Why Winter is the Best Time for New Software Implementation for K-12 Schools

A group of three schools administrators working at a computer together New Software Implementation for K-12 Schools

I live in central Florida, which means that visiting friends and family usually want to go to Disney World. Often, they ask me to join them and, since it is a magical place and my daughters like the experience, I often do.   

In my many visits, what usually determines how much I enjoy the experience is the time of year that we go. A Disney experience in mid-March—at the height of Spring Break—is a grind. Crowded parking lots, long lines and packed restaurants make everything a little less magical.   

But then there are the times that I have visited on a Tuesday in the middle of January; We have the place to ourselves! The Magic Kingdom is so empty that we only need a handful of hours to see all the shows and go on our favorite rides multiple times. There is less crying and whining from the kids (and the adults), and we leave with smiles on our faces. 

What do my trips to Disney have to do with new software implementation for K-12 schools?  

Source: MagicGuides

Ask almost any K-12 administrator what the best time of year is to change software systems and the overwhelming majority will vote for summer break. But this is the equivalent of going to Disney on a Saturday during a holiday weekend. 

Instead, consider the advantages of using the “slow season” for vendors, or the winter months, for new software implementation for K-12 schools. Consider the following benefits of slow season implementation: 

  • For most K-12 software vendors (including LINQ), there is no additional license cost to implement earlier in the year; 
  • Additional time for configuration, integration, and quality assurance testing; 
  • Personalized attention and an easier transition from the implementation team to your long-term support resource. 

Now that you know some of the benefits for implementing new solutions during the winter, let’s take a look at each of these benefits in greater detail. 

Ask almost any K-12 administrator what the best time of year is to change software systems and the overwhelming majority will vote for summer break. But this is the equivalent of going to Disney on a Saturday during a holiday weekend. 

The Benefits of Implementing K-12 Software in Winter 

No Additional Cost 

I have worked with two of the largest K-12 software vendors in the market. At both companies, we faced two factors that run counter to each other: 

  1. School districts set up their budgets so that software renews in June or July; 
  2. Software companies need to make sales in Q4, which runs from October through December. 

Districts never want to “double pay” for the same type of software. So, we set the start date for the new contract to the expiration of the legacy software’s contract. This created a vast number of sales in the summer, but then distinctly less revenue in the winter.  

To smooth out this big summer bump, we now offer 18-months of software for the price of 12, with a start date of July 1. This approach allows the company to take the booking in Q4, provided that the district makes a commitment to pay in July. 

However, if the district starts to use the software before July, we never ask the district to pay us more. In fact, we would prefer that districts get up and running as soon as possible since our implementation team has excess capacity from January through April. 

Additional Time 

Enterprise-level software, like student information systems or enterprise resource planning platforms, have extensive integrations to third-party programs as well as numerous configurations to ensure that the software follows the rules of your state and district.    

But even department-specific software, like nutrition, library, content management, workflows, or student registration, still have authentication set-up, integration with at least one other system (probably the SIS or ERP), and district-specific configurations.   

These processes require an investment of time for both the vendor and district staff. In particular, integrations require validation from the district that the data is being transferred correctly between systems.   

Additionally, a good software partner tests the software to ensure it is functioning correctly, and also that it meets the specific needs of the district before go-live. Although the summer is a slower season for most district staff, it is peak implementation season for the vendor, which can impact the amount of time you have to provide feedback on how the software is operating. 

Instead, an implementation that begins between January and March offers time for the district to provide feedback to the vendor through multiple iterations, ensuring that the data transfer process is as seamless as possible. The additional time also allows for a deeper dive into the business rules that exist in the legacy software. Rather than simply recreating these processes, the district can work with the vendor to see if there are ways to make the configurations align more closely to an optimized business process. 

Personalized Attention 

In almost every software implementation, there are five, primary workflows: 

  1. Installation 
  2. Data migration 
  3. Integration 
  4. Configuration 
  5. Training 

Many of these tasks can be performed in tandem. But, you will have a better experience if these can be performed linearly. For example, training can take place at any point during the implementation, but is always more powerful when the end user can see district data and use district-defined configurations. 

Some districts that have performed “off season” implementations have had success by completing steps one-to-four above by the beginning of April, scheduling training for power users in the late Spring, and then delivering end-user training in the Summer. 

In fact, for districts that use a train-the-trainer method, this has proven incredibly successful, as the district training cadre has time to modify their own training materials, create district training videos, and establish feedback mechanisms to allow the end users to ask questions and provide comments on the training being delivered. 

At LINQ, we offer our new customers a project manager that is the main point of contact during the implementation. As the district approaches go-live, we introduce a new resource, the customer success manager. This role exists to help the district optimize their experience with the software after go-live. 

The customer success manager monitors usage in the software. They also offer personalized resources to ensure that the district is getting the highest possible value out of the software. 

Winter is the Best for K-12 Software Implementation 

Taking on an implementation during their slow season reduces stress. It also increases the chances that you have not just a good implementation, but a great one. 

Additional time allows for deep conversations between the LINQ project manager, the customer success manager, and the district contact to create a sustainable plan moving forward.  Our goal is to provide the best software to K-12 school districts that makes your schools stronger.   

But beyond the software, we have incredible implementation and customer support resources.  These dedicated professionals, many former K-12 district employees themselves, will work tirelessly for you no matter when you implement.   

Taking on an implementation during their slow season reduces stress. It also increases the chances that you have not just a good implementation, but a great one. 

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