The Systems Interoperability Framework (SIF) is something that people in ed tech talk a lot about and yet few understand its potential, its implications, and its hurdles. It just happens to be on my mind since we're about to undertake some pretty big SIF integration projects and I'm working on a grant to cover some of the costs.
For those of you not familiar with SIF, the SIF Association website is a good place to start. As they put it,
The SIF Association´s vision within this context is that schools will be enabled to better utilize technology in a manner that leverages the promise and capabilities of interoperability between disparate applications. The SIF Association brings together the developers and vendors of school technology with the federal, state and local educators who use that technology. To define the rules for data movement between applications—efficiently, accurately and automatically—in the SIF Specification.
What exactly does that mean? When implemented properly with cooperating vendors and some on-premises hardware and software that acts as a broker, multiple educational information systems can easily exchange and integrate data. Those imports and exports to keep your SIS synchronized with your content management system or your automated calling system get a lot smarter and easier if they are all SIF-compliant and your Zone Integration Server (ZIS, that hardware/software broker I mentioned earlier) is properly configured. Increasingly, SIF implementations also lend themselves to integration with data warehouses, allowing better, automated tracking of longitudinal data.
Sounds slick, right? And it has a lot of potential - In fact, I think we're going to see interoperability really take off in the next couple of years. However, the requirements to date for certification of a vendor as SIF compliant haven't been incredibly stringent. Add a few fields to a data system according to the SIF spec, spend $10-20k, and suddenly, vendors can tout SIF compliance. While this is changing as SIF really begins to see serious implementations, when you are selecting "SIF-compliant" vendors, it's certainly worth asking how they support integration with other SIF systems and if they have any experience actually getting systems to talk to each other via the interoperability framework.