Change Doesn't Need to be Disruptive
- By Robyn Stirmell
- April 1st, 2017
Transitioning to a new service vendor can be
seamless if the business office adheres to a comprehensive
process that includes vendor review, bid and
implementation before going live.
Districts should do an annual vendor review to consider whether
changing vendors would improve the quality of service and pricing.
Key people affected by this service or product can identify concerns
and contribute to the decision about making the transition.
Although a bid process is not required for all vendor changes,
it is required for specific contracts within a school district. Check
state and federal regulations for information for your district.
The bid process should begin at least a few months before the
end of the current contract. Review the current contract for specific
requirements or penalties for cancellation. The contract might
also have an annual automatic renewal with a specified cancellation
The success of a contract depends on providing vendors with
a thorough bid document. Any service concerns with the current
vendor that are identified through the vendor review process
should be addressed specifically in the bid document. A pre-bid
meeting for all interested vendors can address any questions.
And the Winner Is . . .
Once a contract is awarded to a new vendor, the following are
key points to include in the implementation plan.
Set up a meeting with the vendor and the key employees to create
the transition plan with a timeline. The transition plan should
provide a detailed list of tasks, personnel responsible for completing
each task, the date the task is to be completed and the actual
completion date. Create a realistic timeline, keeping in mind that
transitions never go perfectly and that the people responsible for
completing the tasks have other responsibilities as well.
Designate a district project manager who will be the main
contact person for the implementation.
Review with the new vendor any equipment or technology
requirements for the new service. The district must start the purchasing
process early enough to ensure that equipment is received
well before the start of the contract.
Identify those who need to be notified of the change — the
staff, general public, board of education, parents and students —
and create the appropriate notifications.
Consider whether staff training seminars are necessary. When
setting up training seminars, review the following questions:
- Who needs training? Support staff, administrators or instructional
- Do the various levels of staff have different responsibilities with
the new vendor? For example, do administrators, support staff or
management need training on approvals?
- Are there training time limitations, such as after-school or
evenings? Would holidays, school breaks or scheduled district
events prevent key members of the transition from attending?
Training guides and resources should be available for employees
on a shared drive for ongoing reference. Many times, the
vendor will provide training guides; however, each district might
have to create its own policies and procedures.
As the training and implementation process comes to an end, the
project manager should initiate the new vendor process with the business
office. This process will involve gathering the certificate of insurance
(if applicable), Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and
Certification (IRS Form W-9) and the vendor billing contact name
and address. Other paperwork might include contract documents,
such as bus drivers’ motor vehicle report or state certification.
Finally, if the service providers are going to be onsite in the
schools or district office, ensure that all security measures — such
as background checks and fingerprinting — are taken, in addition
to issuing ID badges, keys and a district email address (if necessary).
The New Relationship
At the beginning of the contract it might be necessary to visit
each site to see firsthand how the new service is going. That is also a
good time to schedule a follow-up meeting to discuss any concerns
or necessary changes. Throughout the process, keep accurate notes
on concerns, decisions or specific information that might be needed
as reference for future contracts.
Transitioning to a new vendor requires commitment and dedication
to ensure that all stakeholders benefit. From the first vendor review
meeting to the “go live” date, it is imperative to involve the key members
of the school district to make the process as seamless as possible.
— This article is excerpted from the March 2017 issue of School Business
Affairs magazine, published by the Association of School Business Officials
This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of School Planning & Management.
Robyn Stirmell is finance manager for East Maine School District 63 in Illinois.