I always find this time of year interesting. On one hand you feel firmly entrenched in this year, focused on major projects and making sure things get completed before June is upon us. On the other hand, I find some of my attention starts to drift towards next school year – yikes! Our budget process has just been nudged into action. In many ways, this is viewed as a time to be thinking about priorities for the upcoming months.
More and more though, I am beginning to view multiple school years as a continuum. On the assumption that strategic planning and the Board and department levels have been done well, then projects and strategies still need to be executed in the right order, with the right priority level(s) and resourced appropriately. From my point of view, the bottom line is Stay the Course. If you had the right big picture priorities in the first place, then they should still be priorities. In our case, it will take another 3 years for some of our technology environment changes to be fully completed and implemented in a sustainable way – well worth it, is just takes time to do correctly.
Some of the ongoing massaging of supporting the big picture plan going forward is what captivates my interest:
- maintaining the energy behind new processes
- meeting the challenge of keeping staff trained and aligned with the true needs of the system
- keeping the learning and IT agendas well aligned, stepping ahead in a strong partnership
- determining the role of new technologies within the curriculum (netbooks, iPads, eBook readers etc.)
- ongoing support for mobile learning
- embracing new tools in a systemic way
I enjoy the time to reflect, and the opportunity to tweak the necessary components in an effort to maximize the achievement of our system goals. More reflecting, analyzing and learning on the horizon.
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.