Implementing and using the right software systems has the potential to improve many aspects of school administration. Imagine efficient processes and coordinated communications, automated administrative tasks and scheduled compliance checks. The key is finding the right system for your school’s needs. Follow the guidance below for help in figuring out how to choose school administration software that will work for you.
Review Your Current School Administration Processes
The first step in your school administration software search should be a self-assessment of current practices. Ask yourself and staff questions such as:
- How do you accomplish administrative tasks currently?
- What are your pain points?
- Are duplicate efforts happening?
- How can processes be streamlined?
Also identify the software and platforms currently used to accomplish those tasks.
Identify and Prioritize Features for School Administration Software
Take the time to fully assess your school’s administrative needs and decide what elements are most important to you and to your program. Once you have a better picture of your existing administrative pain points, you can begin to identify the features that would help streamline your business practices. Perhaps you need to address attendance tracking? Or maybe billing capabilities should be enhanced? Is parent communication an area needing improvement?
Here are some questions to ask (and answer) when identifying the features you need and want in your school administration software:
- What are critical features?
- What features would be nice to have but not necessary?
- What will replace existing tools we’re using?
- What must be compatible with existing tools?
- Does it meet any licensing requirements?
Evaluate School Administration Software Options
When you begin to evaluate the different school administration software packages available, it will be helpful to create a scorecard that compares each company side-by-side according to the following areas.
Check whether all your mission-critical features that you identified are included. Note other significant features of each software.
You will need to have at least a basic understanding of the underlying technology of the school administration software. For each software you evaluate, learn the answers to the following questions:
- Is this cloud-based?
- What are the hardware requirements?
- Will this work with our existing devices and systems?
- How frequently is the software updated?
- Is the platform reliable?
- What is the downtime percentage?
- Is there a web-based interface?
The availability of knowledgeable support is critical. If you encounter issues with the software, you will want them to be quickly resolved. When choosing school administration software, then, also consider the quality and accessibility of customer support and technical support.
- How is customer support available? By phone, email, or chat?
- What training and support materials are available?
- Is customer support in-house or outsourced?
- What are the customer support hours?
- What?s the average wait time for reaching customer support?
- What is their rate of successful resolution?
School administration handles a great deal of confidential information. You are obligated to secure the private details of your students, their families, and staff. Therefore, the security of any school administration software must be a primary consideration. Find out:
- Where is the data stored, locally or on cloud-based servers?
- How and how frequently is data backed up?
- What encryption protocols are in place?
- Who has access to the data?
- What security features are present to prevent unauthorized access?
Obviously pricing must be a factor in your choice. Keep within your budget but do not necessarily opt for the cheapest option. To be sure you have a complete estimate of the anticipated short-term and future program costs, answer the following questions:
- What are the contract terms?
- How is the software priced or licensed? Per user? Per student? Flat fee?
- Will the software be billed as a one-time payment or on a monthly or annual subscription?
- Are there setup fees?
- What are the one-time or annual costs, if any?
- Are there support costs?
- Do future upgrades have a fee?
- What is the cancellation policy?
Ease of Use
You want to choose a software that is user-friendly and can be quickly implemented. You should test the software yourself before committing to purchase. You should find out whether there is a trial period. If possible, assess how much time the typical user takes to learn how to use.
Be sure to research the reputation of the company and its software by reading reviews available online. Ask other school administrators for their experiences. Ask the company if there are others in your region that you might talk to about their implementation.
When choosing school administration software, you might want to consider the company behind the software. How large is the company, and how long has the company been operating? Where is it located? Is the company well-known, or are its products widely used? Does the company have good relationships with its customers?
Compatibility With Other Software
If you have existing software systems that you will continue to use, then you might need to ensure compatibility. Some software systems integrate natively with each other, while others might require creation of an interface. If you need to transfer information from one system to another, be sure the export formats are compatible or can at least be converted to a useful form.
Implement School Administration Software
Once you choose your school administration software, you then implement it. For a smoother implementation, take the time to plan the process.
- Document the workflows and instructions.
- Create training materials and a training plan.
- Schedule the training of staff.
- Make sure ongoing technical support is available.
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