When should I pull the plug on edtech?

Your implementation team has hiked through swamps and peaks of data, interoperability, and training to get your newest edtech venture ready—but there are still plenty of bugs to work out, systems refuse to play nice, and the whispers of mutiny are getting louder by the day.

How do you make the difficult decision to either remain committed or throw in the towel on an expensive edtech system? Follow this simple Q & A to organize your thought process.

Q: Is implementation never-ending?

Thanks to the vast stores of data schools keep, implementing a new SIS or ERP system is never a quick task. Still, if implementation seems to drag on for months on end, it’s time to get suspicious.

What do we mean by an ongoing implementation? Not all data has been properly transferred, functionality isn’t as described, or deadlines are being missed.

While it’s not ideal to have a deadline moved, it happens. An edtech partner worth their salt will not only honor their timelines, but if something throws a wrench in the plan, they’ll be the first to spell out what to expect and what the updated deadline is. If that information is hard to pry out of your vendor, chalk it up to strike one on your list.

Red flags:
• Deadlines get extended
• Data isn’t transferred properly
• Functionality is missing
• No one has any answers or timelines

Q: Do connections fall flat?

Interoperability was likely one of your largest priorities while searching for your next edtech system. You may have heard some promising reassurance that your new system should quote-unquote “definitely work” with your existing ones, because the sales rep had heard of people using both before. Integration conversations aside, interoperability needs to happen as promised or the system is only going to add headaches for your team.

Are all APIs, data transfers, and connections working as intended? How much of this function has your IT staff found themselves cobbling together, as opposed to promised interoperability? Has your vendor been transparent about their interoperability standards and partnerships? Technology, whenever possible, should simplify your processes instead of adding to them.

Red flags:
• Lots of fixes
• Cobbled together systems
• Manual processes

Q: What kinds of concerns does your team bring?

In some cases, your team will spot concerns faster than you can. Think of administrative assistants and data pros who spend their entire days working with your systems. If they’re reporting any concerns about security, interoperability, and user experience, take them seriously. Make a few notes for your next status call with the vendor, along with any relevant details, error messages, dates, and times of service interruption.

By now your leadership spidey-senses can tell when someone on your team is putting forth all the effort required, and still turning up short due to no fault of their own. If training has fallen flat, listen objectively to figure out whether it’s a lack of effort and willingness to change, a communication problem with vendors, or something more frustrating—an incomplete implementation or functionality issue.

Red flags:
• Security
• User interface
• Interoperability
• Promises not kept

Q: How does your vendor react to questions, concerns, and support inquiries?

Once all the concerns have been tallied, how does your vendor react? Communication is one of the most important services your edtech partners can provide. If they’re unable to provide the level of support or answers you need, it may be time to cut ties.

A defensive reaction is especially worrisome—not only is it fruitless for your team, but it’s likely the vendor was aware of the issue before you brought it up.

Red flags:
• The brush off
• The trickle-truth
• The defense
• The non-answer

The decision to pull the plug on hard-won edtech implementations is never easy. However, if any combination of the above factors tempts you, it may be worth listening to that gut instinct.

Follow-up resource: 3 Causes of EdTech Breakups

Can the relationship be salvaged? Yes, maybe, and definitely not: Learn the 3 Leading Causes of EdTech Breakups.

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