Selecting a management information system (MIS) that best meets the needs of your school is somewhat of a daunting prospect. Having a centralised, fully integrated database covering the many functions across all departments is often the highest priority for schools, but can be constrained by budgets, understanding requirements and expertise.
There are some key questions decision makers within a school should ask to determine what the school ultimately needs, below are some of the key areas for consideration.
1. Assemble a wide enough team to represent all departments
Schools have such diverse environments with a wide range of people and needs, so when preparing for a major IT change, it is worth considering setting up a diverse team to lead the project of researching and choosing and a new MIS.
2. Discuss what you want to achieve, previous experiences, and set realistic goals
Look for a management information system that is powerful, reliable, designed specifically for schools, and not overly complex to use.
Staff are usually very clear about what they need, based on previous experience, so ask these questions:
What data do we need to capture to help us respond to the needs and learning ethos of the school?
- How do we want to analyse, report and use this data?
- What other software do we want to integrate with the MIS?
- How will we ensure that the whole school community uses the MIS in its most effective way?
Ask your potential MIS providers to give guidelines on timeframes and build this into your overall plan to share with key staff.
3. Produce a statement of requirements
This can be presented to the potential MIS providers for clarity of your school’s needs. They can then respond with a proposal and price enabling your selection team to evaluate on a like-for-like basis.
Consider the following – data security, design flexibility, ability to integrate with other systems, ease of use, functionality, references from other schools, customer support, as well as price.
4. Consider integration
No one MIS provider can give you everything you need and do it all well. When selecting products and apps, consider integration with your management information system, ease of use by staff, the blending of functionality, and data security.
5. Work with your supplier to prepare an effective planning and implementation process
Work closely with your chosen supplier to thoroughly plan the entire implementation process. Ensure you allocate enough time for meetings and working groups at the beginning of the project to help identify exactly what you need and how you are going to use the data.
You should expect the provider to allocate a project manager to work closely with your school’s coordinator and implementation team. They should spend time getting to know the needs of your school to help you formulate a realistic and effective implementation plan.
6. Invite potential MIS providers to spend a day at your school
Time spent with the MIS providers’ representatives can give a real sense of a company’s ethos and standards. You may wish to consider inviting a shortlist to your school for a day. They could be assigned time with each department to discuss specific needs and challenges. This also helps to involve your staff in the selection process, with many of their needs considered and their voices heard.
It is important to remember that staff will all have different IT abilities, and varying mindsets about new systems, so plan to identify those within each department who are enthusiastically embracing the new implementation, and those who are struggling. Look for different levels and types of training from the potential MIS providers; they should give you a training schedule so that you can budget for the recommended amount of training and ongoing support.
8. Ensure policies for using the MIS are agreed
It is important that policies and procedures for your MIS are in place before staff begin using it. This will enable heads of department to ensure that staff enter data correctly from the outset and making for a much smoother implementation.
Choosing a new information management system needs careful thought about how it will work across the entire school. We hope that these top tips prove to be useful and assist you in making your decision.
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