November 13, 2020

7 Tips For a Smooth Transition: Implementing a Childcare Management System

By Nicolle Cuddey, ELA SmartCare Administrator

For childcare center directors and owners, plate-spinning seems to be both a required talent and a way of life: With so many angles to address (including COVID safety these days), it’s everything we can do to keep our centers functioning well and get the billings and filings done on time. Toward that end, some centers argue that the old-school, paper-and-ink systems suit them just fine but, in the interest of technology and advancement, we’d be wise to consider implementing a platform that saves time, effort, and money on our necessary busywork…thereby freeing us up for the more exciting parts of our jobs!

I know what you’re thinking: Incorporating a childcare management system could benefit my center, but the thought of switching over all of that information is overwhelming. As a former Center Director, I get it! I’ve been in your shoes and understand the daunting nature of moving your business online; however, employing a technology platform also can simplify administrative work, coordinate center management, incorporate teacher-parent communication, and much more—all in one, inclusive system.

Considering taking technology on a test drive? Here are seven tips to transition to a childcare management system, smoothly and effectively.

Research your options: If you Google ‘childcare center software,’ you will get numerous options, some of which may seem overwhelming. So before you decide on a product (or even before you start your research), develop of list of needs specific to your center’s setup. Do you want a system that simply keeps attendance and tracks children’s information? Or do you need to also include billing, or notifications, or parental communication options? What’s your budget? How long might you use it, and have upgrades historically been made available? Get clear on your must-haves and nice-to-haves.

Get hands-on: Once you have your needs listed, explore your options by taking part in demos to find which products would best serve your center and families. System and software reviews also can provide insight on which companies offer the necessary, reliable support resources for high-tech transitions. Finally, if you have other well-run and -respected centers in the area, consider asking which system(s) they’re using, and how they’ve fared; a first-person account is a great thing as you consider all your options.

Tout the benefits: Changing from a traditional paper-based approach to a newer technology product is not only going to affect the way you run your center but also will impact your teachers and parents. You can help lessen the fear of the unknown by creating talking points that highlight the many benefits of your new system. This might include the ability to pay tuition online, more regular communications between staff and families, a caregiver portal that affords quick notetaking abilities, and the like. With your top system/software choices, there should be far more positive than negative to share with your key supports.

Keep communication open: Work with your provider to get a feel for how long such a transition might take, and keep families and teachers in the loop during that time to keep the excitement going while reiterating the changes that are to come. Toward the end of your upgrade but before full implementation, it may be wise to provide “how-tos” to help staff and families learn their options within the new system.

Teach the teachers: Consider your staff—which teachers are your most tech-savvy/tech-supportive? Approach two or three to be your secret weapon in training the rest of your center’s key users and fostering a supportive, anticipatory atmosphere. Hold meetings with your internal tech team to discuss the training process and timeline to deploy the software. If you have selected a system that involves classroom usage, determine which classes should be deployed and when (ideally, no more than two at a time to allow for dedicated, personalized training that will minimize the stress of change).

Utilize vendor support: Ensure the platform you choose offers a strong support team from your specific vendor to assist with the system setup and usage. They’re the experts and should be adept at training new centers and users on the full breadth of the program. Utilize their expertise and support to help make your transition as smooth as possible.

Accentuate the positive: As with any change, switching from a traditional system to a new, modern system can be stressful, and it’s likely you’ll hit a few speedbumps before you start cruising effortlessly down the technology superhighway. Keep calm and carry your vendor support team’s phone number: Your patient work now will yield a great deal of good down the road—for center administration, staff, and families.

By implementing a childcare management system to streamline myriad administrative tasks, you’ll not only optimize your center’s efficiency but also put your best face forward. Being committed to upgrading and strengthening your abilities to run an effective, communicative center is one of the best messages you can get across to the communities you serve, letting them know you’re all about bettering their childcare experience.