Before You Sign Up: IT and Change Management Planning
While many businesses have a long history of managing outsourced services, this arrangement may be new to your school or college. Run through this check list of issues to determine whether or not it makes sense to adopt Google Apps for Education (which includes Gmail) for your organization. To implement Google's service, there are two broad sets of issues you should consider. First, you need to think through the IT issues and second, you need a plan to ensure that your organization adopts the new technology.
Schools and colleges have several special IT considerations and issues to think through. For example, Does your school or college have an IT policy? What about a supplier or outsourcing policy? Almost all schools will have some kind of "acceptable use of IT" policy in place.
In reviewing these documents, consider how you would apply this policies and procedures to an outsourced provider. Would you have to rewrite or rework the policy? If so, what would that involve? If it is not part of your existing policy, make sure that you address privacy and security matters in the policy.
If the new service passes the IT policy hurdle, you then can consider how this new service will impact your IT department and resources. If you manage the change effectively, you will free up IT staff and resources to provide better services to faculty and students. On the other hand, a failed implementation could raise concerns about job security and budget cuts - a discouraged IT department can be a liability when you are trying to adopt Gmail for schools.
The second half of the planning process involves communication, promotion and training. As you may know from previous projects, following a "if you build it, they will come" strategy rarely works. Once you have the new outsourced email service working, you need to develop a communications plan.
Depending on your resources, this can include writing up a one or two page memo describing the service and its benefits or offering in person training. You should assume that there will be many questions at first when the service is introduced, especially if the previous email service is being discontinued. Communication and training are important but not the only element of an effective a change management plan. Additional elements to consider include seeking support from senior staff and faculty members - without their involvement, the new service may be seen as an IT project rather than a project that can benefit the whole organization.