For districts in Lenawee and Monroe counties in Michigan, a proven track record of success was an important factor in selecting new systems for managing student information and financial and human resources. Implementing a rigorous selection process, the Lenawee Monroe Technology Consortium assembled product committees to develop specifications, issue an RPF, evaluate options, and then select new systems with a proven track record of success.
“For a six-month period, we used Microsoft SharePoint® for calendaring and sharing committee notes and documents,” says Phil Carolan, Director of Technology for the Lenawee Monroe Technology Consortium. “About 14 vendors responded to our RFP. We narrowed that down to a short list and sent some of our committee representatives to do site visits at schools using those products. The most highly referenced and economical were the SunGard K-12 Education products.”
The consortium selected SunGard K-12’s eSchoolPLUS student information system and eFinancePLUS finance and human resources system.
Part of the PLUS 360 suite, eSchoolPLUS is a recognized industry-leading student information system that provides all educational stakeholders with access to the student information they need, when they need it. It has received Gartner’s highest possible rating and was named to District Administration’s Top 100 products list. A cost-effective solution, eSchoolPLUS helps educators manage day-to-day student administration, monitor student performance, and facilitate communications between district staff, parents, and students.
eFinancePLUS features automated workflows and notifications to increase the efficiency of the accounting, procurement, human resources, and payroll functions. It is designed for quick implementation and provides district administrators with insights into budgetary performance, employee statistics, substantial purchases, and much more. eFinancePLUS also offers web-based self-service options for employees, vendors, and job applicants so that districts can operate more efficiently and do more with less.
After selecting SunGard K-12 products, Carolan says the consortium rolled out the solutions to all the school districts in the two counties. “We again used our SharePoint® environment. A SunGard K-12 project manager helped lay out all the training that was necessary,” he explains. “We ran four sessions at a time with up to six districts in each session. Everything stayed on track.”
As the consortium implemented the software for multiple districts at the same time, it gained valuable insight into best practices in software implementations. Carolan advises districts launching an implementation to consider the following:
Utilize the test and training environment. Carolan advises districts to make use of the test and training environment to consider and gain a better understanding of parameters in the setup phase.
Clearly communicate expectations. “Make sure there’s enough discussion up front before people get into training about the expectations of the day,” says Carolan. By including decision makers in the sessions and ensuring that they understand what’s expected of them, these individuals will arrive prepared for the tasks ahead.
Provide flexibility in the schedule to consider and reconsider set-ups. “Keep the training schedule flexible to allow some time to revisit the setups,” says Carolan, noting that the added time up front will allow tweaks to be made before the software is rolled out to all users.
Since becoming a customer, the consortium has experienced the value of the SunGard K-12 Education software and of being part of a national network of districts using the company’s solutions.
“I always brag about how solid eSchoolPLUS is, with its Microsoft SQL® backend, and how much control of the data we have,” says Carolan. “It gets backed up every hour on the half hour, so if we have any big snafus we can go back to the last 30-minute time period and still be in good shape. From a technical support background, it’s a very, very solid product.”
The consortium’s advisory committee recently approved the addition of eSchoolPLUS Admin Mobile Application and Enrollment Online. “My advisory committee has enough confidence to stay on the course and continues to invest in the product,” he says.
Currently, the consortium is upgrading districts to the latest version of eFinancePLUS and is adding Vendor Punchout. “Our districts are really happy with the product’s new notification system, which was really well done, and upgraded look and feel,” says Carolan. “Vendor Punchout will allow district staff to do purchasing directly from a vendor’s website, roll it into a purchase order, and get it approved and delivered—all without having to duplicate any data entries.”
As the consortium has continued to invest in SunGard K-12 solutions, Carolan says districts have benefited from choosing products from a technology company with a national presence and active users group.
“We’re quite pleased about how interactive SunGard is with the national users group,” says Carolan, who serves on the board of the organization. “Every month, we gain valuable insights from users in other states as part of state reporting calls with the SunGard team. Leveraging SunGard’s national audience has been very good for us. It’s nice to hear that national perspective.”