With over 15 years' experience helping UK trusts and schools to plan their ICT, we interviewed our Managing Director and Senior Consultant, Richard Sambrook Smith, for his best advice for senior leaders.
Richard, when you go into a trust or school and they tell you they are starting to plan for their ICT, what are the first questions you ask them?
Typically, a school or trust bring us in because they have a concern about their ICT or there has been an issue; they are seeing symptoms and know they need to fix them. As we move through the conversation, the root of the problems is often a lack of any strategic planning for their ICT.
Can you give us some examples?
So, we might be brought in to see how we can help a trust run an ICT procurement for Voice over IP (VoIP), mobile phones, internet or all three.
My first question is, "In what context are you delivering that? How does it fit in with your overall ICT Strategy and Vision?"
Typically, most trusts and schools don’t have an ICT Strategy and Vision – they have made a series of decisions about ICT that have led to a series of purchases, some going way back. They have been so busy, 'doing' and 'implementing' ICT that they haven’t had the chance to determine what they need their ICT to achieve overall and how that fits in with their bigger goals.
What do you mean by “fits in with their bigger goals”?
Good leaders in Trusts and schools have established their overall vision and goals.
Their ICT Strategy should clearly state how ICT will be used to deliver that business and education vision and its goals.
So, if your trust wants to ‘Deliver an excellent education experience for students at all times’, then your ICT Strategy might include, ‘Enable students to safely and securely access relevant content wherever they are, 24/7’.
This would then lead to tactical ICT goals being created to achieve this, such as:
- Create a secure wifi network in all school buildings
- Develop a safe VPN that can be accessed from any location
- Create firewalls and access permissions based on Year group e.g. Year 7 have limited internet access, Year 11 have far reaching access.
Then what would you advise they do?
Once you have your ICT Strategy and Vision, with goals attached to it, we then advise that you look at what you currently have.
We would do a Current State Review of your ICT. This gives you an objective, expert, comprehensive picture about what ICT you have in place, if it can be used to achieve your ICT Vision and Strategy, and if it can’t, what the gaps are.
We then recommend a series of actions your school or trust can take to bring your ICT Vision to life.
So, it doesn’t always mean buying new ICT infrastructure or equipment?
Absolutely not. Sometimes trusts or schools have ICT hardware and software that could be used to deliver their ICT Vision and Strategy but they just aren’t using it in the right way. It’s like cooking – you have the right ingredients but if you don’t know what you are trying to achieve, it can be a bit of a mess.
Sometimes they do need to procure new ICT equipment – and we can help them do that so they get what they need now but also make sure it will stand the test of time and still be useful in the future.
To summarise then, what do you advise schools and trusts do when they set their ICT Plans?
First, start with your ICT Vision and Strategy. Make sure it clearly helps you deliver your overall goals.
Then review your ICT. Find out what you have in place already and where the gaps are.
Next, create your ICT Plan. This is a series of actions, with a budget and timeline attached, to help you deliver your ICT Vision.
Finally, ensure you keep on track, regularly checking you are delivering to the ICT Plan and successfully achieving your ICT Vision.
Richard Sambrook Smith is the founder and Managing Director of Novatia, experts at solving ICT problems in UK Education. Contact us for a free consultation, either with Richard or one of the Novatia team, to discuss how we can help your trust or school use ICT to deliver results.