A school management software can multiply the productivity of your school a hundredfold if implemented and used properly. Usually schools lack the expertise to implement school software effectively. As a result most of implementation fails and the users stop using the software which in turn shows no result in the improvement of operational efficiency. In most of the cases, the school will switch to another software and will try the implementation process once again to realize that the same pattern happened again.
So what is the right solution to this?
What are the strategies that can be used to make school management software implementation successful? Read below:
1. Choosing the Right A-Team
Find out the teachers and admin staff in your school with computer, software and leadership skills and form an A-Team. You can also invite one or two parents to join the team. Please make sure that this team will have a maximum of 5 to 6 people. This is your A-Team for school management software implementation and usage. Once the team is formed give the team recognition and plan for rewards towards the successful implementation of software.
2. Including the A-Team in Purchasing Process
You must include the A-Team in all steps of purchasing the software including the pricing negotiation. The A-Team can invite vendors to give demo and get pricing details. It is very important for the A-Team to understand the product and vendor in detail and it requires relationship building. Once a software is finalized for purchase, include the a-team in the final purchase process also.
3. Reference checks & visiting other schools
It is very important to visit other schools to understand how the school management software is implemented there. Ask the vendor for references and make sure the a-team visits these schools to get review. Do not avoid visiting failed implementations of the vendor you finalize. You can gather equal information from failed projects similar to that from successful implementations. Make sure all the observations and learning are documented and stored for future analysis.
4. In Depth Demo to understand feature
Ask the vendor for a detailed demo explaining all the features. Do not limit the demo to one instance. A school management software is a complicated software with hundreds of features and you might require minimum 2 or 3 demos to understand all features. Prepare a document comparing the features of all the products the A-Team is evaluating.
5. Understanding Customization requirements
During the demo you will come across many features that might not be tailored according to your school’s unique needs. List down these features and understand from the vendor how these requirements can be addressed. Usually there will be configuration settings that can tweak the feature. Or it might require customization. Check with the vendor how the customization package works and understand the pricing strategies of the same.
6. Setting and Revising clear Goals & Milestones
Set clear goals and milestones for software implementation. The timeline can be 12 to 24 months from starting the demo process. Decide ahead in how many months you have to finalize the product and in how many months the product needs to be implemented completely. Gather info on practical timeline from the reference checks.
7. Budget Planning for 3 to 5 years
You will have to plan the budget for software for a minimum 3 years ahead. Collect all info from vendors on all the direct and indirect expenses in purchasing and using the software for the next 3 to 5 years. Along with the info from the vendor, collect the expense info from reference checks also.
8. Data Preparation for import
Once the vendor is finalized it is time to prepare the data for importing to the software.If your school is already using software, you can export the data from it if possible or you will have to prepare fresh data in the format suggested by the new vendor. As this is the most important base of the software, make sure there are no errors in this initial data set.
9. Training Phase
Once the data is entered, you can ask the vendor to start training. Training needs to be done in phases. The a-team will be well trained in the software by this time because the time spent since demo, reference and data entry. Make a training schedule and instruct all your teachers to attend the training without fail. Give them certificates for completion of training. Also you can give training to parents and students in the form of short videos.
Have checklists for the most repeated activities. Like using a specific feature in the software. Once the checklists are created and maintained in a central repository, the common repeating mistakes can be avoided using these checklists.
11. Change management Strategies
It is not easy to introduce a new software to a team and make them use it. Humans are used to resisting changes. There is a lot of information on change management strategies available online. The a-team can learn from those and use the expertise of vendor to handle change management issues.
12. Project management Strategies
If you look closely, the entire school management software implementation and usage for 3 years is a big project with a lot of subprojects. Expertise in common project management strategies can help the a-team to execute the project well.
13. Motivating Users
Outside the a-team also you need a reward and punishment plan for the faculty to make sure of the complete integration of the school management software in their day to day activities. The reward does not have to be monetary. Ask the vendor for tips or find out from schools where the software is implemented successfully.
14. Communication Plan
You need a communication plan to keep the users engaged with software usage. The users include teachers, students, parents, admins and other faculty of the school. They have to be reminded and informed about software usage as well as changes and updates in the software.
15. Maintaining a Sandbox Account
Ask the vendor to provide a sandbox account if possible. The sandbox account allows you to play around with features and make mistakes without affecting the actual data.