How to manage change when moving to Arbor

Change in any organisation is inevitable, but not always popular. The same is true for schools when changing their whole school MIS. The MIS touches every corner of the school and therefore it is important that we communicate, in a clear and transparent way, the benefits that changing MIS can bring. 

Arbor are experts when it comes to change. This guide is designed to give you help and advice on how to successfully implement change across the school. 

What challenges will you face?

When you implement a new piece of software, people will have lots of fears that will need to be addressed. 

  • People might worry that the new software will mean that they could be redundant, especially if you have brought in Arbor to become more efficient.
  • They might need to learn new ways of working. Some people might find this easy, but others could find this tricky, and stressful. Even more so when they have spent a long time with your current MIS. 
  • People might worry that they do not have enough time to adapt to Arbor with everything else that goes on in school. 
  • People might worry about a loss of quality, especially if a data migration is involved.
  • People might worry about the timing of a move

Your role is to understand each of these concerns and to approach them head-on, in a clear and transparent way. 

How to successfully implement change in an organisation

It is important to note that these are Arbor's top tips to successfully implement change in a school. You will know your school better than anyone so some of these tips may or may not work for you.

Find an Executive Sponsor

An ‘Executive Sponsor’ is a key requirement for success within the school. The Executive Sponsors responsibilities include:

  • Ensure that the project’s goals are aligned with the school’s overall vision/strategy.
  • Set/clarify and align expectations. What does success look like at the school?
  • Provide resources to ensure the school’s project remains on track. 
  • Drive change and overcome resistance across the school by communicating the benefits that a new MIS will bring to the school.

Before you begin your implementation onto Arbor it is important that the Project Lead and Executive Sponsor meet to set their expectations. What does success on Arbor look like and what resources does the Project Lead have to meet these requirements?

The Project Lead and Executive Sponsor should meet regularly and be able to talk candidly about any blockers to change within the school or any resistance.

The Executive Sponsor will not be involved in the day to day running of the implementation. This will be the responsibility of the Project Lead. They should join the Project Reviews as this will be where the Arbor Project Manager reviews the project to date, and can therefore ensure that everyone is aligned to the same objectives. 

The Executive Sponsor is usually the Head Teacher or a member of the Senior Leadership Team.    

Use Arbor champions to help communicate the change

Moving your whole school to a new MIS is a complex change programme with lots of moving parts. It is important that you install people across your school that can help you drive this change. We call these people ‘Arbor Champions’. There are lots of ways that you can use Arbor Champions to help embed a change of software:

Role of a champion

As well as being the champions of the new software across the school, they should also encourage others to see themselves as taking charge of the change. They can do this by encouraging people to give ideas on how to successfully implement change in their area. 

The responsibilities of the Arbor Champions will be to:

  • Help ‘champion’ the benefits of Arbor across their teams.
  • Identify and control any resistance to change across their teams.
  • They will become experts in their area. They will be able to support their wider team with any ‘how do I’ type questions.
  • Attend any training sessions relating to their area. 
  • Ensure the data that has been migrated is correct in their area and that they will be able to carry out their duties once Live on Arbor.
  • Any specific setup/configuration tasks relating to their area.
  • Help to deliver the schools change plan.

A successful Arbor Champion is someone who is a great communicator who is able to share their knowledge and a representative of a stakeholder group (such as Exams/Assessments/Behaviour etc.)

The School’s Project Lead should meet with the Arbor Champions once the main objectives have been set and then work with them to understand how these benefits can be translated into their areas. If a school objective is to save time, The Arbor Champions should be able to communicate exactly how Arbor will save time in their area.

Understand how the school currently works and what will change. 

The MIS touches almost every area of the school, from the Kitchen to the Classroom, and everywhere in between. It is important to understand how the school currently works and exactly what will change in order to communicate this clearly. 

Your Arbor Champions are a great resource to help you to do this. 

Once you have decided that you are ready to move to Arbor you should look to pick your Arbor Champions and ensure that they have enough time to go through all the processes in their area and map out how this will change. 

Unless the Arbor Champions are currently the experts on your current system, the best practice is to get them sitting with their colleagues and going through exactly how they currently use their MIS. 

You can share training resources/webinars and access to a test site so they can understand how they will now use their new MIS and familiarise themselves with the new process. 

The Arbor Champions should be responsible for clearly communicating to their wider team what will change once you have moved over to Arbor. 

What’s in it for me?

It’s really easy to forget to share the benefits of moving to a new system once your high-level objectives have been agreed. The group who were responsible for sourcing a new system might have done so with a clear objective of saving time and money. Sometimes, these objectives are not clearly communicated with the wider school which makes it difficult to get the buy-in. People are more likely to be enthusiastic about the change if they know that it will be a positive change for them. 

If you have a school objective of saving time. You need to make sure that you clearly communicate to every area of the school, how the system will help them save time. This might be through seating plans on MyClassroom or automatic behaviour workflows. It’s important to identify and clearly communicate how Arbor will save the team's time. 

If you have an objective to ‘save money’ - this might be a harder benefit to communicate with the wider team as you might be removing other third party systems like ParentPay/Biostore etc. Communicate with the different teams how removing the other systems could make their process more streamlined as everything is now within one system. 

Use your Arbor Champions to look at each area and be responsible for identifying and communicating the benefits of Arbor to their areas.  

Generate excitement 

Changing your MIS is an exciting time for everyone involved. It is the result of months of hard work, time and effort.

Unless the wider school is brought into the new system, all of this hard work and time could go to waste. There is no need to wait until Arbor is Live to start promoting it to the wider community, the earlier that you do this, the better. 

One way to generate excitement across the school is to log and share all the top features and benefits that made you choose Arbor. This could be in the form of an email to all staff, or during a team meeting. 

Come up with some frequently asked questions too so you are prepared for any eventuality. Our ‘top tips for go-live’ article can help you with this.

Make sure that you keep the wider school informed. It can seem like a long time between when you first communicated that you have chosen Arbor to go live. Here are some ideas of things you could share with the team to drum up excitement:

  • You have imported the data onto the test site for the first time
  • You have access to a test site so users are able to play with the system and familiarise themselves before the training. 
  • Training has been scheduled for each team and a countdown to when the training begins. Share some online videos beforehand.
  • Create posters to place around the school with the confirmed Go Live date.

As well as the above, some schools have written blogs on how changing MIS will help them to achieve their longer-term strategic goals - such as being solely on the cloud.

Allow room for change

The Executive Sponsor should help with this. It is important that the Arbor Champions that you have chosen across the school have the time and resources to properly plan for, and communicate the change.

This means allowing them time to join training sessions or for self-learning. Freeing them up from their day to day work to thoroughly check their data and to test that they can do their jobs once Live on Arbor. 

It might be hard to find time in such a busy environment but our advice is to spend the time wisely now, rather than once you are live, and you have lost a lot of the goodwill from potentially disgruntled team members!

Short term wins

Some of your strategic objectives might be long term, such as efficiency gains by allowing other systems contracts to expire, or group-wide assessment policies. 

It’s important to make sure that you also look for short term wins across the school. Staff will want to know how Arbor will improve their workload, and make their lives easier. If that’s the message that has been communicated to them, it is important to identify areas that can be implemented quickly that will help you achieve these goals. 

Training

This is the most important part of any change process. You have mapped out what is going to change and when, you have communicated to the wider team, but this step is the most important. 

It is important to think, not just about ‘when’ the training will happen, but also how the training will happen. Arbor offers lots of different training resources to help you with this.

Some people might learn best during in-person training, others might learn best with a help centre article and access to a test site. It is important that you understand that different people learn in different ways at different speeds. 

It is important that the Arbor Champions you choose are quick at picking up new skills and are patient enough with members of the team who might need more support. 

Arbor has lots of different resources to help you from

  • Essentials Webinars: Pre-recorded training videos on the basics of Arbor. 
  • Help Centre Articles: Detailed ‘how-to’ guides designed to help you make the most out of Arbor. 
  • Online/In-Person training: This training is tailored to your requirements and can either be in-person or online. 

Resistance to change

There are lots of factors that result in resistance to change. Change is inherently a good thing, but unless it has been communicated correctly, scepticism and lack of trust can become a problem. 

These are a few ways that you could approach any resistance to change during your implementation:

Overcome opposition

No matter how hard you try to communicate the benefits that moving to a new system is going to bring, there is always going to be resistance. It is important to engage with your team members in the school who voice opposition to understand what their concerns are and mitigate them as soon as possible. 

The best way to overcome any opposition is to make the whole school team feel that they are part of the change, and have a part to play. You can do this by communicating a clear plan which is transparent about what is likely to happen, when, and what they have to do to make this a success. You can send emails to the whole school team or update the intranet if you have one. 

Listen to feedback

Make sure you have a mechanism in place for staff to raise any feedback and make sure that you address this in a clear and transparent way. Some feedback might be relevant to their area so make sure that you and the Arbor Champions are clear about who picks up the feedback.

Implement in stages

During an implementation onto Arbor, you will go through 4 different stages;

  • Initial Awareness
  • Develop
  • Manage
  • Transform

It is important to bear in mind that you do not need to go live with the full suite of Arbor functionality from Day one. Your Project Manager/Coordinator will work with you to make sure that you have a suitable plan in place that works for you.

You might only want to go live with the very basics of Arbor such as Attendance and basic communications. You might need to go live with Behaviour and Parental Engagement from Day 1. The important thing to remember is that you should only go live with what you absolutely need from Day 1. Then when you have ‘managed’ your initial Go Live, and the school team are feeling confident, you can then start to look to grow. Maybe now is the time to look at assessments. 

Communicate effectively 

A great way to communicate with the wider school team that you are changing to a new MIS is to be clear about what is going to change and how it is going to change. Use formal and informal communication to ensure that all staff hear the news in one way or another.

As Project Lead, you should make sure that the ‘why’ you are moving MIS is clear. The school’s leadership should be vocal supporters of the new software and should champion the benefits that this will bring across the school. 

Communication about the new MIS should be decisive and enthusiastic. Enthusiasm can have a wonderful effect, especially during training on the new software.

Now is the time to talk up the benefits of Arbor. If you chose Arbor to save users time and improve student outcomes, make sure that’s spelt out. If it will solve certain recurring problems for particular areas of the schools, make sure everyone in those areas is aware of the particular issues the new MIS will clear up.

You will know your school better than anyone and will have your own ideas on how to embed change but it’s important to communicate change honestly, openly, and within good time to all those involved to keep employees on side, understanding, and excited about their evolving workplace!

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