In this technology-driven era, the overall efficiency of a school’s software systems and how they connect and interact with each other has never been more important.
With over 30 years’ experience untangling school software ecosystems, The Alpha School System (TASS) knows a thing or two about what a healthy software ecosystem looks like, and what to consider when trying to create a harmonious software environment for your school.
TASS recently shared some best practices in creating a healthy school software ecosystem and the most important factors to consider when reviewing existing systems.
What makes a healthy software ecosystem?
In a school environment, each department requires a series of supporting systems to help them operate, with each system needing to work together and share information to operate efficiently.
With this in mind, a healthy ecosystem has as few systems as possible, consolidating functionality across operating areas into one platform (where feasible) and with one central database, where external applications can push and pull information creating a central point of truth for all information.
When do things get messy?
Having multiple systems is not necessarily a bad thing – in fact, it would be nearly impossible for schools to operate without at least a few connected systems in their software ecosystem. However, if each system or group of systems, have their own database instead of one central point of truth, things can start to get messy.
Among the main threats to data integrity are duplication and data silos, which happen when similar data is recorded across multiple systems and is then updated and accessed by one department, without being accessible by others.
When this occurs data can be incorrect and misinterpreted, and it can become difficult to trust the data that you are working with.
Other factors to look out for are integrations and creating a more complex user experience for your school’s community.
What factors should you consider when reviewing your software ecosystem?
Most schools perform a comprehensive audit of the software systems used about every five years, diving into a who-, where-, what-, when-, and why-type analysis of the software used across the school.
During an audit, it is important to ask questions such as:
- Who is using it?
- How often is it being used?
- Is there an overlap of data between systems?
- Is there an overlap of functionality between systems?
- Is the school using the software to the best of its ability?
- Are these systems working efficiently together?
- Is there an opportunity to consolidate systems?
Answering these questions for each system in play will allow you to identify overlaps and become more aware of the functionality that is available in each system.
Download the software ecosystem audit worksheet to help you evaluate your own environment.
Creating a harmonious software ecosystem
Once you have completed your audit and have a thorough understanding of what you have, the next step is to map it out and determine how they all connect.
Start off by listing out what each system does (i.e. its primary purpose) and connecting them where integrations exist.
This can help to identify overlapping functionality and opportunities to consolidate your systems, reduce costs and simplify your software ecosystem.
There’s no ideal template for what a school software ecosystem should look like, as each school has different needs and priorities. However, as long as you are regularly taking steps to ensure the efficiency and integrity of your systems, you can tailor the perfect software ecosystem for your school’s unique needs.