Sudbury Catholic District School Board Manager of Financial Services Susan Anderson
discusses why K12 need to adapt to new technology, even if they think their current system is working.
Innovate or die. That phrase gets tossed around in big business and drives change in their organizations. In the K12 realm there seems to be a different mentality; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The problem with this lies in what we are sacrificing in order to “just get by”.
At Sudbury Catholic District School Board we found ourselves in a place where we were wasting valuable resources to make a system work that was long past its expiration date. It may seem like we are concerning ourselves with items that are “low-value” but you need to consider the time put into processing things like purchase orders and simple data entry. By using a system that is redundant in nature, it ultimately impacts our delivery of the more “high-value” items in our curriculum. These smaller details can be the difference between your school board staff effectively performing their jobs and not being able to.
Of course, it’s easier to talk about innovation when you come from a place where it’s already happened. So, let me begin by telling you where we were before we moved to the Sparkrock K12 ERP. I’m going to guide you start to finish about my experience and let you know what to look out for, and how our school board has changed for the better.
For SCDSB, we were losing time and accuracy using our original ERP system. The big driver that lead to choose the Sparkrock solution was the Ministry requirements for documentation. Through their constant changes, we were forced to keep reworking our system and manually adjusting the layouts to match what they were looking for. We could have kept going on like this, but there comes a point when enough is enough and you have look at what you are giving up in order to avoid change.
Because our budget allowed for it—and I realize this is a large factor for most, if not all, school boards—we happily moved to the K12 solution. Now we don’t have to concern ourselves with the accuracy of our reports and we can get on with what is truly important. Accuracy is a huge benefit in upgrading, along with the lack of paper and time saved as well. By improving our system, we can now have purchase orders get automatic confirmations—documents no longer need to get passed around to everyone who needs to sign them, and our audit trail is so much clearer. If your school board remains with an outdated system, these could become major pitfalls.
Not only has SCDSB moved on from our ancient ERP, we have also recently completely updated to the latest Sparkrock release. The major deciding factors to do this were the new features that were being offered along with Sparkrock's Evergreen program. By being a part of Evergreen, we are always current and no longer have to worry about using a system that is outdated and having to work around it—that was why we changed our ERP in the first place! In addition to Evergreen, the improvement in data migration is fantastic. Everything can be done right in the Sparkrock solution without having to switch between programs, making our jobs easier and the work we do more efficient.
You’re probably thinking the process of always staying current sounds like a nightmare, but you have to remember that the people implementing the solution have done it many times before, and thankfully Sparkrock specializes in school districts. Overall our upgrade went fairly smoothly. There were some changes in the testing phase compared to the live version, but the support and guidance we received was exceptional.
Important practices to keep in mind when going through an upgrade are to keep communication channels open, and surround yourself with a positive team that will ensure success. One thing I wish I had done was have more communication with our school board’s IT department to learn how the servers and security systems operate—this would have helped solve some initial installation issues.
You also need to have an implementation team that adapts well to change and loves to learn new things. Have an IT staff member who is supportive of change and excited about it—it’s contagious to everyone else involved. Ultimately, I know innovation and change are cause for worry. Doing anything of this magnitude will always be followed by thoughts of doubt, but the risk taken leads to vast rewards that can only be reached through that first leap of faith.
I am pleased to share my story about how Sudbury Catholic District School Board has embraced this initiative and thankful to Sparkrock for making it possible. I hope you can see the light at the end of this tunnel, because Sudbury Catholic is there and loving every minute of it.
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