I recently had the opportunity to attend the semi-annual IT Strategy day hosted by ECNO, the Educational Computing Network of Ontario. The structure of the day provides an opportunity to tackle key questions in a group work setting with chance to report and comment on each groups report. It is very valuable to work in this multi-board format as there is a lot of ‘knowledge and thinking power’ around the table. The topic for this session was right on the money – Sustainability and Renewal.
What does sustainability mean from an IT perspective?
- sufficient fiscal and human resources
- multi year approach
- development of staff skill sets
- knowledge transfer among staff
- succession planning
- alignment with learning and student success
- analysis and prioritization
Key Question: Given current budget constraints, and a potential for budget reductions:
- what are the true priorities that must be addressed?
- what is important over the next two year window?
- what strategies are useful in engaging with senior officials for informed decision making?
The discussion identified the following actions, frameworks, comments and questions:
- determine what the direct impact on IT be in a budget reduction situation
- determine the impact of resourcing (staff)
- alignment of staff and skill sets to the needed roles and skill sets is a major challenge given the complex staffing and contractual arrangements that are in place
- reduction of overtime budgets creates a major challenge
- lieu time is more of a rob Peter to pay Paul game and not really an asset
- impact of lease vs buy
- long term negative impact of ‘money bombs’ from one time grants
As you can see from the list, the decisions would definitely complicated in the event of a major budget reduction, not easy to make, and potentially different strategies would be used Board to Board.
What key elements and factors would be part of a critical services matrix? My discussion summary notes included the following points:
- restructuring is critical to meet needs, alignment of tasks and priorities
- prepare for the future (wireless, NAC, mobile/guest devices)
- put the right tool set in place
- what are you not going to do? (you can’t sustain everything)
The final exercise of the day required each group to identify the top 5 barriers and identify a strategy or two to deal with the barrier. Rather than report on the specific discussion we had, I will leave this as a reflective question for you to ponder as it relates to your own situation. It is a worthwhile exercise. Feel free to leave a comment/suggestion.
Thanks to the ECNO organization for arranging a quality day for some heads up strategic thinking. Thank you to the participants for sharing their knowledge, expertise and insights.