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10 Tips for a Successful Implementation

Skyward Best Practices
Skyward Best Practices - Experience, Collaboration, and Leadership

Is your district taking on any large-scale edtech projects over the course of the next year? If not, perhaps you should be! Innovative organizations don’t become the best by simply sticking with what works; the trick is staying one step ahead. Technology is one of the fastest changing aspects of society. When used to its potential, it can make a world of a difference in the lives of administrators, teachers, students, and families.
With the continuous arrival of new and improved practices, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed when simply choosing what to adopt, not to mention implementing it and learning how to use it.
If you are considering making an edtech change, you won’t want to miss these ten implementation tips. When carried out by districts and vendors, they will help lead to a timely, secure, and successful implementation.


What You Can Do

1. Be willing to change.  If you think about your district, chances are, you can pinpoint at least one system or practice that you’ve “always used” or “always done that way.” We’ve come to realize that if you want to transform your district, you need to consider making changes to both short and long term practices on a large and small scale. Nothing should escape your review and consideration.

2. Be transparent. When making a change, especially one as major as a software migration, we’ve learned it’s critical that people affected are not caught off guard. Of course, not everyone is going to be in favor of the change, but it’s extremely important that staff members, students, and families all stay informed and feel comfortable going to you and your staff to ask questions.

3. Communicate the progress. When districts emphasize communication, we’ve seen them benefit greatly from their proactive approach. Communicating the achievements of large and small milestones shows progress and helps maintain positive attitudes toward the project. It’s also important to make sure everyone involved understands how the change will impact them and what they are required to do (attend meetings, change passwords, complete training etc...).

4. Allow plenty of time for transition. We understand you may not always have control over when to change to a new software provider. Waiting for board approval or a grant to come in can take time. However, if you have a say in the matter, encourage your district’s decision makers to obtain necessary approvals as soon as possible so you can get to work. If the approval process takes longer than expected, suggest pushing back the go-live date. By having additional time, the district will benefit from increased opportunities to plan and prepare for the transition.

5. Know what you hope to achieve. In order to maximize the benefits of your new system, you should have a clear idea of what you hope to gain from it. Do you want to increase efficiency in the office? Improve communication between parents and teachers? Track all spending in one place? Giving your vendor a clear idea of your goals will help the specialists customize the system for your district and increase the likelihood that you will achieve the results you had envisioned.


What Districts Should Expect

6. An experienced vendor: Implementing new technology into your district is a time consuming and complicated process. That’s why it is important to have a vendor with plenty of practice and a record of success. Your vendor should provide you with an anticipated timeframe as well as a clear outline of steps, created based on what has worked best in the past.

7. Open communication: Effective implementation depends on open communication. We believe your vendor should be completely transparent. Transparency includes being comfortable having difficult conversations about topics such as the integrity of your data, training timelines, and the impact of missing a deadline. The process should be collaborative with an emphasis on teamwork, openness, and honesty. You should be able to trust your vendor completely, knowing you are always getting the most accurate, up-to-date information.

8. Regular updates: We understand the importance of keeping clients informed about decisions and progress and we think your vendor should value it is as well. A vendor should establish weekly status calls to discuss milestones achieved since your last call, outstanding and resolved action items, and upcoming deadlines. This call should not be the only time your Project Manager is available to you. He or she should respond to phone calls and emails whenever you have questions about the process or are looking for advice or a project update.

9. A detailed implementation calendar: If you want to stay on track, we believe you and your vendor should both have access to an implementation calendar. This calendar should include everything from when you owe the vendor information to training timelines and dates you can expect to receive updates. It will lay out the entire process and should be reviewed each week by both parties to ensure everyone understands their expectations and stays on schedule.

10. Ongoing assistance: Successful implementations are not complete when the new technology is in place. If you want to use your system to its full potential, you should choose a vendor that will provide you with hands-on training (to improve retention) and never leave you feeling like you need to figure something out on your own. Once the training is complete, it’s vital that your vendor’s support continues. You should have direct access to knowledgeable experts who will assist you with updating, maintaining, and maximizing your new system.

School districts regularly work with highly sensitive data, meaning the level of risk tolerance is extremely low. By following the tips we’ve provided, we are confident that you will greatly improve your chances of not only migrating your data securely, but also meeting your implementation deadlines and having your staff trained and ready to use the new system on time. Wouldn’t that make the transition easier? 



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