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Leading Change: No More Paper, But is it that Easy?

What kinds of change do we see currently happening in the K-12 education space? At the moment, perhaps one of the biggest is the automation of many paper-based processes while using Cloud platforms to automate these processes. This includes student facing- applications, as well as back office programs including procurement and payroll.

So, how’s it going?

The Districts that experience this change in a positive manner, tend to reach out early to their stakeholders to garner support for the transformation. Some are concerned about saying too much too quickly, however, we see the most successful Districts opting for transparency - early and often. Reaching out early requires planning by the District’s leadership in order to “think through” the messaging to stakeholders before distributing an email blast or holding a meeting in an open forum. Leaders who tend to earn trust and credibility with stakeholders quickly, are honest about their vision of the project, as well as what they do and don’t know.

What does message planning look like?

Effective message planning requires defining audiences and how best to communicate with them. For example, one audience group may include office admins in the schools who run daily building operations. They may prefer to hear from a union rep or a chief of operations rather than the District superintendent. This same audience group may also prefer receiving messages in an open forum as opposed to emails. Regardless, it is important to define audiences’ preferences, upfront, so leaders can plan on how best to deliver upcoming messages to each, unique audience.

Another important characteristic of sound change communications is to be consistently recurrent. Too often, we see senior leaders who “launch and leave” a project, never to be seen or heard from, again. We find, the most effective change leaders are those who are frequently visible online and, in person. They reiterate the key message points - again and again - to reaffirm the intent of the transformation.

Who are these messengers in your District?

That’s your call, but based upon what we see at CherryRoad, we recommend it’s the most credible messenger for a given audience and they should be authentic, meaning “natural”. Change leaders don’t need to be overly charismatic, just transparent about the intent and status of the project, open to listening to feedback from stakeholders, and comfortable with not having all the answers.

The best change leaders we work with seem to be always positive and persistent. They expect some bumps in the road and are honest about it with their stakeholders. One change leader said she feels she “needs to communicate more when those bumps are the hardest”, as she fears creating confusion and chaos during challenging times, if she stays silent.

So, stay positive and commit to constantly communicating with all your stakeholder audiences. Let us know how we can help you plan your messaging and stakeholder engagement activities.

About the author:

Dr. Jeff Bailey has 30 years of consulting experience focused on helping organizations improve people, processes, and productivity. He has gained this experience as a military leader, a project manager, a professor, and mostly as an organizational change advisor. He worked with senior military leaders as a communications officer with the 1st Infantry Division planning and coordinating the use communications assets in fluid battlefield scenarios. Since the early 1990s he has worked with dozens of public and private organizations helping them develop managers into leaders and to adjust business processes to enhance operations and overall productivity. Dr. Bailey has been with CherryRoad for more than a decade working on the largest systems implementation projects as a project manager and as a change management advisor. He works with client leaders in helping them be the voice and face of change. Dr. Bailey also helps leaders communicate and engage with large groups of stakeholders and future system users early and often. As a professor, Dr. Bailey teaches a variety of topics related to organizational behavior and change.

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Utilizing Business Intelligence to Monitor Key Performance Indicators

School districts, with all their stakeholders and competing priorities, develop comprehensive strategic plans to help drive the organization forward in a unified way. A school district will gather all pertinent information, develop, and clearly state its strategic plan. Once the mission is analyzed, and goals are defined, Key Performance Indicators (KPI) can be identified to aid the district in measuring their activities against the stated goals.

Key Performance Indicators are critical success factors identified by a school district for measuring various data points with the intent of accomplishing progress towards set goals. KPIs help to analyze success factors in order to prepare a proper course of action. KPIs should give districts the necessary information presented in a clear, workable, and simple way. Gaining consensus from stakeholders on the appropriate indicators to meet goals is often the greatest challenge. Although this step may be difficult, it is necessary so that datapoints can be decided upon for measurement and analysis.

The district may determine to identify datapoints to reduce the achievement gap. Examples of datapoints might include information gathered from a student information system such as gender, race/ethnicity, and student attendance rates. Additional information to gather as data from the district’s ERP system could include teachers’ salaries, years’ of experience, and leave of absence records, as well as budgetary information. Test scores are likely to be gathered by a third-party system. Gathering all this information from such diverse applications, into a format that is concise and easy-to-understand can be a daunting task. That’s where the value of a Business Intelligence system can bring it all together.

The Value of Business Intelligence

Business Intelligence (BI) enables instant visibility into volumes of data from a multitude of systems. Even if data lies within a single system, it may be held in various departments of the school district. In a BI environment, all disparate data can be brought together and presented in a clear and concise way, thereby developing it in a way to help the organization align towards its key objectives. It is a tool that can help monitor and assess the level of KPIs and evaluate if they are being met. What is just as important to aligning data towards key objectives is the need to present information in way that is understandable, relevant, and consistent. An effective BI solution allows efficient collection and distribution of data that crosses departmental/school lines and is consistent for unified decision making. It is accurate and real-time, ensuring all decisions can be made both quickly and based on factual data. In order to present KPIs in a meaningful way, should be done so in both a quantitative and qualitative form. Having information that is fast, relevant, fact-based, and understandable enables the key decision makers to move the school district towards meeting the goals of the organization.

About the author:

Linda Visnick has 30 years’ experience in the business of education. She has led school districts at the executive level working in various positions including Assistant Superintendent, Business Services and Executive Director at the county office of education level. She has been responsible for all aspects of business during her tenure as well as fiscal oversight and the implementation of a new business administrative system touching 55 local educational agencies, 350,000 students, and 72,000 employees. She brings experience working with school boards, superintendents, community groups, unions, and city councils. In her role as Director, Education Sector she is responsible for providing support to current and future educational clients; build partnerships with educational organizations; and work with executive leadership to review specific areas of need.

To learn more about ERP in K-12 and to speak with Linda Visnick, CherryRoad Education Director, and author of this blog, please contact her at: lvisnick@cherryroad.com

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Moving Your District to an ERP: Enterprise Resource Planning in a K-12 setting

Organizations across the world have benefitted from the use of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions for more than 50 years. They have taken advantage of business practice standardization, system integration, and efficient reporting capabilities. For many reasons including competing priorities, limited resources, and increased accountability, more and more school districts are also moving in that same direction and implementing ERP systems in their organizations.

Understanding the Benefits of an ERP in School Districts

Enterprise Resource Planning supports best practices for most major business processes uniting information across the enterprise including areas such as finance, budgeting, payroll, human resources, and procurement. The use of business intelligence tools brings data together to provide information for good decision making and reporting to the many stakeholders to which the school districts respond.

In order to provide the necessary resources to a K-12 education system, an ERP system combines the above requirements in an integrated software program so that the sharing of information across the organization is made possible. The use of business intelligence tools enables the integration of other systems, such as a student information system, to be incorporated in the information for sound decision making and reporting.

Due to the complexity of running an ERP system and the challenge that the education community faces in paying for experienced ERP technical staff, making a move to the Cloud or a hosted solution becomes highly desirable. Utilizing a service to manage their system allows school districts to utilize their technology staff towards educational needs rather than address the daily non-student facing business processes.

Preparing for the ERP implementation

Since K-12 education has heavy governmental oversight, complex reporting requirements, and heavy stakeholder involvement, engaging with a vendor who has a proven history of successful ERP implementations in a K-12 setting is highly beneficial. Contracting with a vendor that has the knowledge and experience of these unique requirements will bring the support for good decision making to the school district staff that will be instrumental in implementing the ERP.

The timeline for an ERP implementation will vary depending on size and scope. However, preparing for an implementation does not vary, greatly. It requires the understanding that there is business process change and therefore, the support of the Superintendent and Cabinet level leadership is imperative. The clear support of the Superintendent and Cabinet will set the tone for the district staff to take ownership of the project to support the success of the effort. Challenge your organization and consider how you can leverage modern business applications and specialized solution providers to better support your resources.

About the author:

Linda Visnick has 30 years’ experience in the business of education. She has led school districts at the executive level working in various positions including Assistant Superintendent, Business Services and Executive Director at the county office of education level. She has been responsible for all aspects of business during her tenure as well as fiscal oversight and the implementation of a new business administrative system touching 55 local educational agencies, 350,000 students, and 72,000 employees. She brings experience working with school boards, superintendents, community groups, unions, and city councils. In her role as Director, Education Sector she is responsible for providing support to current and future educational clients; build partnerships with educational organizations; and work with executive leadership to review specific areas of need.

To learn more about ERP in K-12 and to speak with Linda Visnick, CherryRoad Education Director, and author of this blog, please contact her at: lvisnick@cherryroad.com

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5 Reasons Your Company Should Use Private Cloud Computing

“Cloud computing” has become one of the hottest buzzwords in IT. Find out why.

In the world of information technology (IT), the newest and hottest buzzword has become ‘cloud computing.’ This technology has created widespread interest and awareness regarding public cloud services.

There are numerous benefits to centralizing computing resources into the cloud. One of these benefits is the ability to allocate these resources to multiple user groups regardless of physical location. The private cloud in particular does mitigate and often eliminates breach of security concerns. To do so, private cloud users each have their own separate virtual environments assigned to them. Instead of data being accessible to everyone in a public cloud, the private cloud enables users to control who is viewing their information. This solution can provide desired outcomes such as improved uptime and reliability while costing less than most traditional IT solutions.

It is no surprise that Yankee Group’s recent survey on Cloud Computing revealed that private cloud computing is preferred 2:1 over fully managed public cloud solutions. Here are the top 5 reasons why you should rethink your IT infrastructure and look at CherryRoad to provide your company with private cloud solutions.

1. Increased Security from Dedicated Hardware

If you have the correct firewalls in place combined with physical security and up to date anti-virus software, you can be assured that your data is as safe in a private cloud as it would be on your personal desktop. The user interface of the private cloud allows you to remotely manage and protect your servers at all times. You have the capability to call your vendor up and go to their data center, thus giving private cloud computing a more personal interaction then public cloud solutions.

2. Better Flexibility

The idea that you can virtually set up or take down a server in a matter of minutes is probably the most beneficial reason to switch to the cloud. When your company makes the switch to the private cloud, you are able to increase disk space, RAM or any other need on demand. You can also dynamically reallocate resources in minutes without worrying about physical requirements of a new server. In addition, you get far more personal interaction. For example, you can simply call your vendor up and go to their data center.

3. The Ability To Fully Utilize Your Hardware

By enabling virtualization, your company can increase the value of your physical server significantly. Instead of having many servers with lower utilization, your company can virtualize all the servers and then share the resources. In turn, this decreases rack space, overall power usage, and makes your servers more easily manageable. You can also create copies of your server and have them up and running more quickly than physical servers. Additionally, your company can allocate resources so when servers aren’t needed, they can be turned off or scaled down to make them more cost effective.

4. Virtual Servers and SAN Protect Against Disasters Better

When you connect your private cloud to a storage area network (SAN), redundancy can be easily achieved. This means that you can shift server resources when needed but you can also shut down a server for a period of time without causing any downtime. You are also able to utilize vendors with multiple data centers to allow for geographically dispersed hot backups. This helps take your disaster recovery to the next level because of the ability to transfer resources between servers and SAN.

5. Save Time & Money

When you switch to the private cloud, not only will you benefit from all the great security and virtualization, you will also be able to save money and the headache of accounting for equipment deprecation in on-premise data centers. Any company that has more than two servers can benefit from the freedom provided by virtualization. If your organization has more than 10 servers, private cloud along with a dedicated SAN & multiple physical host servers would be a huge benefit. In addition, you can utilize vendors with multiple data centers to allow for geographically dispersed hot backups.

CherryRoad has a dedicated team of experts who will be able to assist you with all of your private cloud needs. The benefits of private cloud go far beyond just storing data. Contact us today at 877-402-7804 to learn more about how CherryRoad can help your company implement private cloud services and not only save you time but also money.

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