No school is equal… Every Transformation is different
In all our time in working with schools it has become increasingly clear that no school is the same. Every school has different goals, different challenges and different priorities. That being said, all go through a remarkably similar process to tackle digital transformation, albeit with different processes and outcomes in mind.
Last week at Edutech 2016 we presented the four, “not too simple” steps toward digital transformation to which just about any school can relate. The reason I say they are “not so simple” is that at first glance it looks like a sensible linear approach to start digitising data and automating processes, but the devil, as they say, is in the detail. We have distilled the steps into four stages as most of the projects we have reviewed in the corporate world have followed these steps. Within each step are many different decision, sub projects and mini change management phases that have to be planned, resourced and implemented. However, the key to successful digital transformations is to take it one step at a time so as not to be overwhelmed, so here goes…
The first step before you even think about the transformation is to have a clear business strategy and understand what you hope to achieve for this business strategy by digitising your data. For example, you may wish to attract more students to your school, or improve your cash flow or even experiment with different, more personalised classroom experiences. Either way, in order to achieve your goal you need data … data on what type of students you want and who you can target, data on your cash flow and the processes you currently use in accounts, or data on the students you have and what their special needs and interests may be. Essentially you need an information or data management framework … who needs what kind of data, how can they access it, how can you manage it and how can you secure it. By posing these questions you can start prioritising the digitisation of processes that will clean up and save this data in a way that you can use it.
Step 1 – Stability and Cost Management
In addition to revisiting the business strategy you will also start with one of the more straightforward parts of transformation, optimising and simplifying the IT environment. IT may not lead transformation in the administration of schools (often it is the Bursar or Finance Manager), but they have a huge role to play. If your IT team is spending 90% of their time keeping the lights on then they have very little time to help actually transform the business. In this first phase of transformation you should be spending very little money as you already have investments in infrastructure and software. In fact many school stake this opportunity to identify and trim costs by investing in “as a service” programs and infrastructure. A simple and easy to manage IT environment is a critical first step.
Step 2 – Digital Competence (process automation)
Either during this “optimisation” phase or soon after you can start identifying the easier business processes that, once automated, will provide the data you need to run your school. Many transformation projects start with student registration as this can easily be automated for parents to apply to the school via simple digital forms. The experience is easy for parents (and hopefully reflected a great education experience for their children) but also provides critical data to the administration office and teachers – data on strengths on which to build, past results, extracurricular activities or medical history. An automated workflow trims down the manual processing of such data and makes it available to the right people real time. Another commonly automated process is the accounts process to better manage cash flow in order to run a viable school. Many Bursars have cautioned us about the need for executive sponsorship from school management and careful engagement of the users of the process as often, poor change management results in failed projects. Culture eats strategy for lunch.
Step 3 – Digital Transformation Strategy (and analytics)
As your confidence grows and you grow out to other processes around student records management and so on you will find increasing demand for data from other parts of the school system. Marketing will use data to create engagement programs for the community and teachers will be using the data to improve student classroom experience. At this time you may consider investments into analytics tools. These have the advantage of being able to sit across most disparate systems, breaking down the silos of technology we often see in schools. A good analytics system can integrate with learning management platforms, document management systems and other essential technologies to help build a rich profile of data. We see some schools experimenting with this for staff training and development or student mentoring programs in order to create even better learning outcomes.
Step 4 – Digital Organisation
And as your confidence grows you will find that integrating additional processes becomes easier and faster. Your technology environment becomes for agile and you can adapt to new trends with ease. This is when you have become a truly digital organisation. I wish I could say it could happen this week or even this year but it is a long journey and one that every school we have seen is still going through.
However, as with all journeys it starts with taking the first step and proceeds from there. Rest assured, each step will bring incremental benefits and prepare you for future thinking.
For a copy of the presentation video please visit www.ed-tv.com.au
Or contact Pam Fleming on firstname.lastname@example.org