Your school’s student information system plays a crucial role in many aspects of your operations. Without it, efficiency at your school could grind to a halt.
SIS is like an engine, sometimes it needs repair – and sometimes it blows a gasket. If your SIS isn’t performing as well as you would like or doesn’t offer the functionality and access that your school needs in our everything-is-connected age, it might be time for a switch.
We’ve discussed the benefits of changing from an on-premises system to a cloud-based SIS and the importance of onboarding, but the specifics of making the move from your current SIS to a new platform can be tricky.
With that in mind, we’ve come up with some tips to make your SIS transition a bit smoother and easier.
1) Establish a Realistic Timeframe
Moving from one SIS to another isn’t as simple as moving a few files around. Records, reporting, operating infrastructure and more need to be carefully reviewed and transferred to make sure all of the data is going where it belongs.
While a top-notch SIS firm can transition a school within a week or so, Campus Technology notes that changing SIS platforms can take weeks or even months depending on the service you choose. Starting the effort late in the school year might be difficult if your full staff isn’t available during the summer. If your school is seeking proposals for a new SIS, be sure to discuss the timeline necessary to ensure a successful transition with your vendors.
2) Clarify Your Chain of Command
Your school’s SIS impacts a wide range of school operations, which makes it extremely important to have the right people overseeing the transition from start to finish. In most cases, schools will establish a committee for tasks like communication with the old and new SIS vendors, reporting on the progress of the transition, and monitoring the transfer of data. Without proper oversight, switching your SIS platform can create problems that you’ll be unprepared to solve.
In these situations, it’s important to remember that your “transition committee” is adding these tasks to their already full slate of everyday tasks. Be sure to establish expectations early for the amount of time and effort this project will take.
3) Set Standards for Quality
As we mentioned in #1, transitioning to a new SIS platform requires more than a simple file transfer. A good SIS provider will keep a close eye on your incoming data to ensure consistency, but there is a lot of information to keep track of. Transition leaders should double check the information during the process, since your team knows your school’s data best. After all, your new system will only work as well as the structures and data that it is built on.
4) Backup Your Data (and Your Staff)
It’s always important to have data backups in place for your school’s information, but changing SIS platforms makes these redundancies particularly important. Some IT specialists recommend negotiating a three- to six-month “data freeze” with your old SIS provider to keep your information available in case the new system crashes. Hopefully this type of problem won’t occur, but adding this safeguard during the changeover will take the pressure off of your transition team and IT department in case the new system doesn’t start flawlessly.
In addition to backing up your data, it’s important to backup your staff by keeping all of the relevant stakeholders in the loop during the switch. Your transition team might be heavily involved in the granular details of the changeover, but oftentimes a different group will be overseeing and maintaining the system once it’s established. These two parties should be in regular communication so that the “maintainers” know about any potential issues when that handoff occurs.
5) Invest in Training
Your new SIS might solve issues with efficiency and reporting, but if your staff doesn’t know how to use it, your school might end up facing the same set of problems – or worse, new and unanticipated ones. An immersive training for your IT department and a strategy to bring teachers and staff on board efficiently will be a crucial component to a successful changeover.
Your school will always need an SIS that properly serves the needs of your school. Changing platforms might be a difficult choice, but it’s not impossible. And if you stick to these guidelines, the process will become much easier.
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