Having been through many frustrations with software providers back when was a school teacher, as well as time spent with schools developing robust IT protocols, I know a thing or two about what to consider before choosing new technology. Here, I’ve outlined the key steps to guide you during each step of the purchasing journey:
Step 1 – Discuss a use case
Think about the benefits and implications the new software will have on your school. Will the product replace an existing solution, or be added on to something already in place? Keep your goal for technology at the front of your mind at all times, and determine how you’re going to measure its success. On the flipside, have a contingency plan ready. Determine in advance any problematic scenarios that could occur during the implementation, and establish measures to help prevent or mitigate them.
Step 2 – The decision to purchase
Before you hit the button to purchase the software, ensure that all relevant decision-makers within the school are aware of the case for the technology, the KPIs it must hit, as well as its cost. Weigh up competitor pricing structures, and if the supplier you choose is cheaper, be sure to ask yourself “why”? In many cases, free options mask expensive support, setup and/or maintenance fees, or provide very basic software that can’t cater to nuanced challenges of schools. After the purchase, a good vendor will let you lean on them for help around deployment, and in most cases even implement the technology on your behalf.
Step 3 – Training users
Software training is paramount to the success of technology deployments in schools. Ideally you want training to be provided by the software providers, as they’re the experts. However, it is the school body’s responsibility to make sure staff are trained and have technical support when required. When it comes to training sessions for users, they must be engaging, practical and should clearly outline the main benefits of the product, how it’s going to appeal to them and why it will make their lives easier. Set tick-box targets and goals for users around hands-on sessions, to validate a baseline user operating standard across your school.
Step 4 – Roll out of the technology
The roll-out of software across your school should happen shortly after training to maintain momentum and minimise users’ erosion of knowledge. Set a firm date and stick to it.
The whole process should happen simultaneously, preferably with all of the required users - consistency is key here. When the new technology is implemented, older conflicting tools should be disregarded.
Step 5 – On-going maintenance
Of course, ongoing maintenance is necessary. As reliable as software is, there are going to be reasons support people need to be contacted. Because of this, make sure that users receive the contact details of support staff, whether they be the technology vendor or someone from your internal IT department. It is also worth notifying them of contact and estimated response times. More broadly, if support is maintained internally, it is up to this team to ensure the the software is kept up-to-date along product knowledge too.
Step 6 – Time to reflect
Once you are up-and-running, look back at your KPIs and see if you achieved what you wanted. If you didn’t, ask yourself “why”? Is the product still the best solution for your school, or is there a newer product more suited to your school and its needs? The timespan of your plan will depend on your school’s circumstances and the relative complexity of the technology that’s being implemented. However, moving forward with haste instills confidence in your user base, and ensures that staff don’t forget how to use the product before they’ve had a chance to.
Remember - having a firm plan in place, answering questions before they arise, and sticking to the dates you’ve set out can help a school implement new technology with success.
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