Transitioning to a new school management system can feel daunting. Your student information system (SIS) is the backbone of your school’s operations and plays a crucial role in many aspects of school management.
In our experience, it’s not uncommon for schools to continue using a school management system that’s not quite right for them for years due to concerns about the difficulty of moving to a new solution. Transitioning to a new SIS takes significant research, planning, communication and cooperation – it’s a large project that’s not for the fainthearted.
However, if your current SIS isn’t offering the functionality, access or performance your school needs to operate efficiently and grow, it’s probably time to move to a new school management platform.
In this blog, we share seven steps to make your school’s transition to a new SIS smooth and successful.
Step 1: Be clear on your requirements.
Once you’ve decided to move to a new SIS, it’s important to clearly define your motivation for making a change and the outcome you’re seeking. How does your existing system fall short? What do you need from your new school management system? Consider these questions from the perspective of all SIS users – administrative staff, teachers, families and students. What does your new platform need to provide to offer a best-practice user experience for each of these groups?
Step 2: Use your network.
Speak to local and aspirational schools about their SIS journeys. Attend conferences and networking events and speak to those you come across at training and personal development days about the student management system their school uses. If you’ve shortlisted a handful of SIS providers, do your own research into which schools are using their system, then reach out to these schools to ask what they like and dislike about the platform. This is also a great opportunity to ask for any transition tips!
Step 3: Confirm your budget.
While budget shouldn’t be the only deciding factor in your decision, it’s a crucial consideration – there’s no point identifying the perfect SIS for your school if it’s just not affordable. Look at how much you spend on your current school management system and identify and quantify additional savings your shortlisted platforms would provide. Share these calculations and a breakdown of what each system offers with your leadership team to make your case.
Step 4: Establish a realistic timeframe.
Moving from one SIS to another can take weeks or even months. Records, workflows, reporting and more must be carefully reviewed and transferred to ensure no data is lost during the transition. Time for staff training and staggered communication with students and families should also be factored in. Your new school management system provider should provide an indicative timeline based on their experience with similar schools; it’s also worth checking in with other schools about their experiences.
Step 5: Define roles and responsibilities.
Your SIS impacts and is used by a range of different groups, so it’s crucial to involve all areas and stakeholders in transition planning. Schools often establish a committee that’s responsible for considering the entire scope of the platform – from defining different user groups and their needs to system access and permissions, how historical data will be transferred, and, importantly, how the system will be maintained once implemented.
Step 6: Don’t forget to communicate.
Bringing stakeholders on the journey is an important part of transitioning to a new SIS. If you’re committed to moving to a new student management system, let staff, families and students know a change is planned and keep them updated throughout the process, focusing on each group’s unique need-to-knows.
Step 7: Invest in training.
Your new SIS will only be as effective as the people who are using it. Replacing a crucial operational system often causes anxiety and change resistance, so starting early with training is a sound strategy. If staff aren’t trained, confident and willing to use the system, it’s unlikely to deliver the expected benefits. Targeted training designed to meet the needs of different user groups will encourage teachers, administrative staff and the leadership team to get behind the new system and contribute to a smooth transition.
Moving to a new SIS is a big change for any school – but using the right school management system can be completely transformative. A structured approach to the changeover that gives sufficient attention to tasks including research, planning, communication, training and implementation will give your school the best chance of making a successful transition that delivers the expected benefits.