Earning buy-in from stakeholders is one of the most important factors when moving to a new SIS.
At Mooresville Consolidated School Corporation, where I work as a data management coordinator, our former SIS was unreliable, inaccessible, and had limited functionality. With frustration building among staff, we selected a new SIS that would allow us to become more efficient, engaged, and empowered.
It was at this time that we realized we needed to not only change our procedures for implementing a new solution, but also ensure the buy-in from staff, teachers, students, and parents. Change can be difficult, especially when you’re transitioning to a new SIS, and we wanted to make sure all stakeholders were on board throughout the entire process.
As we made our move to a new SIS, the most important factor to our success was creating a transition that was both sustainable and smooth.
To do this, we avoided making our staff feel like the new solution was being forced on them. Instead, we focused on showing our staff the possibilities and capabilities of the software and letting them have a say in where we would go from there. By listening, we communicated to them that our district’s leadership was invested for the foreseeable future, and not just during the initial conversation phase.
In less than two years, our district improved its accuracy of data and communication, which has resulted in the following successes:
- Provided an accessible portal for all family and student needs
- Created an automatic integration between our LMS and SIS on a nightly basis
- Messaged families directly through our SIS, creating an additional touch point
- Integrated our online payment system with our SIS and SIS’s app
Would your district like to see some of the same successes? Here are three tips to elevate your SIS experience:
1. Train, Train, Train
I can’t overemphasize how impactful training was for our team. Be sure that your staff has the tools needed to perform their duties. We arranged group trainings and one-on-one help for staff members. We also assisted parents at kindergarten sign-up and back-to-school nights, ensuring a smooth transition was a top priority for our district. Furthermore, our SIS offered a professional development solution that allowed our staff to work at their own pace in areas of the software that were specific to them, making training convenient, not cumbersome.
Each district should have the mentality that training never ends. We have back-to-school sessions and year-end meetings. Each opportunity gives staff a platform to converse with their peers and build on new ideas. By staying patient and persistent, staff will begin to have ‘aha’ moments and recognize the big picture. The result will be self-sufficient users who are empowered to accomplish their duties.
(Next page: 2 more ways to have a successful SIS transition)
You can’t just begin using a new SIS and expect your staff to know all of its capabilities. You must make communication a two-way street and give detailed instructions of what you need your staff to do. Prompt them with a lot of questions instead of the other way around.
Within our SIS, there are several automated e-mail triggers that keep students, staff, and parents informed. These are designed to make communication easier and quicker. You don’t need to wait on a secretary to make a phone call about a student or ask a treasurer to check fees. An effective SIS will notify a counselor, treasurer, and any other stakeholder all at once.
In addition, it’s important that your staff understands their roles. Why do they need to enter data a specific way? Why is a report on student attendance important? The more they understand the process, the more buy-in and ownership they will feel within the SIS. Don’t make decisions based on what’s easiest for you; include the staff who are involved in the specific process. As a district leader, you need to learn the roles and duties of your personnel before you can begin to help them.
3. Let Your SIS Work for You
Know the functionality and capability of your software. Think about and record the processes that are taking up the most time for stakeholders to perform. Next, find ways for the SIS to help minimize those duties. This doesn’t mean cutting positions, but rather making those positions more efficient. In many districts, there are personnel who perform multiple jobs. Find an SIS that can assist staff in all their roles.
My district has taken hour and week-long tasks and turned them into minute-long tasks. Staff once went through computer-generated reports by hand to determine students who met certain attendance thresholds such as excessive absences and tardy notes. Now, our SIS analyzes this data daily and automatically generates reports of those students that fit the criteria we have identified. In addition, we are also assigning discipline offenses and actions at the same time. This means better communication and quicker notification for all stakeholders.
Like any software you use on a daily basis, it’s easy to get comfortable with your SIS. Make sure that your SIS is meeting your needs. Do you have to manipulate your data? Is there a communication disconnect about your SIS’s capabilities? Is it a struggle to interface with third-party vendors? Are some stakeholders unrepresented in how your district uses its SIS?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then it may be time for you to consider a new SIS or implement some of the above practices to optimize your current solution. Doing so will improve district performance and create positive buy-in from all stakeholders.