TABLE OF CONTENTS
- History of Who We Have Been
- Progress Updates and Previews
- Doubling Down on our Strengths will Drive Us Forward
- Product Maintenance
- The People Who Will Get Us There
- Coordinating Activities
Watch the Video
Progress Updates and Previews ↑
As work is planned and completed on the Next Generation Aeries System, progress updates and previews of the system will be shared in the "Forums" area of support.aeries.com:
History of Who We Have Been ↑
Aeries has always been the most open SIS on the market. From our open architecture and highly accessible database structure to our industry-leading API and 3rd party partnerships, Aeries has always believed that our customers should control their data.
Aeries has always listened to our customers and valued their input into the direction of the product. Quarterly Advisory Group meetings, frequent focus group meetings, surveys, and an open, public Ideas system have given us insights into customer needs that have made Aeries the best SIS on the market.
Aeries has always been innovative. Aeries was the one of the first, and possibly the first, SIS to run on Windows. The "Aeries Browser Interface" (ABI) was one of the first, and possibly the first, 100% online portals for Teachers, Parents and Students. The Portal Account Management System (PAMS) was so revolutionary, that every major SIS followed with a similar system. And the Teacher Gradebook was one of the first 100% online Gradebook Systems. This history of innovation continued through the ideation and development of Aeries Client-Server, Aeries Online Enrollment, and Aeries.net.
Doubling Down on our Strengths will Drive Us Forward ↑
The future is bright for Education Technology. The prospect of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Cloud Computing will most certainly deliver innovations that improve the success of our students. Together, we will ready our students for their futures. But we know we cannot do this alone. We cannot do this as a singular company working in a vacuum. We must partner with the best and the brightest and empower our customers to create new solutions and share those creations with others. We call this initiative “Aeries+”. We will give “+Power” to Customers, Partners, and the Education Community to create solutions that have never been possible before!
The core of the Aeries+ Initiative is the creation of the Next Generation of Aeries. This new version of Aeries will be the 1st mainstream Student Information System to be designed and built from the ground-up using cloud-native technologies. The new system brings many promises and goals:
- 100% API Coverage for ALL functionality within the system, maximizing Interoperability
- 100% Extensible, maximizing customizability
- 100% Cloud-Native, maximizing scalability, performance, security and flexibility
- 100% Choice - Your Cloud or Ours
- 100% Automated Test Coverage
- 100% Longitudinal Database
- 100% Customer-Driven
- 100% Project Visibility
- 100% Testable before Committing
Let’s dig deeper into these concepts…
The Next Generation of Aeries will do something no other Student Information System has ever achieved, and most would never even consider: 100% API Coverage. This means that every function in the system will be accessible through the new Aeries API: every Read, Update, Insert, and Delete Operation; every Processing Function; and every Report. With this capability, anyone will be able to build new interfaces to Aeries.
We will also be releasing the “Aeries SDK”. This “Software Development Kit” will give anyone the ability to easily create new pages and functionality that directly and seamlessly interface with Aeries. These “Extensions” will be published through the “Aeries Marketplace” so that they can be shared with ANY Aeries Customer. If someone at a district wants to build a new Teacher Attendance interface or a new module using custom tables, they will be able to easily do so and publish it to the Aeries Marketplace.
We also plan to include the ability for customers to add any number of additional fields of any data type to any table in the system. This will be able to be done through a simple user interface and will require no DBA actions. A similar feature will be enabled for customer tables where it will not be necessary to manually edit the back-end database structure to add a new table.
Being built for the cloud means that the next generation of Aeries will be designed to take advantage of the best technologies. Our goals are to provide a solution with:
- Multi-Zone Hot Failover Ensures Maximum Availability
- Seamless updates to the software with zero, or near-zero user down-time
- Automated system scaling to support peak system usage
- Compliance with Multiple Security Standards resulting in Industry-Leading Platform and Software Security
- Database and System Redundancy
- Self-Service System Management
Aeries Cloud or District Cloud
Even though the next generation of Aeries can only be run in the AWS Cloud, it doesn’t mean that districts have to run in the cloud environment managed by Aeries Software. That is YOUR CHOICE. Districts may choose to spin up an instance of Aeries in their own AWS environment via AWS CloudFormation Templates that we provide. This gives districts control over their Aeries environment, including when updates are applied, while still taking advantage of all the benefits of the new Aeries System Architecture.
As we redesign Aeries and rewrite the codebase, we are taking advantage of techniques and technologies that either did not exist when Aeries Web was first developed, or were not as mature as they are today. One key technique is called “Unit Testing.” This software development technique requires that automated test scripts are created for every aspect of the system. This will minimize software bugs by applying consistent testing logic to every method and function in the system. When changes are made to these functions, new and previously developed tests will be run to ensure that changes do not create problems in other areas of the system. And because these tests are run automatically by servers, the tests are extremely fast and always applied to every version of Aeries. A build of Aeries that produces errors will never be seen by a human tester or user.
Longitudinal, Re-Normalized Database
Aeries was originally designed at a time when schools were barely first getting Local Area Networks (LANs) and Internet access and almost no districts had a Wide-Area Networks (WAN). Aeries was optimized to work extremely well in that ecosystem. But many things that worked well back then are not optimized for the technology landscape of today. We are viewing this redesign as an opportunity to adopt new design concepts, including having the Aeries Database be “Longitudinal”. This will put all school years into a single database, reducing duplicate records that exist currently in multiple school year databases. Table structures are also being redesigned to be more efficient and effective and to give the user a better experience.
Many complex and difficult decisions will need to be made during this process. And although Aeries Software has experienced and knowledgeable employees, we will rely heavily on our customers to give us input as we proceed with development. Various “Advisory Committees” will be established with groups of customer representatives with rich experiences with Aeries and other Student Information Systems. To apply to be on an Aeries Redesign Advisory Committee, fill out an Online Application at https://aeries.link/adv-apply.
In addition to these committees, our Product Managers and Business Analysts will be engaging with customers on feature re-designs and new feature development during this time. As we redesign, we will also be moving forward and building new features.
Communication is key to any successful project. You should expect an email or blog from us every quarter giving you an update on this project. Additionally, we will include status updates and have sneak previews available at our twice-yearly AeriesCon Events.
Test Before Commit
You will be able to test your instance of Aeries in the new Aeries Cloud environment before committing to a conversion / implementation date. This process will be driven by LEA Aeries Admins and will be an easy to follow process. Sandbox testing is scheduled to be available in January, 2023 with Early Adopters able to go live on the new system in the Summer of 2023.
Product Maintenance ↑
Even as we embark on rewriting the codebase of Aeries, we stand committed to the ongoing maintenance of the existing version of Aeries until the new system is completely ready. We understand that our customers rely upon us to ensure that critical areas of Aeries continue to function effectively. We have analyzed what it takes to keep Aeries up to date with State Reporting in CA and TX, Federal Reporting, and 3rd Party Integrations and have dedicated an appropriate number of resources to maintain these. Additionally, we know that critically important changes are also required to meet the changing needs of the education industry. We will continue to advance the Flex Scheduling area of Aeries and will complete planned changes to support Independent Study. The key to this planning is that we are planning for the unknown. We are flexible and can adapt to new situations. You should feel confident that the current version of Aeries will continue to be the best Student Information System for your schools and that the new system will be even better.
The People Who Will Get Us There ↑
This work is being done in conjunction with the largest restructure our company has ever seen. Aeries has been in business since 1995. As one can image, many things have changed since the 90s and as the company has grown organically over the years, many systems were created that now need to be rethought. The new Aeries Organizational Structure will provide an opportunity to redesign our operations with a vision of maximizing collaboration, enhancing our customer focus and supporting innovation. By doing so, we keep students as the focal point for our actions and support our Company Mission to “Deliver data-driven, intuitive, and innovative solutions that empower communities to advance student success.”
One change in the company has been the creation of a Product Division. This change unifies the operations of Product Management, Product Development and Quality Control. And as we look to the future of Aeries, we want to ensure that we are designing solutions that meet customer needs. To do this, we need people with a strong understandings of our customers, people who have worked in schools and who have deep compassion for the people who run our schools. Fortunately for us, our Quality Control Team Members are some of the most talented and knowledgeable experts at K12 School Operations. They know what it takes to run a school and run a district. They have process and procedure experience that gives them a unique perspective on how our software should meet the needs of our customers. It is these skills that have made them perfect gatekeepers for our software quality. And it is these skills that will make them perfect for what the company needs of them in the future. Recognizing this, the Quality Control Team is changing its focus to be “Business Analysts” (BAs) and take a more proactive role in building system requirements. They will work closely with developers as solutions are being developed. This is a change from the past where QC was done after development was complete. Moving forward, ALL work items that developers begin work on will have been analyzed and detailed by BAs. This will ensure that proper testing plans are developed before programming takes place and that additional, related changes are thought out. This should help get more features completed and help that work be cleaner code with less bugs.
This structure creates clear expectations for the different phases of product development: Product Managers, Business Analysts, UX Designers, System Architects, and Developers. The first 4 roles will work together to identify opportunities and needs, define the requirements and specifications, and detail the work to be completed by developers. All 5 roles are vital to the successful creation of a feature that solves a customer need. Although these titles and positions are defined in various ways in various organizations, at Aeries Software, they are defined as such:
Product Managers (PMs) are “outward facing” in that they look at the market and interact with customers to identify and assess product opportunities. They take these potential features and document the reasons we may want to tackle then and prioritize their need. Product Managers find the highest value problems that our customers face and determine if a software solution is warranted. All of this work is coordinated with strategic company initiatives and is documented on the Product Roadmap.
Business Analysts (BAs) are responsible for gathering and documenting technical specifications for the broader projects identified by Product Managers. They engage with customers and other resources to document the details of what will meet the needs of customers. They should identify resources needed to solve the customer problems.
Business Analysts will often serve as “Product Owner” to specific product teams. In this role, they will make decisions about the features being added to the software. They should factor in customer needs and expectations as well as their own knowledge of the industry to make these decisions.
While development is being worked on, they will keep involved with developer progress to ensure the direction of development will result is a satisfactory solution. They will also keep stakeholders informed about the progress of the project and relay preliminary feedback back to developers. After development is complete, they will confirm the solution meets the needs of the customer and will document the solution.
System Architects (SAs) are responsible for interpreting the technical requirements defined by the BAs to create the development plan for programmers to follow. Their focus should be to guide the programmers on creating a solution that meets the standards for the system and the technical requirements of the customer needs.
UI/UX Designers and Engineers
Aeries User Interface and User Experience specialists work closely with BAs and SAs to ensure that Aeries provides a consistent, effective, and beautiful experience for the user. For the Next Generation Aeries Project, this team will achieve these goals through the use of Component Libraries, Themes, and Design Guides. Additional goals include ensuring the system is Performant, Responsive, Accessible, and Focused.
Developers/Programmers write the code that creates the features. They are encouraged to ask questions of SAs, BAs and PMs so that the solution they build meets customer expectations. They communicate and document their solutions so that stakeholders know the details of what has changed in the system.
Coordinating Activities ↑
Having a focus on the customer requires that every part of Aeries Software align with that vision. This includes the other “Divisions” of Customer Experience, IT, Sales & Marketing, and Operations. These teams are tasked with working together towards achieving Company Goals and aligning their activities with the Company Vision and Mission. However, these activities are never done in a bubble. They normally take the efforts of multiple departments to achieve the desired outcomes. Customer Experience, which include Customer Support, Implementation, Training, and Customer Care work closely with the Product Team to communicate customer needs and to relay their expertise.