How to Create Buy-in for New Tech
So, you find yourself at your favorite education conference of the year and timidly venture into the vendor hall against your better judgement. You find immediately that you are shoulder to shoulder with hordes of salivating teacher swag grabbers running from vendor table to vendor table like an educator’s only Black Friday event. It’s pandemonium to say the least and more than sensory overload as the banners, lights, flat screens with promotional videos, twinkling eyes of salespeople and a cacophony of chatter almost drowned out your ability to think rationally. All of this may tempt you to make a split second decision to purchase the latest and greatest tech tool or pedagogical resource you’re now feeling that the district must have.
You are about to silently shrink away when you decide to stay for 30 minutes and take a chance that maybe, just maybe, there is a product that offers something that fulfills a need your district currently has for driving student engagement and achievement. You’re not going to get caught up in all the seductive sales hype but are going to objectively evaluate and educate yourself about the products, resources, and tools you find. You make one important decision before you take another step: You will not buy anything today! It doesn’t matter how many bells and whistles you see and hear or the fact that they are giving away an autographed calendar of Betsy DeVos in restrictive but fashionable business suits. You will not buy today.
There are five reasons why delaying a purchase is so important and if followed, will dramatically increase the short and long term buy-in of the product giving you the greatest return on your investment. Those five reasons can be summed up into five questions:
1) What district needs does this product fill?
In Simon Sinek’s TED talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Change” he argues that the “why” is where organizations need to operate from because knowing and feeling the why motivates and inspires people to action. I would add that educational organizations are no different. A district’s needs can be a part of the why. What are the teachers needs? What are the students needs? Next time you speak to a vendor, the first question you should ask is what need their product address? Does it align to your needs?
2) Who are the key stakeholders that should be involved in the purchase of this product?
One of the biggest mistakes districts make is one or two district personnel make a district-wide purchase (stupid!) without involving their executive team or other departments and most importantly, involving teachers who will more than likely be expected to use the product. Gaining buy-in at all levels requires people to feel like they had a decision in the purchasing process and to voice whether they feel it will help them or not. So before you buy, talk to a lot of people and see it they like the product and if they would use it.
3) Is this a flip-the-switch product or will the product require strategic planning to implement fully and be successful?
Your mamma always told you that if you fail to plan you plan to fail. Even if it is a flip-the-switch product, have you determined what success would look like at the end of the year? After all, you are investing sacred tax dollars in a product and if no one uses it, you’ve just flushed money down the drain. Sadly, districts do it all the time. If it is a more complex product, it is worth the time to clearly state and write out what success should look like at the end of the year. Are your key stakeholders bought in enough to want work together after the purchase to help create a strategic vision and to create a plan to achieve this vision of success?
4) Will the company allow the district to run a pilot at no or minimal cost?
I’m not going to belabor this one. Run pilots before purchase. Have pre and post pilot surveys. Collect the data. Gather feedback. Analyze everything. Pilots help identify everything to onboarding issues, to buy-in needs, to training required, etc. If the pilot succeeds, you’ll be better prepared to roll-out district-wide. If the pilot fails, you’ll know quickly it wasn’t a good fit and save valuable time and resources. Digital Promise has a great resource available on how to run a successful pilots with a lot of great resources to support the pilot journey.
5) Does the company offer multi-year deals at a discounted rate?
Successful implementation takes 3-5 years with year one being the most difficult. If you’re not convinced you want to be in a long term relationship with a product, don’t expect teachers to get bought in either. A lot of times, teachers won’t buy in because they know if it fails, it will go away in a year. At a minimum, two year contracts should always be entered into with year two giving you the most valuable data after the year one kinks have been worked out.