WCBS Consultancy Manager, Cerith Needs provides insight into how to prepare staff for new software, with the benefits of training.
Schools come to us with varying reasons for needing new software. Once the decision to invest is made, then regardless of whether they are replacing existing systems, it’s sure to be more bespoke with more functionality, and even have a better user interface that will need some explanation. This, in turn, will require dedicated training so that the whole school community gets the most from their new system.
As most schools are efficient organisations working at or near full capacity, the introduction of a new system with the training and skill development required can place day-to-day responsibilities under strain. Naturally, you’ll need a training plan devised to take into consideration regular school business and office duties. This can be of particular concern for schools wanting to update software in the Bursary, so this is why modular systems such as passFINANCE, built specifically for independent schools, tend to be favoured.
Next, training should be how you’ll empower staff to gain as much knowledge as possible, yet from a financial perspective remain within the bounds of their job descriptions. At WCBS, we will identify with you the training plans for the specific roles and development requirements with a training schedule, so you can budget for the recommended amount of training and ongoing support.
Alongside this, it is important to remember that staff will all have different IT user abilities, and varying mindsets about new systems. Providing information beforehand can help us to identify who is enthusiastically embracing the new implementation, and others who may be struggling. We then tailor the training plan to meet the needs of your staff members, ensuring that all attendees are comfortable with using the new system and empowered by the functionality it offers.
Understand the audience
Moving on to the phases of training, by targeting each audience, we ensure only the relevant people are included in each phase.
Staffing structures vary greatly between schools so where possible we simplify into three groups.
Your software should provide a range of tools to customise operations to meet the school’s specific requirements. For example, HUBapply contains multiple customisable forms that the school has full control over, including, for instance, setting up the admissions team to manage event bookings by gathering enquiries and applications from prospective pupils. Members of the SLT must first understand the capabilities of the software, before deciding how it should be configured, then it will be truly bespoke and of the most benefit to the school community.
These are your systems’ experts who will implement the set up defined by the decision makers and continue to manage the system beyond the initial implementation. These staff members will require the most training. If the scope of your software covers a broad range of functionality, consider having specific subject experts (e.g. Exams Officers if you’re installing 3sysACADEMIC, or Admissions Managers for HUBapply) and an overall Systems Admin who has responsibility for system wide settings (e.g. security) and acts as Project Manager. Doing so will create a sense of ownership of the system by Administrators, which in turn will help make the transition to the new system even smoother.
The End-Users should require the least training. If the decision making and administration stages have been completed successfully then the user experience should be completely intuitive. Make sure that you develop your own in-house End-User training procedures (supported by your provider) so that you can replicate for new staff as they join.
Crucial elements to get the best value out of training
Have a realistic environment for End-Users to train in. Allowing users to play with a new system is an effective form of learning. By completing the configuration of your software, and then copying this structure into a sandbox environment, your End-Users can benefit from having a more relevant and realistic training experience.
Ensure training is delivered at the correct point in the implementation process. While some functions in a school’s system will be used daily – for example, Attendance, – other elements will only be used periodically, such as School Reports and Billing. Ensure training is delivered at the correct time so that the risk of knowledge being lost between training and ‘going live’ is minimised.
Include succession management in your training plan. We’ve already highlighted that you will have a small number of Systems Specialists. Ensure their processes are adequately documented so that you can ease the process of succession management with minimal training. Your provider will likely offer regular webinars and top-up training sessions, with adequate Succession Management in place to enable any new Systems Admin staff to pick up their role simply by attending these sessions.
Ongoing training. A good provider will be constantly adding new features and functionality. Factor in time to allow Administrators and End-Users to top up their knowledge when required.
Time spent at the beginning to determine the needs of staff in the different areas of your school will be the key to getting the best value out of training. It will result in a much better understanding of the system, the part that they play, knowing that the new software is there to make the school run better and probably their work experience more pleasant.
And when training is considered well in advance, it will help facilitate a smooth implementation process on the planned go live date!