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3 Tips to Overcome Lagging Software Usage and Adoption

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The long-term usage of any technology requires continuous maintenance, training, and process adherence.  Disruptions in operations, changes in leadership, turnover on teams, and a growing number of technology initiatives often lead to lapsed or inconsistent use of tools and can be a barrier to realizing desired outcomes. 

You may find yourself needing to revisit how your team uses software to support day-to-day work but hesitate to reimplement technologies because of limited time, capacity, or buy-in. 

“Tools are great. Tools allow us to be more efficient and help us do our jobs. But the tool is not delivering the results – it’s a collective vision and direction that gets the results.”

—Dr. Kristin Clark,
Chancellor, West Hills Community College District

We sat down with Dr. Kristin Clark, Chancellor at West Hills Community College District, for advice on re-energizing teams around technologies to maximize the impact of student success strategies. Dr. Clark shares three key ways to re-align and boost usage:

  • Realign People and Processes Around Technology
  • Generate Buy-In Across Campus with a Shared Mission
  • Address Aversion to Advanced Analytics

Realign People and Processes Around Technology

Technology usage can lag simply because individual users and teams are unclear about how or why they should use the technology. This can emerge from poor implementation, ineffective training, or lack of clarity around the purpose of the software. Teams that are not using software often benefit from realignment with the technology’s purpose and processes to use the technology effectively.

Dr. Clark shared several tips for successfully aligning people and processes to boost the usage and adoption of existing technologies: 

  • Prioritize project management. In higher ed, we’re good at buying technology but not as good at implementing that technology. Strong project management helps users understand why and how they should use tools to improve their day-to-day work. If strong project management wasn’t present from the onset, leaders may need to fill in those gaps to ensure more efficient utilization of their tools.  
  • Document everything. Proactively prepare for change by consistently documenting as much as possible, including current processes, potential impacts, stakeholders and their involvement, successes or failures of projects, etc. If a leader leaves the institution or new leadership comes in, solid documentation will help clarify the initial “why” and “how” and support the onboarding of new leadership as they set their agenda. 
  • Set realistic expectations. It’s essential to revisit expectations regarding what a product can deliver and what it will take to make it successful. Reset the expectation that no tool will be 100% of what you need, but it can get us 80% of the way there, freeing up time and resources so we can be more targeted in addressing the remaining 20%. 
  • Lean on your technology vendor. Remember the wealth of support available from your technology vendors. They are invested in your success and can offer valuable insights, assistance, and resources to help you improve your team’s usage.
  • Remember the “WHY”. At the core of any educational institution is a mission: student success. The “why” should always be the driving force. When we allow ourselves to get caught up in the minutia of bureaucracy, we create artificial barriers that prevent us from sharing necessary information to deliver coordinated support for students.  

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Generate Buy-In Across Campus with a Shared Vision

We’ve all been there – A leader goes to a conference and is inspired to try something new. They assign the project to someone else and expect it to succeed without ensuring buy-in from all stakeholders. Ensuring relevant parties across your institution are aligned around a collective vision and understanding the why behind your technology investment fosters collaborative and cohesive technology usage. 

Dr. Clark shares two key ways the colleges in the West Hills Community College District align their teams to work together toward a shared goal of providing holistic case management: 

  • Create a culture of shared responsibility. Higher education operates within naturally siloed structures, where responsibilities are compartmentalized and fragmented. To change that dynamic, institution leaders can set the expectation that everyone, regardless of role, is responsible for supporting students. Clark considers every single district employee as a “success coach.” Now, it’s everybody’s job – not solely the advisors and counselors. By ensuring everyone has the information they need, the institution becomes a cohesive support system, making it less likely for students to fall through the cracks. 
  • Empower users to see the whole student. Individual data points like GPA, financial aid status, or course grade don’t provide a comprehensive view of a student’s situation. Leveraging tools that consider a broader data set, including course history, LMS engagement, advising notes, and academic performance, allows institutions to view students as complete individuals, each with dynamic needs and circumstances. It’s about aligning everyone’s work to provide cohesive services that fit the student’s unique needs precisely at the right time. 

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Address Aversion to Advanced Analytics

Distrust or disinterest in predictive analytics can contribute to the inconsistent usage of data-backed tools, preventing the software from delivering the expected results. How can leaders motivate teams to utilize these tools to scale student success efforts?

Dr. Clark shares two key ways the colleges in the West Hills Community College District work to keep teams data-literate and engaged with technologies: 

  • Educate. Train. Repeat. The first step is to educate student success leaders and frontline staff on the intended role of analytics in their daily work to support students. Managing and manipulating data is no longer solely the responsibility of the IR department; instead, it’s a collective endeavor that underpins the ability to measure the success of student success programs and initiatives. Data literacy is a core pillar of the ongoing professional development of all student success teams and is an important step when re-engaging teams around technology. 
  • Understand predictive intelligence. Predictive analytics are just that – predictions. Predictive insights help us understand what will happen if past trends and current behaviors continue. Predictive analytics is not a crystal ball; it’s a tool for informed decision-making. With a commitment to learning and improving data-sharing practices, these analytics will only become more accurate and valuable.

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Successful technology “reimplementation” in higher education is not just about adopting the latest tools; it’s about gaining clarity and crafting a strategy that aligns people, processes, and technology with institutional goals. By adhering to these proven tips, institutions can navigate inevitable tech challenges without losing ground on their mission to drive institutional success and shape the future of higher education.

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