7 Tips for Supporting Staff Through a Database Transition

This blog post was written by the Monitoring and Evaluation Technical Assistance (META) Project and is included as an archived post on the Switchboard blog.

Transitioning to a new database can be a challenging process! While we know that every organization has staff with differing capacities and system roles, here are some general practices to help you plan how you’ll support staff through a new database rollout.

1. Communicate effectively about the coming change.

As you’re leading up to the launch or “go-live” date of your new database system, make sure that people are aware of the new system and its importance for your organization. Emails, signs in the break room, or other announcements from the staff who will be deploying the new system can help generate excitement and enthusiasm, while emails from leadership or brief words from them during staff meetings can help staff understand the need to take training seriously and comply with new data entry requirements.

2. Create a training program.

Plan to deliver training that addresses:

  • The learning needs of different user roles (like users with data entry access only, those with review or quality assurance access, or others with complete oversight over the data);
  • The specific tasks those users will complete in the database;
  • How the new database system differs from the previous system(s) that it’s replacing; and
  • Common challenges that users may encounter.

When developing the training program, ask yourself what delivery mechanism(s) (webinars, e-learning modules, in-person classroom trainings, etc.) will be most effective and feasible given your resources. To address different learning styles, consider a mix of delivery mechanisms that blend synchronous and asynchronous support—that is, both live learning opportunities that allow learners to interact in real-time and offline opportunities that allow learners to move through material at their own pace. The training plan should also include an evaluation plan to measure the training’s effectiveness and to identify areas for improvement.

3. Be sure you provide support through the full timeframe of the rollout.

If there are different user roles in the database, or a large number of users, it may be helpful to offer multiple training sessions each week or month to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to participate. Consider a phased approach, especially if the system will continue to evolve after the initial launch. Be sure to offer different levels of training (introductory or foundational learning opportunities and more advanced skills-based learning opportunities) to address different training needs over time.

4. Create a dedicated support mailbox.

If learners identify a challenge in accomplishing a task in the new system, it’s helpful to offer an online method for them to submit a support ticket. An email mailbox that can be accessed by several individuals can help to manage the flow of inquiries during and following the database rollout. The support person or team should establish a few guidelines to best manage mailbox inquiries, such as categorizing the level of support needed, responding within a certain timeframe, and standardizing responses to specific common questions so that they may be addressed appropriately and consistently.

5. Turn common support ticket queries into an FAQ page and/or series of “how to” guides.

Once you identify the types of system questions and challenges users are most commonly experiencing, build a public list of Frequently Asked Questions that you can refer others to in the future. It can help to include screenshots or videos in response to process questions, demonstrating how to do tasks in the new database step-by-step.

6. Offer open “office hours” (virtual or in-person).

Office hours are dedicated blocks of time where staff can speak with the support person or team, often via online channels like virtual meetings or online chat, to ask questions and seek support on any current issues they are experiencing with the system.

7. Give staff opportunities to take on the role of “super user” or to participate in a community of practice to build expertise and learn from one another.

Super users may access special training opportunities, such as advanced report-building. A community of practice can come together (virtually or in-person) each month or each quarter as a learning network for knowledge exchange on topics relevant to system users’ use of data in their work.

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