How to Botch a Tech Rollout

A report on LAUSD’s launch of a new student information system offers essential lessons in what not to do.

Christopher PiehlerThe same district that brought you last year’s massive and massively flawed iPad launch is now mired in a MISIS crisis. For those who haven’t followed the extensive coverage in the Los Angeles Times, MISIS is the new student information system that the Los Angeles Unified School District rolled out this fall, with disastrous results that included students’ being issued incorrect GPAs and not getting the classes that they needed to graduate.

Predictably, heads have rolled at the nation’s second-largest school district. The one-two punch of the iPads and MISIS helped knock Superintendent John Deasy out of his job, and CIO Ron Chandler resigned abruptly at the end of October.

But my point is certainly not to assign individual blame. I prefer to ask (and answer) the question, “What can other districts learn from this rocky rollout?”

According to a Times article, a consultant’s report details many flaws in the MISIS launch. For example, “no one was responsible for pulling together the various aspects of the complex project.” Also, “the help desk wasn’t ready.” Oh, and “L.A. Unified failed to test the new system adequately.” The software was adapted from “a similar program at the smaller Fresno Unified School District,” without proper attention to the change in scale. And though the rollout was plagued by software bugs, the consultants wrote, “when it came to the ‘Go/No Go’ decision, the leadership always said, ‘Go.’ ”

As it did with the iPad rollout, LAUSD is doing its best to learn from its mistakes and adjust on the fly. Other district leaders planning a major tech initiative can benefit from the MISIS crisis, too. Just read the previous paragraph and you’ll have a list of “5 Things Not to Do.”

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About the Author

Christopher Piehler is the former editor-in-chief of THE Journal.