From eliminating silos to reducing workloads throughout the district, there are many benefits to integrating the collection of school fees with the student information system (SIS) in a school system—not to mention many things to consider to make sure the process goes smoothly. In this article, we’ll talk about the benefits of consolidating systems, along with tips for successfully managing the integration of fee collection software and the SIS.
The Benefits of Cross-Functional System Integration
There are a host of benefits to integrating the different systems used to manage student information, fee collection, and more in a school system. Some of the benefits include:
Eliminating Data Silos
When integrating software, cross-functional system integration helps ensure that “centralized” student and district data stays centralized. This helps provide a more holistic view of the data in real time and eliminates errors that are prone to happen when spreadsheets or information is stuck in a silo within one department. Eliminating these silos leads to a better, more comprehensive analysis of your data, as it’s easier to spot patterns and trends when looking at the big picture.
Integrating the point solutions that each department relies on for its own work with the point solutions that others rely on allows staff to virtually collaborate in one central location, without having to meet or directly communicate. This enhances collaboration because each team has the information it needs, in the moment it needs the information, in the format it needs the information in, and with confidence that the data is secure and accurate.
Reducing Staff Workload
Workloads are lighter when systems are integrated properly because it eliminates the need to manually compile and format data. This leads to fewer questions and less troubleshooting, ultimately making data management and analysis easier in the process.
Improving Data Accuracy
When all of a school system’s data lives in one place, there’s less room for error. Consolidating systems improves data accuracy as a whole, allowing for real-time data rather than requiring manual transfers.
Aligning Systems and Processes
Integrating systems also means aligning processes. System integration eliminates the need for certain manual tasks, such as compiling and formatting data, resulting in simplified internal processes.
Tips for Managing a Successful System Integration
The benefits of integrating the collection of school fees with existing data sources such as the SIS are clear—but that doesn’t mean the process isn’t complex and challenging. Below are tips and important considerations to help you navigate the system integration process as smoothly (and painlessly) as possible.
Obtain Cross-Functional Buy-In
It’s not enough to simply recognize the benefits of having consolidated systems within your department alone—make sure other departments are on board, too. Oftentimes, one department is unaware that it works in a silo, or that its own processes have unforeseen and undesirable implications for other departments. Meeting to discuss a centralized communication management system (such as ActivityRight) can help a department see how different departments are impacted. Additionally, the department can learn that integrating its preferred point solution with a district-wide communication management system will not only allow the department to maintain its existing internal processes but also likely increase the quality of the data it accesses. To avoid any potential issues or delays, obtain buy-in from decision makers and influential end users before integrating systems. This will help with the implementation and lead to a successful integration.
Evaluate Existing Software
Once you have internal buy-in, evaluate your existing school form distribution and fee collection software: Does it allow for integration with your SIS? How user-friendly is the existing solution? Does it offer customer support if you have questions? Many solutions are useful—or they would be, if only users could figure out how to navigate them.
Rather than something that adds to their workload, school administrators need access to a solution that is both easy to use and intuitive in order to realize the full benefits of system integration. For example, creating and completing forms in ActivityRight is so easy that we like to say a six-year-old can (and does!) do it. Customer support is also top-notch—so when you have questions, our team is at the ready to jump in and address them.
Here are a few more questions to ask when looking for a new system:
- How easy is system integration?
- What’s the integration process like?
- How long does integration take?
- What are the technical requirements?
- Does the software have an open API?
- What’s the maintenance and support like?
- Will teachers be able to use it?
- Will parents think the forms are easy to complete?
- How does it look on mobile?
Communicate the Changes
Communication is essential to ensuring the integration goes smoothly. Share details on what’s to come with school administrators, teachers, and staff as well as some of the benefits that come with system integration. For example, secure and encrypted credit card payments eliminate the need for cash handling and payment tracking.
If there will be any temporary setbacks, such as data being unavailable or the SIS being inaccessible, let everyone know so they can plan accordingly. This is also an opportunity to share important details related to the migration of processes, training opportunities, and new protocols.
Integrate Your Systems
First, document the current system integration architecture: What will it look like once the systems are married? What are the software and hardware requirements? Are specific versions required? This is also the time to sketch out a data flow diagram to show how data will be added to the system. Will data need to be transformed in any way to connect the systems?
With all this figured out, you can enter the development phase and work on updating software, hooking up new hardware, and coding data flows between systems. Make testing the systems after the integration a priority to ensure they’re working together and to address any bugs.
Train and Onboard Staff
Once the consolidated system goes live, organize training for the staff so they can learn how to use it to collect data. Effective training increases adoption rates and minimizes IT requests and troubleshooting.
Integrate ActivityRight with Your SIS
If you don’t have a system for the collection of school fees or you’re looking to upgrade to a more comprehensive solution for your district, we can help. Schedule a free demo to see for yourself how user-friendly and intuitive ActivityRight is—and how it can integrate seamlessly with your existing systems to simplify school fee collection.