Getting Wiser with your School ICT Resources

Ian Quartermaine, 4 min read

School ICT departments across the country are dealing with an increasing portfolio of responsibilities. The School ICT Survey (run in QLD & VIC) has identified 28 separate system management areas, and this doesn’t include emerging technologies like AI. To anecdotally back this up, some IT managers within the education industry profess that they’re responsible for “anything that plugs into a wall”.

Evidence from Strategic Reviews

A common observation made from Atturra’s ICT Strategic Reviews with schools, is the imbalance of HR dedicated to the management of the technology, and not to its application by staff and students. In most schools, staff and students are screaming out for knowledge on how to use the technology effectively.

Why have large ICT budgets if a significant component of the human resources is not dedicated to training, facilitation, and pedagogical advice? Most schools can’t keep hiring more staff indefinitely, so what can be done?

Strategies for Using ICT Resources More Effectively

1. Reduce application proliferation

Many schools with best of breed intentions have ended up with a maze of applications that ’don’t talk’ effectively, and don’t have an authoritative source of data. Assigning roles in the ICT support teams dedicated to applications integration and management can help.

Another approach is to look at core business platforms to absorb the function of the 3rd party applications. Reskilling for ICT teams would then be essential to take advantage of the untapped potential in these applications (e.g. Microsoft Power Platform for 365 suite).

Schools can also look beyond the standard SMS offerings of TASS, Synergetic etc. to industry level CRM/ERP systems that offer a fuller suite of function, removing the need for 3rd party applications.

2. Redirect funds after moving to Bring your own device (BYOD)

This can work to an extent, but managing BYOD programs can be complicated and Total Cost of Ownership must be carefully considered. Security and levels of service must be retained if machines are not managed by the school.

3. Move to the cloud and managed service providers (MSPs)

There is no doubt the SaaS, PaaS and IaaS approach can work, and movement towards this is proving to be a trend in schools. The end goal here is to run most served applications in the cloud and reduce on-campus facility to internet gateway, authorisation/identity, Wi-Fi provision and print serving.

The logic is sound. Why run this equipment yourself when service providers can offer higher levels of expertise and security and the equipment is their responsibility? Though it is good to bear in mind, it requires new skills from IT managers, in negotiating with vendors offering this service to get a good deal and managing hybrid states.

4. Develop and run trainee programs

Several schools have successful trainee programs where they fill lower-level help desk positions with trainees and allow more experienced staff to be redirected. This provides a shared benefit for the school and the individual trainees.

About the author

Ian Quartermaine is a Senior Consultant within the Business Applications team for Atturra. Ian has over 30 years’ experience as an IT leader and manager, including as an adviser to IT managers and school leaders within the Independent Schools sector. He brings experience in school- based applications (school management and learning systems), has managed a national network for Independent Schools in partnership with AISNSW, and negotiated group purchase arrangements. Over these years, he has experienced and given advice on a huge range of school-based business and education applications and processes.

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