It is natural to dread change, especially from an organizational perspective. Everything is ticking along nicely and then one shift creates some serious challenges. This is especially clear when someone using a system leaves and no one really knows what on earth they’ve been doing for the last few years.
There are some things you can adopt now to help with any transition and make the management and use of systems quickly transferable between users. In fact, we’d recommend you make it a requirement of your System Administrator to produce and maintain documentation that would allow for a smooth handover.
Using the ASAP support site usually gets you what you need when you know what you’re looking for and it’s ideal for the standard ‘how do I do X?’ tasks. What is harder is to learn and share how a particular organization does something and what is their policy in specific scenarios. Not knowing that is what makes transitions both good and challenging — someone new coming in, only to ask ‘why do we do this?’ often reveals a need to revamp or streamline a process that has been languishing.
Tasks usually fall into two categories: ‘how to’s’ and ‘how do we’s’. The first focuses on how to do specific tasks, such as set up a new user, upload a new course catalog or handle student account issues. The second outlines the process that needs to be gone through in order to run payroll, issue a refund, etc. Both need to be documented to minimize the impact of change and guesswork. Where possible, it helps to combine the practice, ‘how to’, and the policy, ‘how do we’, within the same page.
A number of online services have great tools for putting together guides for collaborative use. Google Docs can be a good place to start, though limited to a single doc at a time, without a larger infrastructure. Wikis are a fully comprehensive set of tools to help manage many different types of documents, files and communications. Somewhere between these two is BaseCamp, a free project-management software which allows you to host docs, text, films and images based on lists of tasks or activities. It’s the tool we use at ASAP for all our implementations.
Also, helpful is JING, again free software, that allows you to capture and annotate images (see below) and short screencasts which you can narrate. Both these are perfect tools to enhance written steps and amply demonstrate what to do and why.
Whatever you choose, the trick is to make this accessible to everyone who needs the information and even allows for updates and additions in a collaborative format. At a minimum, this means that your documents should be online somewhere, with login access by specific users. Ideally, you want all users of the system to use your Guide documents on a regular basis and update them as use of the system evolves.
Create a list of the tasks that need to be documented. You could choose to only do tasks with a specific workflow in place, like how to process a refund and when to issue a credit versus a discount, or everything you do from enrolling a student to running accounting reports.
Your goal is to create one-pagers that answer questions a new administrator may have based on where they are in ASAP.
How Do We’s
Documenting established processes is important especially when different groups or people are involved in the same task. For example, you may have a process by which you want Faculty to input their attendance. Maybe they need to do it by a specific date, or use specific codes for an activity. In addition to telling faculty, administrators responsible for gathering the attendance entered need to understand how it gets there.
We would recommend separating out your tasks so that there’s just one page per activity. You may not need to list every step, instead just address ‘what do WE do here’ questions.
Here’s an example of how to set up a new employee. This one-page document includes in its title the URL of the ASAP page and menu instructions so a user knows where to go:
Setting up New Faculty – EmployeeEdit.aspx – Create > Staff
All new faculty need an account so that we can schedule their classes and lessons.
- Choose Staff Type Instructor AND This user is an Instructor box
- Username is their school email address. You can choose a password and get them to change it.
- Please make sure their bio is up-to-date and conforms to the standards of existing bios
- Get a RECENT photo
- For those with only one Fee Tier, enter it here. If they have more than one, leave this blank
- Note: Only Administrators and Department Coordinators have access to ALL Customers
- You can choose which notifications they can get. They can also select these themselves in their accounts.
It may be a daunting task to document use of any system as they are so comprehensive and contain many unknowns but it is always worth the effort and with a little planning, the effort can be shared quite easily. It also brings a few significant benefits, in addition to a transparent and broad understanding of just how things work. The simple process of documenting steps helps in ensuring that those steps, the process being described, is the very best way forward.
These recommendations are not exclusive to ASAP and can be used for any system you need to have a collective, and collaborative, understanding of. Here at ASAP, we can offer support in the form of scheduled training (ask for our Professional Services rates) and access to our comprehensive Support site (totally free!). If you find yourself in the need for refresher training, please do just contact us and we’d be happy to help identify the best options for you.