By David Wain, National Practice Manager – Education, Data#3 Limited
[Reading time: 3:19 mins]
While it’s clear that technology plays an important role in preparing our students for the demands of rapidly changing work and social environments, in my role, I continue to see an enormous opportunity to improve the way ICT is implemented and more aligned to business and learning goals.
Things are improving with leadership becoming more aware of what’s possible with ICT, but we still see a lot of disconnect between IT teams and the business. This manifests itself in failed ICT projects, wasteful spending, poor adoption and teaching staff that feel like victims rather than beneficiaries of technology initiatives.
Governments and the ICT industry itself have contributed to this disconnect over many years with programs focused on boxes and wires, without enough consideration for supporting infrastructure and pedagogical transformation.
I think it’s also fair to say that over the years there has been a lack on investment in the maturity or upskilling of IT teams in the sector, and this too has contributed to the IT/business gap.
The process of linking strong ICT planning with business plans and broader strategic goals, is well recognised as a key factor in the successful use of technology in any organisation. However, in the context of ICT planning in schools, we very rarely observe ICT plans and strategies that are closely aligned with business goals and objectives.
Plans are often developed by the IT team in isolation, and despite occasionally chasing an exciting new technology without enough thought for (or even access to) longer term objectives, in most situations the IT team are generally acting in the best interests of the organisation.
However, the responsibility for effective planning lies squarely with leadership to develop a vision where technology is recognised as a strategic asset, rather than a cost centre. Leadership need to invest in understanding what’s possible with ICT and drive an inclusive culture with the development and adoption of the planning process.
In my experience, this approach has proven to eliminate the knee jerk decision making which wastes an enormous amount of money. It restores confidence in teaching staff, drives successful ICT projects, considers the impact of change and ultimately ensures that every dollar spent on IT is inextricably linked to business goals and objectives.
Whilst robust procurement processes help to drive value, it’s also important for the business to understand that driving a procurement process for a single project or component of a plan in isolation is not always in the best interests of the organisation. This is particularly true in schools where the business has not invested heavily in the technical, process and management skills of the IT team to help them navigate the myriad of options that are available to them.
In my experience, strong partnerships are critical to the successful delivery of any ICT strategy in Schools. Many are realising this and moving away from traditional “transactional” relationships to “strategic partnerships” where business drivers and goals are better understood. In this type of relationship, the supplier is much better positioned to provide real business value as they are engaged with the business and not only have an understanding of business drivers, but also have an understanding of the technical environment and the complex dependencies that exist.
In stating the above, it’s also important to have a partner with a broad range of skillsets and capabilities. Having a strategic partner that provides student laptops doesn’t deliver a lot of value in the context of an overall plan. Having a partner that can also understand the complexities of software licensing, develop and deploy a mobile device management strategy, and help you manage the performance impact of the new devices on your network (as an example), can significantly reduce risk and wasteful or uninformed spending.
Having a strategic partnership can also bring a number of other associated benefits such as reduced procurement costs, access to technical resources at no or low cost and improved market positioning. In addition, this type of relationship can often reduce the cost of sale for your supplier who in turn can deliver this back to you in additional value or savings.
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This is the first in a three-part blog series, click to continue reading: