Process Improvement: Building Streamlined, Centralized Data Strategy for Your School

  • December 2021

When businesses first acquire computer technology, a common goal is to make workers more productive. But schools aren’t assembly lines where robots perform the same task time after time. Robust school data management systems can support new ways of doing things while enabling routine tasks to be accomplished more quickly. It is a big leap from “digitizing addresses for mailing lists” to rethinking how data is used and impacts all the processes of a school.

Time savings and reduced costs may be two tangible impacts of changing to a new school management system. Rethinking the processes used in a school and leveraging technology can help liberate both time and money. New and more powerful ways of using data will emerge, too.

The VOI guide helps school leaders consider benefits and issues of an integrated and comprehensive data solution versus a disconnected or best-of-breed solution. The bottom-line Return on Investment (ROI) is important, but in a large purchase like a total school management system, the VOI is the differentiator. This guide discusses some of the VOI areas to consider when comparing options. The VOI Planning Tool provides key questions in eight areas that schools should consider when adopting new digital systems. Five areas focused on VOI are: Return on Investment; Missional Proof; Data; Productivity; and Security. In addition, three key areas contribute to successful implementation: Leadership; Data Governance; and Support and Professional Development.

Here are some suggestions on how to use the planning tool effectively:

Step 1

Go through each section and answer the Key Questions to the best of your ability. Be mindful of who you might need to engage in the process from other offices and what information they will need to provide (for Step 2). If you can’t answer a question, ask for help. This will build consensus between departments.

Step 2

Enlist other campus leaders and educators to help think about a more comprehensive use of data. You won’t be able to answer every question in the Planning Tool, but others on campus will be able to help. Use the people and information needed from Step 1 to guide you in Step 2. Be aware that this may take some time and there might be some resistance in the beginning, but hang in there and keep going.

Step 3

Talk with other schools and find out what they have learned that can be applied to your situation. Don’t limit yourself to just your own school, but get perspectives from other schools and what they are doing. If possible, get a wide selection of schools: different areas of the country, different size schools, coed and single sex schools, day and boarding.

Step 4

Synthesize all the data you’ve gathered, both from on campus and from other schools, and build a report or presentation that highlights the greatest areas that need change and how a Connected System can solve those problems. Share the report or presentation with other campus leaders and decision-makers and begin building consensus.

As you formulate your plan, here are some key questions that arise from the eBook and the Planning Tool. Thinking through these key questions can help school leaders and staff use data more powerfully and efficiently, streamlining the process with a centralized data strategy. It will also reveal holes in your present situation that might be filled with a connected system.

  • How accurate is the school’s data in all its databases?
    • How many times does a student’s change of address have to be entered into the school’s databases?
    • Is there a Data Oversight Committee with representatives from all the offices?
  • What processes could be improved using a connected system?
  • Can data collected by one office be viewed/used by another office, where appropriate?
  • How can you prove the School is meeting or exceeding its Mission in a way that both present constituents and future families can easily understand?
  • Who in Leadership needs to support a change in data systems? What information is crucial to them?
  • Do you get good support from all of your present systems? Do they connect well and have robust security?

Changing from a mix of disconnected or best-of-breed applications to an integrated and comprehensive data system will require “behind the scenes” decisions about data formatting, data governance, and more. Ultimately, a school data management system should focus on the people who use the system. It should make people's tasks easier, whether administrative or educational. From the office's ability to work with data to answer bigger and more important questions, to teacher, parent and student ability to get the information when and where they need it, the VOI of a digital transformation should be analyzed. This ebook and planning guide can help.