Old Habits Die Hard
Still, the system has met some resistance. "The challenge comes when you introduce it to the users, who for many years used a green screen environment," Alawneh said. "They used the different workflow dictated by the older system. And now you need to move them into this Java-based, Web-based, graphic environment."
For example, to register a student in the old system, an employee simply entered data into a long, scrolling form. The new registration screen uses tabs and dropdown boxes and validates the data as it's entered. The process now takes longer, and some employees don't like that.
So school officials have taken pains to explain that the new process increases accuracy and makes life easier for co-workers and students. "Before, while they entered a lot of information and there were a lot of errors, it was quick for them," Alawneh said. "But it caused a lot of investigation somewhere else. Somebody has to chase after the correct information."
While working with Plano, Prologic has marketed the software, now called the Total Education Administrative Management Solution (TEAMS), to other districts. The Tyler and Arlington ISDs both chose the software to replace antiquated, "green screen" systems.
Tyler ISD already is using TEAMS to manage student information and hiring, and it will soon convert its payroll to the new software, said John Orbaugh, director of technology services for the district. "In the second semester of this year, we're going to start some pilots with the TEAMS grade book program," he said. "We're also starting to get ready for the purchasing module."
The Arlington district uses TEAMS for accepting and managing job applications online and is implementing the payroll piece, said Steven Harvey, assistant superintendent of technology. "We intend to continue through all of our finance departments," he added. District officials are still discussing whether to replace the existing student information system.
Like Alawneh, Orbaugh said it hasn't been easy getting users comfortable with the new system. "We haven't changed software in 16 or 17 years. People were very accustomed to doing things one way. And it was very upsetting to a lot of people's worlds." Along with a lot of handholding, one key to success has been training people on the new modules just before they're ready to go online, so they don't have time to forget the procedures, he said.
In Arlington, however, change came more easily. "We certainly have our moments where that's a little bit of a challenge, but I would say our staff has been, overall, very receptive to the change," said Harvey. "I think one of the reasons that's been true is that Prologic has really worked closely with the staff to make changes when things didn't seem quite right for the way Arlington did business." Staff appreciate that the vendor has modified the code to meet their needs, he said. "There are always growing pains as you switch to a new piece of software. But I think right now that's going very well."
Contributing Writer Merrill Douglas is based in upstate New York. She specializes in applications of information technology.