11th December

Well, isn’t this embarrassing. Nearly 12 months without an update on here. It’s been quite a year, and although I have done some work on the project, no-where near as much as I would have hoped.

So, I have been back on the horse the last couple of days. Restarted a whole load of my testing and tweaking. Plenty of small improvements in the interface, the generation of the appointments and performance. Confirmed support for Exchange 2013 too.

I’m not going to put down any timescale, as that is just a deadline for my next confession. All I can say is watch this space – and my apologies for those who have been checking back and hoping for a product.

Project Update – 24rd January 2013

More testing and bug solving. Database has been updated with a number of configuration options. Have added support for multiple versions of Exchange, updated EWS and can provide support for Exchange 2013. Updated reports from SIMS. Interface is pretty well polished now, SIMS reports are now complete.

Project Update – 5th January 2013

Testing is continuing. Am tweaking the Configuration Tool, my reports, the database to make sure it all runs as it should. Have added in a lot of error handling in all errors. Documentation is under way. I have tested my Exchange interfaces and they are working. All is looking good.

I want to spend some more time checking how the application is working when changes are made to Exchange appointments by the user, what happens when staff leave, etc.

I have managed to post the requirements above though.

Project Update – 20th December 2012

Have been doing a lot of testing on my SIMS interfaces. I have now got it importing reports to SIMS and exporting all of the data the application requires, with detailed logging, error handling, and full configuration.

More tweaks to the GUI – all to do with the aforementioned SIMS testing. More config options for flexibility – and a lot more robust code. Documentation is under way as I work through the application. Also have pretty much completed the installer. Performance tweaks and optimisation to the database also complete.

Moving on to my detailed Exchange interfaces testing next.

Project Update – 17 October 2012

Apologies for the delay in getting this out. Unfortunately other things in life have got in the way.

Have been tweaking the Configuration Interface today. Finished off a number of the management settings and checked everything is writing back to the database correctly. Have got my Installer to work, which also sets up the Service and configures the applications settings, so no need to modify any config files after the installation. Have started work on the SQL Script to create and set up the database on your SQL Server.

I now have some more time at home so will be able to work on this more.

Project Update – 27 July 2012

Configuration interface is just about complete and all the options write back to the database ready for use by ther service. The service is created and reading the values ready for processing with.

Beta release by the end of the month might not happen, but will do in the next couple of weeks.

Project Update – 10th July 2012

So far I have finished coding the program logic – I can read all the data from SIMS, create the lessons for each day in the academic year and am able to write and update the appointments in Exchange 2007 and 2010.

I am now working on the Configuration interface to ensure that all the options necessary can be configured at the schools end without having to edit an XML files or databases directly. This is coming along well, but still requires some tweaking. I want to make sure that all of the options are covered in the first release.

The only part that I have remaining (other than some simple documentation) is the service itself.

I am still hoping that I will have a full beta version out by the end of July. - Well, that failed.

License

This software will be available on a commercial license. At present I am not sure what the exact costs will be.

Testers

I have now got enough beta testers lined up to be able to fully test the application in a number of environments. Thanks everyone for getting in touch.

Possible Future Enhancements

I know version 1 is not even available yet – but looking ahead some ideas which have been suggested are:

  • Ability to export specific rooms to Room Mailboxes to allow resource bookings to be managed through Exchange
  • Ability to import a cover sheet, so that staff can be emailed and their cover requirements entered in to their calendars too
  • Appointments and Emails are generated with HTML bodies to allow more customisation.

 

 

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