Embarking on a new student information system (SIS) implementation is a significant endeavor for any educational institution, and careful planning is crucial for its success. One approach gaining popularity is the phased implementation method. In this blog post, we’ll take you through the steps of how a phased SIS implementation works, offering insights and practical tips to guide schools considering starting their SIS implementation in the fall.
Step 1: Needs Assessment and Goal Setting
Before diving into the technical aspects, it’s essential to conduct a thorough needs assessment. Identify your school’s unique requirements, pain points in your current processes, and the goals you aim to achieve with a new SIS. For example, your goals might include improving admission efficiency, streamlining enrollment, and enhancing communication with parents.
Track your supporting reasons in an organized fashion so you can come back to them later on. This information will be essential as you evaluate potential vendors and search for a solution to your paint points. It will also help you craft and present a strong business case to your school board to hopefully get their approval and buy-in for a new SIS.
Step 2: Select the Right SIS Solution
After assessing your school’s needs, you can start shopping around. Word-of-mouth recommendations from peer schools are incredibly powerful during this step. Ask your connections what they like or dislike about their SIS provider, how their implementation went, what support looks like, and any surprise benefits they’ve experienced. This will give you a firsthand look into what it would be like to implement the SIS at your school.
Ultimately, choose a solution that aligns with your school’s goals, requirements, and budget. Ensure it offers flexibility and scalability to accommodate your phased implementation approach. Veracross, for example, has partnered with many schools on a phased implementation and has seen success with this model.
Collaborate with the SIS provider to create a tailored plan for your school’s specific needs. It’s not required, but many schools ask potential vendors for a request for proposal (RFP). This document outlines your feature requests and pain points, allowing the vendor to show how their solution can speak to each problem area.
Step 3: Define Implementation Phases
Work with the SIS provider to break down the implementation into manageable phases. Start with the most critical functions, such as admission, and gradually introduce additional features and departments over time. Consider the order in which various departments will benefit most from the new system. The right SIS provider will guide you on the best process and timeline.
For example, Veracross has led many phased implementations that prioritize admission. This approach focuses on getting the SIS up and running for enrollment season to ensure a positive experience for new and returning families. Once admission has launched, implementation can continue with supporting departments in priority order.
Step 4: Project Kickoff
Once your implementation plan is in place, kick off the project with a dedicated team that includes representatives from different departments. Define roles and responsibilities, establish a communication plan, and set clear timelines and milestones.
It’s important to approach an SIS implementation as a collective team, not a department of one. Work with your SIS provider and colleagues to make sure everyone is sharing the load. A RACI or DACI chart can be helpful to keep everyone accountable and organize roles and responsibilities.
Step 5: Data Migration and Configuration
Then you can begin migrating essential data from your old system into the new SIS. Work closely with your SIS provider to ensure a seamless transition. Together, you can configure the system to align with your school’s specific processes and workflows. With admission in mind, this might look like configuring applications, inquiry, and event RSVP forms for the upcoming season.
Step 6: Training and Adoption
Now you need to make sure your staff knows how to use your fancy new SIS! Your SIS vendor should provide training and help your team members get comfortable with the new system. Veracross offers personalized training for each school based on their unique workflows and setup. This ensures your school can navigate the SIS effectively and also allows for feedback about any concerns or challenges that may arise.
Some vendors also provide ongoing support and training resources like Veracross University. This helps your team continue to improve their knowledge of the platform and make sure you’re making the most of your SIS!
Step 7: Testing and Refinement
You can’t launch anything new without testing it first. Before unveiling your new SIS, thoroughly test the system to identify and rectify any issues or discrepancies. Fine-tune configurations and workflows based on user feedback and real-world testing scenarios. For an admission-led implementation, you’d work with your admission team to test inquiry forms and gain confidence in the prospect experience.
Step 8: Go Live
Once you’re confident in the system’s functionality and your staff’s readiness, it’s time to drop the confetti and go live with the first phase of your new solution. Be sure to monitor the process closely during the initial days to address any unexpected challenges swiftly.
Step 9: Continuous Improvement
Post-implementation, continue to gather feedback from users and assess the system’s performance. Make necessary refinements and work with your internal team and SIS vendor to prepare for the next phase of implementation.
The Benefits of a Phased SIS Implementation
A phased SIS implementation offers a structured and strategic approach to adopting a new system for your school. By following these steps, your school can ensure a smooth transition to a more efficient and integrated SIS, ultimately enhancing the overall educational experience for students, parents, and staff. Remember that every school’s journey is unique, so customize your approach to align with your specific needs and goals.