AdministrationNews

Op-Ed: Why choosing a new school management system is the most rewarding risk

So, you want to improve your school’s management system?

A school’s management system is central to all operations and changing it represents a significant investment in time, resources, and money. 

Before you begin this journey, it is important to unpack what has brought you to this point. Ignore the ‘noise’ and engage with key stakeholders to learn from the source what is going on.

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The second step is to dive into your current system and find out whether it is being used incorrectly. Sometimes it comes down to asking yourself, who owns our school management system?

When there is no clear ownership of your school management system, several issues arise; databases become inconsistent, updates go unnoticed and communication becomes confusing. Chairo Christian School were recently faced with this problem.

“Our system was never really owned by anyone; it was a system that just existed. Each department did their own thing to their own ability, but most didn’t know what features were available, maybe lacked the ability or time to implement them and didn’t understand how to get the most out of those features,” Chairo representative, Trevor Ciminelli told me.

Without clear system ownership and responsibility structure, there is no clear understanding of how everything works together and moves forward. The third step is to research the field. There are countless different software packages available, all touting extensive lists of features and functionality but here are some things beyond the interface that you might want to consider.

Scope 

Aim to consolidate as many platforms as possible into the one central system. Consider what you need to fill the gaps that the system has, i.e. does it require additional payroll software?

Integration 

In saying that, one system cannot do it all, which means that at some point you are going to need to hook up additional software to it. When choosing a system, it is important to not only consider whether the system can interact with your existing software, but how it will interact. 

Look for a system that uses APIs to safely integrate with other software to ensure that your data remains consistent; after all, your system should be the one central point of truth for school data.

Tailoring to suit a school

No two schools are the same, so being able to tailor your system to match your requirements to some degree is essential. When looking at systems, ensure that you look for customisation that is achieved through supported setups and parameters. This allows you to configure the system to your needs while ensuring that your software ‘code’ is not orphaned from the pack and that there is a reliable upgrade path for your school’s software.

Once you have done your research and chosen a school management system, it is time to get your community onboard.

Training and support

User acceptance is the most important aspect of implementing a new school management system. Not everyone can be involved in the selection process, which can cause a certain level of anxiety, and a negative knock-on effect when it comes time to start training and using it.

Some of the most successful projects I have seen, have been those where all users were engaged from the start of the implementation project. I recommend that you:

  • Immediately introduce all staff to the new system with a demonstration. This should be done prior to any training so that staff know what’s coming and can look forward to the efficiencies that they will gain from the change; so that they are led with excitement rather than anxiety.
  • Involve staff in the data migration and configuration of their patch or area in the new system. Ask them what data they do and do not need, as this way you can declutter your data and get rid of unnecessary clutter.
  • Finally, avoid webinar training. It is always tempting to train virtually, especially since the rise of virtual communication due to COVID-19; however, webinar training cannot compete with the collaborative and engaging nature of onsite training, and can cause your users to disengage with the process.

Looking for a new school management system is an exciting opportunity to explore the needs and wants of your users and reach the full potential of your business efficiency. It is not something that can be rushed or done alone.

Remember to involve your community in the process and ensure that your chosen vendor is willing to listen and grow with you.

Kate Damant

Kate is Sales and Marketing Manager at The Alpha School System.

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