As a company that has been implementing California school business software for over three decades, we have a good handle on how to do implementations successfully and efficiently. Still, the amount of projects we have completed since introducing Escape Online 5 is remarkable for a company of any size.
With a repeatable and effective approach, Escape was able to manage implementations for numerous COEs and several single districts over the past decade. Following each implementation, we determine how the processes can be improved and update them accordingly. The five phases of Project Management are the basis for the standards and operational procedures utilized during our implementations.
Escape Technology uses a team approach to project management that utilizes the concept of project roles as outlined below. Depending upon the size of your implementation, an individual may perform several roles.
Escape Technology assigns a number of roles to your project:
Escape Technology Implementation Manager – Responsible for coordinating the efforts of all Escape Technology staff, coordinating with Customer Project Manager and scheduling meeting, as well as maintaining project documents. Serves as the subject matter expert (SME) on Escape Online 5.
Project Analyst– Responsible for working with the Project Manager and assisting as needed.
Data Technician – Responsible for translating and importing customer data to Escape Online 5.
Technical Support – Responsible for assisting Customer System Manager setting up Escape Online 5 and to provide System Administration Training.
Trainer – Responsible for providing training to users, from system management to end users, both on-site and in the Escape Technology Training Center.
Support Representative – Responsible for assisting the Project Manager with system set up as needed and coordinating ongoing support.
Typically, this is a small group of decision makers representing affected departments:
Customer Project Manager – Single point of contact for the project. Responsible for coordinating your staff and acting as a liaison to Escape Technology and the districts. Ensures the project tasks owned by you and the districts are being completed on schedule.
Finance, HR, and Payroll Subject Matter Experts - Responsible for making decisions regarding system set up and performing acceptance and parallel testing.
System Manager – Responsible for setting up and maintaining hardware, software and network. Also responsible for ensuring all users have access to the system.
Finance and HR/Payroll Software Support - Responsible for supporting COE end users and coordinating with Escape Customer Care as needed. (This need may vary depending on the size of the COE or district-only implementation.)
The first step is to create the Project Charter. Escape Technology executives and the Escape Project Manager work with the customer executives and project manager to spell out the scope and timing of the project.
This signed and dated document becomes the roadmap for the implementation. If the implementation needs to take place in phases, each phase will have its own project charter.
The project charter conveys the purpose and requirements of the project, and conveys project management’s expectations for the project and the high-level information used to plan, execute and control the project.
We begin with a well-designed and time-tested template. The Escape Technology Project Manager works with the Customer Project Manager to customize the template for the given project, detailing the standard functionality that will be included in your project, custom development, timelines, milestones, risks and success factors.
The project charter is signed and dated by both the customer and Escape, and it is the blueprint of the project, which cannot be changed or modified unless both parties agree to the changes.
The project schedule outlines all the work that needs to be completed for the project and is the main tool used for managing the project.
This meeting formally “kicks off” the project. All members review the project charter, establish working procedures and ensure a common vision for the project. This gives everyone an opportunity to ask questions about the project, understand how it will impact them and gives them a basic understanding of how the project will be managed.
Customer-requested changes that arise after project charter approval must be submitted to the Escape project manager. The project manager documents and estimates the impact to the project and notifies the customer.
If the customer chooses to proceed with the change, the project manager modifies the project charter’s scope and timeline accordingly.
Escape Technology works closely with you to design and implement your purchase orders, paychecks, ACH, COE files, etc. We have a complete set of standard COE and district reports, but will work with you to customize any additional reports you may need. The specifications and development of the custom programming is detailed in the project charter.
This is where the rubber meets the road! Escape returns to your site for the final conversion, training and deployment. We are onsite for your first two AP check runs and pay dates. In addition, we are available to guide you through live requisition, budget and timecard entry.
Immediately following live operations, you may continue to contact your project manager with issues and questions. Once your new system is established, you will be transitioned to our exceptional customer care.
The data conversion plan is a vital part of the implementation. We have numerous staff experienced in conversions, so we are happy to handle importing your data into the database and allow you to focus on other tasks. However, your participation is required as is stated in some of the tasks outline below.
To date we have successfully completed data conversions for California County Offices of Education, K-12 districts, charters and junior colleges. On the Finance side, we import account setup, accounts, and account transactions, vendors, fixed assets, customers and stores inventory. On the HR/Payroll side, we import most employee data, including demographic, health and welfare benefits, payroll setup, seniority, leave balances, education, evaluations and notes. For mid-calendar year implementations we import year to date payroll and ACA reporting data (for reporting on the W2 and 1095).
Escape Technology uses standard SQL scripts and proprietary tools to convert historical data. For security purposes, all conversions must take place on the customer system.
The conversion plan is a joint effort between the customer and Escape staff. Here is a brief list of typical tasks:
Customer team identifies which tables to carry forward, including the number of years of historical data.
Jointly, teams review existing tables, pinpointing differences.
Jointly, teams decide which data can be successfully converted.
Customer team exports the data to text files or another format that works with Escape’s database SQL structure.
Escape team writes and verifies scripts for successful migration of data, using row counts, dollar totals, and any other means for validation.
Escape team writes scripts for performing conversions on a scheduled basis to accommodate district-by-district live dates, as well as module-by-module live dates, as required.
Customer verifies all data after it’s been imported.
Of course, this plan is modified to the specific needs of each customer, and the data conversion is considered part of the overall project plan and managed like any other task within the project.
Wrapping it Up
After the data is “copied” to your Escape server, we perform additional conversions as needed. These “interim” conversions allow us to synchronize any necessary changes with your production database and conduct parallel tests for mission-critical processes. Near the end of the project, the Escape team comes to your site for the final conversion, training, and deployment.