There’s no question that implementing new software in education environments is daunting.
From uploading new student rosters to educating teachers across a district how to use new software, there’s a lot of work that goes into ensuring a successful software implementation. In fact, in a recent research study, the EdTech Genome Product—a collaborative effort involving more than 100 education research and advocacy organizations—identified adoption plans, competing priorities and support as just some of the top-10 variables that make-or-break implementations.
While summer tends to be when districts implement new software, these months are also when educators revamp their curriculums, plan for the upcoming fall, enroll in professional development and so much more. All of this planning leaves little time for implementing and learning new software.
Instead, districts should consider the advantages of implementing new software during the winter months.
Face-to-face time and tailored support
An implementation that begins in January or February means more face-to-face time between districts and vendors. In almost every software implementation, there are five primary workflows:
- Data migration
Since the winter months tend to be slower for vendors, exploring an implementation at this time increases the likelihood of a vendor providing a more tailored and personalized experience, ensuring districts are set up for success. While vendors attempt to provide the same level of support during the summer months, it’s difficult to juggle multiple implementations and coaches’ schedules.
A district-vendor partnership is a two-way street, and the additional time benefits everyone.
For example, a winter implementation offers additional time for districts to provide direct feedback to vendors through multiple iterations, such as ensuring a data transfer process is as seamless as possible. The additional time allows for a deeper dive into the process and administrators can work with vendors to ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible. Those data integrations are crucial, but in the summer months, implementations can be rushed and districts don’t always get the chance to dive deep into the data migration process or address additional questions or concerns.
Additional testing and support
Enterprise-level software, like an SIS or enterprise resource planning platform, have extensive integrations with third-party programs as well as numerous configurations to ensure the software follows the rules of states and districts.
Even department-specific software, like nutrition, library, content management, workflows or student registration software, still have authentication set-up, integration with at least one other system and district-specific configurations.
These processes require a significant investment of time for both districts and vendors.
During a new software implementation, it’s important vendors test their software to ensure it functions as intended, integrates with the district’s other software and meets the specific needs of a district before the agreed go-live date. Although the summer months are considered slower for most districts, those same months are peak implementation season for vendors, impacting the amount of time vendors have to test their software, and districts have to provide feedback.
A focused software implementation
Too often, educators face initiative fatigue. Teachers are constantly asked to learn new software, integrate new technologies into their classrooms and take on new responsibilities. Those constant changes and adjustments make it difficult for meaningful change.
For teachers, the summer months are filled with change—now more than ever—as districts continue to pivot to meet student needs. Often, June, July and August are a whirlwind as teachers transition back from summer vacation and prepare for the fall.
A winter implementation provides an opportunity for vendors to work hand-in-hand with teachers during training and ensure that each teacher feels confident and comfortable with new software. Instead of rushing through training and professional development, a winter software implementation provides ample time to work 1:1 with teachers. This is important as successful implementations are dependent on usage in the classroom.
A foundation for a strong, successful software implementation
Traditionally, districts set their budgets up so that their software renews in June or July. However, vendors run on a different schedule, often attempting to sell their software to districts from October to December. A winter implementation is the best of both worlds.
Most vendors offer 18 months of software for the price of 12, waving additional licensing costs. This approach allows education companies to take the booking in Q4. That additional time allows for deep conversations between project managers, customer success managers and districts to create a sustainable plan moving forward and ensure success.
Implementing new software in the winter opens the door for more face-to-face time and tailored support, additional testing and focused implementation. Together, those all reduce stress—for educators and vendors—and set the foundation for strong, successful implementations.