Top tips for driving change and adoption in a university environment [Guest post by Marie Scott, VCU]

Version 6

    Happy Wednesday everyone!


    I'm very excited to share with you this week's change management blogpost - the first ever guest post written by one of our EDU customers. I had the pleasure to meet Marie and co-facilitate a session with her at the "Mega Customer Meet up" that Google hosted at the Mountain View Campus in December last year. Our session was titled "Inspiring Users to Adopt and Engage". During the session we solicited ideas from the audience - getting them to write ideas on a blank sheet of paper, and then turn that paper into a snowball - to be used in a snowball-of-ideas-snowball-fight (see pic to the left) We then collected up all the ideas and discovered some new and interesting ways that organisations have used to engage employees with change. It was a productive and FUN session!


    So now I'll hand you over to Marie as she shares her 10 top tips for Universities or Schools as they transition to Google Apps.






    Hi everyone, my name is Marie Scott.  I’m the Director of Collaboration Services at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond, Virginia, USA.  In 2009, we migrated all VCU students (32,000) to Google Apps. Then our faculty and staff (9,000) were migrated during 2012-2013.


    Kim asked me to share my thoughts and top tips for managing change and adoption within a university environment. As you may know, a university is made up of millennials, "baby boomers" and everyone in between! The broad age range and differing expertise levels sometimes makes for interesting challenges when working to help users adopt new technologies.


    Tip #1: Build your team

    Once you’ve decided to go to Google Apps, create your change/adoption team. This includes your technical staff, project management team, training/instructional staff, and marketing and communication teams. These individuals will be your “varsity” Google Apps team!  Block time in your project schedule to allow your team to become familiar with Google Apps. I would strongly recommend working with one of Google’s recommended Apps deployment partners. Google Apps partners have been through rigorous training and can assist with all the guidance and support you need to ensure your project is successful including developing or reviewing your plan and/or assisting you with the technical and people aspects of your project.


    Tip #2: Go to the internet!

    Review how other universities and companies have migrated (and why). We looked at materials posted by other universities who were already using Google, such as Virginia Tech, Arizona State, University of Michigan. You can find many case studies here. Explore the many resources available from Google including Google for Work Connect and the Google Apps Setup and Deployment site.


    Tip #3: Customize your approach

    Many students will have “grown up” with Gmail. On the other hand, faculty or staff may have been using a legacy system.  Faculty/staff are more dependent on email and calendar resources, so it’s important to minimize their anxiety about the change.  How can you do that? Communication and information. Work with your marketing and communication team to develop and implement a unified message about the change. At VCU, the Technology Services division includes staff who provide communication and marketing support.  They’re our go to team for spreading the message about new technology.


    For all users it is important to explain the reasons for moving to Google Apps or implementing a new feature of Google Apps.  Providing the “why” and “how this will benefit you” goes a long way in lessening user concerns about the change. At VCU we featured the following reasons for migrating to Google: students love Google; it’s easy to deploy; it will save VCU money and resources. On the right you can see an example of one of the posters we used pre go-live.


    Tip #4: Training and discussion

    At VCU we have found that our users require many modes of training, including one-on-one training, group training, webinars, printed materials, etc. To prepare for our Google Apps roll-out, we prepared customized materials about how to get started using Google Apps.


    We also created training sessions targeted to different user groups and Google Apps products, like Gmail, Calendaring, Hangouts and Google Drive. We discovered that users will always show up for a training session when you offer them snacks and swag! Additionally, we held special training sessions for senior staff and their administrators. We wanted to spark enthusiasm about moving to Google Apps especially with regards to how Google Apps such as Google Drive can assist users in their daily work processes.


    We learnt that most faculty emeriti and retired faculty needed some special hand holding. Create specific documentation with them in mind.  Keep the documentation simple and concise. We found that reviewing the frequently asked questions regularly and keeping them up to date was important for this group.


    Change can be difficult and disruptive for some people. Give faculty and staff a forum for discussing their concerns about the move to Google - either through open meetings, or a comment website or email address set up specifically for that purpose.  Faculty members (especially) love to share their opinions!  We created a website where they could post questions and comments - and we were able to respond and share information and alleviate their fears.


    Tip #5: Discuss privacy and security

    Many faculty also have concerns about privacy. This may be in part due to the nature of their research. It is critical to share Google’s terms of privacy with all users. For example, at VCU we included a “Security & Privacy” link on our Google Apps login page.  This page included Google’s terms of privacy as well as relevant VCU policies regarding data sharing and storage. You will want to explain how the terms work in your environment - especially if you have language in your contract with Google or a Google business partner that addresses those concerns.  Administrative functions such as admissions, records, and student affairs, work with student data and information that may be protected by federal or state laws.  Work with those departments to insure that all of those requirements are being met.


    Educating faculty, staff and students about security is critical - explain why they shouldn’t share their password or how to recognize spam and phishing attacks.  This is most critical for non-native speakers - as they might not recognize the malicious or suspect tone of an email in order to identify it as spam. Students especially also are quite savvy with regards to how to use social media (like Google+, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook). They may need some coaching with regards to what they should and shouldn’t post.  Prepare training materials  to educate students in understanding the nuances and implications of their social media personas with regards to personal privacy, future job prospects. VCU’s Information Security Team has created videos and online security training classes has been prepared for students as well as faculty and staff.


    Tip #6: Know your organization

    Universities have many departments and sub-groups.  An understanding of how people work is critical to any adoption project.  Migrate and transition users in teams or by departments.  This allows for knowledge sharing and less disruption during the actual migration.  When developing your change schedule be mindful of university events such as graduation or exams.  Be prepared to be flexible in scheduling.  We posted our migration timeline on our Google migration website and users received notice if the schedule was modified.


    Tip #7: Review your policies and procedures

    Universities are communities; faculty, staff, and students collaborate as teams for research and learning across departments and organizational boundaries.  But are they doing so in a manner that complies with university policies?  Before the project begins is the perfect time to make updates. As VCU is a state university we must comply with state and federal laws. Prior to our Google deployment, we reviewed all our policies and procedures relating to email and collaboration, especially with regards to retention, e-discovery, and data privacy.


    If you do not have policies for data loss prevention or privacy of student data, now is the time to put those in place. As you deploy Google Apps you will want to encourage your users to collaborate in new ways, for example through Google Drive. But at the same time you are giving them powerful new tools, so be sure you have your infrastructure and security “safety nets” in place.


    Tip #8: Empowering technical “super heroes”

    Cultivate the assistance of all of your technical staff, including those who aren’t working directly on the Google Apps transition. The central technology organization within VCU was the first group of users to go to Google. We received helpful comments from them during the pilot and used their feedback to fine tune our deployment.


    Also solicit help from those users who are willing to provide assistance to their coworkers and peers.  At VCU, we worked with faculty and staff who wanted to be the first in line to try Google Apps.  They became our local Google “goo-roos” and we had t-shirts made for them with this title (see photo above).  They attended multiple Google Apps  training classes and became the local “Google heroes” in their departments. During the transition they provided on-site assistance to their co-workers. We made sure they got lots of special recognition to say thank you!


    Tip #9: Make it fun!

    While it is easy to get bogged down in the technical details, it is important to have fun. Each year VCU holds a technology fair to feature technology services and products.  In 2012, we included Google on the agenda, and attendees registered to win free Google lava lamps and Chromebooks which got people excited.


    It is also important to make the project fun for your technical teams. Migration and transition projects can be very stressful. Be sure to include times in your project for team building sessions and time away from the office. We held weekly team meetings that included not only the technical staff, but the trainers, and help desk as well. Team members were encouraged to provide feedback and we frequently adjusted our processes to insure the least disruption for our users. As we were planning our migration schedule, we blocked out weeks during which no migrations would take place and strongly encouraged staff to take vacation time.

    Tip #10 - Don’t stop!

    Your migration/transition project may have completed, but your need to communicate with the university community won’t end with go-live. New students, faculty and staff join the university on a continuing basis. Have methods in place to share information with them about Google Apps as they become new members of the university - perhaps through technology user guides or welcome sessions. As Google launches new features, share that information with your users, and continue to hold training classes customized to a department’s specific needs. Review your support tickets and assess if you need to focus on learning needs for a particular group of users.


    I hope these tips may be helpful to you. I would love to hear how your college or university has deployed and utilized Google Apps. We can always learn from each other - so please share any comments, feedback or stories from your own personal experience here. I look forward to hearing from you!


    I hope to see you at a Google Meetup in the near future! Cheers!