Four Things To Consider When Implementing New Technology
A report by McKinsey & Company found that 47% of American jobs are “highly automatable.” This does not mean, however, that 47% of jobs will disappear. What it does mean is that the manual work associated with roles will be automated, transforming the responsibilities of staff to focus on more high level tasks. The report also stated that job automation will reduce errors and increase productivity tremendously, making automation an important competitive differentiator in many industries.
In the education sector, implementing technology to automate manual processes is the step many schools are taking (or considering taking) to facilitate organizational growth. By putting modernized, standard processes in place, schools can achieve their growth goals, whether they’re looking to increase their student population, add new cohorts and programs, or open more locations.
No matter what your school’s growth objectives are, here are four things to consider to help you prepare for the implementation of new technology.
1. There’s Never A Perfect Time
Schools considering implementing new technology often feel compelled to wait for the “right time” to shake things up. They want to wait for operations to slow down, for certain projects to be completed, or for when there’s more money in the budget. But the reality is that there is never going to be a perfect time to implement change. Operations don’t slow down, the budget isn’t always there, management is always dealing with something, etc. When schools wait for the “right time” to implement technology, they’re postponing addressing the issues they’re facing. Those issues won’t go away by themselves and the only way to solve them is by taking action. There’s a saying that goes, “if you wait for perfect, you’ll never get anything done.”
Technology is emerging as a vital component of school operations, and soon, every school will have the technology in place to replace manual data collection, entry, and analysis. Because this technology is still new, right now is a great time for schools to get ahead of the competition and implement the technology that will allow them to scale faster and more efficiently.
2. The Internal Audit
The first and arguably the most important step to beginning a new technology implementation is auditing your internal processes. School leaders need to take a deep dive into the daily tasks of faculty at every level to properly reflect on their organization and identify bottlenecks causing processes to take longer than necessary.
Let’s look at a 2012 case study in the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Oklahoma. The school was facing a growing student population and wanted to upgrade their operations to accommodate more students without hiring and onboarding more staff members. To find out if there were any bottlenecks they could remove, they took a closer look at their existing processes. The school identified that a typical employee spends 30 – 40% of their time looking for information stored in emails and filing cabinets. By sitting down with faculty and going through their tasks with them, leaders were able to identify a huge opportunity for improvement. Equipped with the knowledge of where improvement was needed, the school chose to invest in and implement a digital record system that reduced the amount of time spent tracking down records, cut administrative costs, and improved faculty & student communication.
Identifying bottlenecks can seem like a daunting task. It’s not always easy to choose which areas to prioritize or know how to find the roots of an issue, which is why it’s important to use data to examine the output of processes. Data gives organizations a way to take a quantitative approach, making it much easier to calculate the time and money used in existing processes. Having a cost associated with each task allows schools to set a benchmark against the change that the tech brings to the schools. Most leadership teams aren’t aware of the problems that exist or the bottlenecks that are weighing down their schools at the ground level, which is why the internal audit is essential for understanding existing workflows and uncovering areas for improvement.
3. Does Your Vendor’s Vision Align With Yours?
Schools considering implementing new technology need to to make sure of two things: that the technology can integrate with their existing stack and that the technology is scalable and capable of growing alongside your school. Will the technology you’re considering adding be in place in ten years? Make sure the answer is yes when choosing a vendor. If your goal is to open more locations or take on a larger student population, look for a vendor that will help you achieve your goals and be able to continue providing value after scaling up.
4. Have A Strong Implementation Plan
A huge component of successful implementation is strong executive support. It’s important for executive leaders to stay engaged throughout the whole implementation. The more involved in the process your team feels that you are, the more attention they will pay to deliverables. If deliverables get missed, it prolongs the implementation period, causing your school to maintain two separate systems, which can quickly become a headache. Fast, efficient implementations are most likely to happen when the leaders maintain a sense of urgency in the institution from the top down. Make it clear how this implementation will support faculty and staff and make their jobs easier. When there is internal buy-in from all levels of the institution, faculty and staff are more likely to persevere through growing pains, assist each other through the process, and maintain optimism throughout the transition.
Identifying champions of the technology, or an individual or group most involved in implementation, is a helpful way to keep a pulse on the project’s development. To do so, choose a group or department where the solution will have the most impact. Having one or two individuals as the liaisons between executive leaders and faculty will help facilitate a smooth transition. Champions get excited to have a heightened level of responsibility and to be working with a tech solution that helps them improve their own processes as well as the processes of their colleagues. And as the organization continues to explore other technology, the champions will likely be involved with transforming the school in the future.
Leveraging Technology To Achieve Your Goals
Implementing new technology to help standardize and streamline processes is essential for schools looking to take on larger student populations, add more cohorts or programs, or open new campus locations. Faster and more efficient scaling is only possible through having an integrated technology stack that is able to automate manual tasks and share information across platforms. As automation becomes the standard in education, the schools that adopt automation technology early will be able to start scaling up sooner, giving them a competitive advantage in their markets.
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