District leaders: Implementing new software can be a daunting experience, but it shouldn’t be. Here are 5 surefire ways to ensure fast, successful adoption of new software in your schools.

Every change is both exciting and nerve-wracking: Possibilities and potential coupled with uncertainty and awkwardness.

The decision has been made and your school is implementing new software. This is an exciting time as it can enable the school staff to better assist students in making informed decisions during their post high school journey.

However, before you get your students on board with the new software, you need to get buy-in from those who will be advocating for the program: Your educators and staff.  As a district leader, you already know there’s pressure to show value and immediate ROI. If staff aren’t engaged and usage is down, it’s difficult to make a case for ongoing investment.

Consider the tips below to help you overcome those pain points and ease the implementation of the new software to your staff.


Advocate the Need for Change

Communication is key. Start with a high-level conversation: Make it clear that the status quo isn’t working, and that your staff and their students have gaps in performance and unachieved goals. After all, the aim is to get your staff bought into the idea, and they’ll soon appreciate  the need for efficiency and change.

Identifying a problem isn’t the only way to convince people to make a change: A better way must be brought to light. Therefore, highlight the benefits the  change will make—such as better compliance and increased efficiencies. This will help your staff recognize that new software will enable them to do their jobs better.

Lastly, be transparent. Acknowledge that introducing new software (or anything “new” for that matter) will likely include some hiccups. This assures your staff that you’ve considered things from their perspective.

After all, they are on the frontline when it comes to using the new tool, yet they still must get their jobs done, kinks and all. Help them understand that there will be some flexibility and a support system can alleviate remaining fears regarding implementation.

Invite Feedback from Others on the Software

Plenty of conversations end with, “Any questions?” Occasionally, that sparks further discussion and other times, crickets.

When discussing the new software, engage your staff. Ask for feedback, thoughts, concerns and questions in a way that makes it clear that input is appreciated. This may include expressing your own concerns, encouraging group discussions, or even planting a question prior to the discussion. Try to get the discussion rolling and facilitate more input.

In addition to counselors, new software will affect stakeholders like students and the community at large. Giving all affected stakeholders a heads-up and encouraging them to provide feedback invites them into the process. Their buy-in is just as important as it will encourage staff to navigate the new software.

Assemble a Steering Committee

You know those people who always seem to have the newest technology? Well, early adopters exist in the workplace and can be valuable allies when it comes to implementing new software.

To help introduce the program, organize a group of key leaders and stakeholders as a steering committee. These early adopters can gain competence with the new program and serve as champions to help achieve buy-in on a larger scale.

Form cross-functional groups to ensure the greatest influence from the steering committee, so each staff member has a role model who can relate to their challenges and concerns.

The steering committee can also support and serve as go-to people over time.

Set Realistic Measures of Success

When the software is introduced, people are bound to be anxious, and some of your staff may very well throw their arms up in frustration. Mitigate the frustration with the recognition that change is a process and a learning curve is to be expected.

When people anticipate overnight success, pressure skyrockets. To ease the anxiety, create realistic benchmarks based on your district’s past adjustments to change/new programs based on size, complexity, and other priorities.

For instance, Xello Success Managers work with districts to help establish key performance indicators and success measures. With each contact, the KPIs and success measures are reviewed to ensure things are progressing as planned.

Appreciate that you are all working toward a definable goal and it will help the staff recognize their progress and keep them from dwelling on “what ifs.”

Prepare a Formal Implementation Plan

Keep your staff informed of the complete roll-out process. One memo is insufficient. To get true buy-in of the new software from your staff, you must ensure their involvement beyond one large staff meeting.

Create a formal implementation program that details each step along the way to help your staff visualize the path, follow the journey, and feel engaged.

The implementation plan can be shared regularly via email and posted on your district’s website, so everyone is kept in the loop. The steering committee you’ve assembled can also update their colleagues regarding key milestones and pre-share any literature that might be available to help staff become familiar with the new program.

Xello can make communicating an implementation plan simple with our client-customized implementation plans that can easily be shared with key stakeholders. Our Support Center also includes plenty of articles and resources to help orient educators to the program.

Creating and sharing a formal implementation plan with key milestones not only keeps them in the loop, but helps your staff recognize that software change is a reality and they are part of the new dynamic.

Conclusion

Change can be scary, but when change is well communicated, fear typically disappears. The change to your school system’s software will be widely accepted and even appreciated by an informed staff who recognize and support the need for change.

An implementation plan that validates, incorporates, and regularly shares feedback means your staff won’t be caught off guard. A steering committee of peers that is available for and seeks out colleagues can drum up enthusiasm for the project and erase misconceptions.

In time, your school can reach the milestones of success that you established when the software was first introduced—and that’s when change can indeed be exciting.

Larry Bernstein
ABOUT LARRY

Larry is an experienced educator having taught at both the K-12 and post high school level. Outside of the classroom, Larry is a freelance writer whose writing focuses on edtech and general education topics.