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Preparing for digital transformation at your school

In this series of articles, we explore adopting new technology and automating processes in schools by digital transformation. Digital Transformation is the key to success and ensures sustainable systems, avoiding project failure.

If you’re employed in professional services at a school, you might have noticed a shakeup in the adoption of technology and automation over the past three years. While many schools had dabbled in trialling new technology, the realities of COVID, including remote and hybrid working environments and unprecedented staff turnover, have accelerated the need for schools to embrace digital transformation across every facet of their organisation.

Digital transformation is a broad term that encompasses the entire process of creating automated systems and workflows that will function as the backbone of your school (rather than relying on key staff members). Most schools around Australia and New Zealand are prioritising digital transformation to combat struggles such as:

• Outgrown or inefficient manual processes

• A remote or hybrid workforce

• Staff with years of knowledge and experience moving on or retiring

• A lack of documentation for key business processes.

By embracing digital transformation, schools are able to build their workflows around clearly documented and easy-to-follow processes, rather than building their workflows around people. These systems are strategically designed to function the exact same way every time — no matter who is operating them. 

If your school has been on the fence about starting your journey to digital transformation, here are some factors to consider before you take the plunge.

Getting ready to implement digital transformation processes at your school

Every school has a different starting point and a different journey to digital transformation. However, overall, the end result should be the same: a healthy, efficient digital ecosystem that makes use of:

• As few systems as possible

• One platform that consolidates all functions

• One central database or ‘source of truth’

• External apps that push and pull information from this central database.

 

Program management diagram Cole School Experts

At Cole School Experts, we’ve worked with many schools from all over Australia and New Zealand to get started on their digital transformation journey. We always recommend that staff take the time to completely map out their current software ecosystem — including how their existing systems connect and interact.

You likely have a number of areas using digital systems to perform tasks or manage data, including:

• Enrolments

• Student files

• Permission forms

• Curriculum management

• File and document recovery

• Volunteer approvals

• Disaster recovery

• Examination papers

• Compliance documents

• Employee onboarding

• Internal procurement requests

• Board reporting

• Timesheets.

Setting goals for your digital transformation journey

Once you’re confident that you understand your current digital ecosystem, it’s important to set measurable goals that you’ll work towards as you progress through your digital transformation journey. These goals will help keep you on track, and ensure that you’re actually improving things at your school, rather than simply adding systems to plug operational holes and overburdening your IT department.

Common School digital transformation goals

At Cole School Experts, we’ve noticed some common goals for schools who are leveraging technology to improve processes at their school. These goals include:

• Freeing up staff to spend time on high-value tasks

• Meeting compliance targets

• Improving the stakeholder (parent) experience

• Providing easy access to timely and reliable data

• Creating seamless integrations between multiple applications

• Allowing for inter-departmental visibility

• Creating and maintaining a single source of truth for shared data

• Increasing data collection

• Cost saving

• Improving security.

Avoiding roadblocks on your digital transformation journey

Unfortunately, there are a number of factors that can block or railroad your digital transformation journey. One of the best ways to avoid them is to note them early and ensure you have contingency plans in place so that you can continue moving forward if and when one pops up. 

Some of the more common roadblocks we’ve witnessed include key staff becoming unavailable during the project, along with digital transformation falling down the priority list as other projects take precedence. We have also experienced boards and leadership teams holding up projects or withdrawing budget acceptance during crucial milestones. 

Questions to ask as you prepare for digital transformation

If you’re unsure about whether your school is ready for digital transformation, here are some questions to ask yourself (and your team):

1. Are we outgrowing our existing software?

Often we see schools continue to use a system that isn’t working for them, purely because they’ve already invested time and money into implementing the system and training staff. If you feel that your system is no longer working, it’s essential that you consider other alternatives — after all, the time and effort poured into the wrong system can’t be recovered.

2. Are we receiving value from our existing systems?

Even if your school is familiar with a certain way of doing things, it’s always important to regularly assess whether you’re receiving the best possible outcomes from these processes, or whether a change is in order. Looking critically at your systems is essential and will help guide your path forward in your digital transformation journey.

3. Are our existing systems integrated?

Not only will integration (the process of linking up software and technologies so they ‘speak’ to each other) save you stacks of time, but it’s also crucial to ensuring your school maintains data integrity. After all, if one system is being maintained and another system isn’t, you’ll have duplicate records with incomplete data. 

If you’re unsure how to answer these questions, or need guidance on how to critically assess your current situation, we’d love to help. Cole School Experts has a team of professional consultants who can help your school to thoroughly prepare for your digital transformation journey. 

Interested in learning more? Talk to a friendly member of our team today!