By Abby Spoerl / February 27, 2018
EdCheck Yourself Before You EdTech Yourself Part 4: [Product vs. Process]
As part of our EdCheck Yourself Before You EdTech Yourself series, we’ve covered how to give your EdTech ecosystem a check-up, how to fine-tune your user permissions to optimize for privacy and security, and how to build efficient workflows. Now, with your clear, developed workflows in hand, we want to explore the decision making process of products based on the needs of your workflows versus what an EdTech company is offering.
Equipping yourself with EdTech products in your organization that meet your needs and are aligned with your processes is as important as streamlining your workflow and making sure your current tech systems are secure.
Time and again schools come to us, ready to implement new workflows, only to be roadblocked by the distance between an EdTech product’s promises and its functional realities. Free API access is advertised, but often those APIs are incomplete. We’ve even seen companies directly stall access to vital data or otherwise impede the integrations needed to support an organization’s needs. This should never be the case.
A good partner should provide insight as experts in their field but should never push you to conform to their system. An EdTech product’s inability to develop and grow with a partner is a recipe for failure. Education organizations are ever-changing based on needs, new developments, growth, etc. and a great product/partner should come along with you on that journey.
For an EdTech company, yes, it’s easier to have a one-size-fits-all product that everyone must adapt to with little work being done by the company, but in our experience working in and with schools, every organization is unique. Products should aim to work to meet these needs and conform to your org rather than the other way around.
Watch Out For Wasted Time and Resources
Goals set early on have purpose, meaning, and motivation behind them in your organization. Don’t lose sight of what’s important to you – find something that truly meets your needs or you risk losing time, which as we know, is precious. Investing in a product and then putting your change management process into place at your site to implement this new product and integrate your data is not something to be taken lightly. Let’s say, conservatively you spend:
- 8 hours researching and deciding on a product
- 5 professional development hours training site users
- 3 hours answering questions and concerns from staff and/or gathering feedback
- Countless hours configuring different pieces to adapt to the new product
This is time simply is too valuable and important to your organization!
Use Case 1: Get the Product to Adapt to You
A partner of ours needed unique metrics to help with a customized grading system that no other product could create for them. They would spend countless hours converting their custom grading system they used for specialized classes into the standard requirements for their SIS. Teachers were frustrated with the amount of time this took and the lack of consistency they felt it promoted throughout the school. They needed a gradebook aligned to their system with the flexibility to grow and develop as they found new questions to ask of their visualized gradebook data. Learnmetrics bridged this gap for them through a single entry process that required no translation and allows for custom, immediate visualizations of the original source data. The first time they used the platform and saw their data visualized, they were surprised at just how powerful it was and thrilled to have a product that seamlessly integrated with their data to produce insights, bringing them one step closer to achieving their goals.
“In fact, that partnership allows us to be completely honest with each other in terms of what we want, what can be achieved, and if not, why it won’t work, so we can brainstorm ways to come at it from a different approach.” – District Admin
Use Case 2: Meet Us Where We Are
During the product search with a soon to be partner, a theme kept emerging around their school’s unique needs and the multitude of different EdTech products at their disposal. This came to life for them as a web of multiple datasets in disparate systems, and headaches for teachers and admins who didn’t have enough time to use the data they were getting from all of these products. They had taken on so many products to do different things but it ended up being counterproductive without a way to simplify processes and build it into their daily workflow. What this partner really needed was a product that would take work off their plate and help them use what they already had to meet their goals. Through our work together, we’ve been able to serve as a single source of truth for them that has met them where they are rather than forcing them to adjust to us. Today, they have custom dashboards for unique users and roles, allowing access to data without the headaches.
In early due diligence with partners searching for products, we make sure to listen on the front-end to learn as much as possible about an organization. We think through the process with you to fully understand the nuances of your organization and your needs. Thought partners in the EdTech product hunt and beyond are essential to navigating all of the different pieces.
At the end of the day, a product that helps you get where you need to go is of utmost importance. The goal of EdTech products should be to help you become more successful at doing your job and if that isn’t the case and there are too many barriers that exist, the product is no longer worth your time and energy. Again, I cannot stress enough the importance of front-end due diligence – the time it saves and the headaches it helps avoid in future are worth its weight in gold.
To help you with the process as you begin your EdTech product hunt, we’ve put together a checklist that will help minimize some of the stressors of deciding what products best fit your goals. Ask yourself these questions – dive deep into the “what” and “why”:
- Is the company able to help you envision taking the steps necessary to become more successful in your job/at your org?
- Are they already providing value to you early in the process through their own expertise in their given field?
It Should Be About You.
- Are they listening to you or do they seem more interested in telling you about them?
- Is talking with them helping you develop more clarity?
- Have they asked specifics around what a successful partnership looks like to you and your organization?
Are They Willing to Mold To You?
- When you ask questions about the product and its capabilities as it pertains to your organization’s needs, are they open to making changes, customizations, and/or adjustments, or do they seem rigid in a “set” product they want you to adapt to?
Long-Term or a Fling?
- Are they thinking in terms of making an investment in your organization that will benefit you for years to come or are they “here today, gone tomorrow”?
- Do they indicate a willingness to provide additional value and insight as you continue on your EdTech journey?