The Secrets of Upward Management

One of the areas of blockage I have come across, and had ranted to me by many readers, is that you just cannot get FITS implemented in your school due to the lack of SLT support … even to the point of where SLT are derogatory about it all and are dismissive of any change you put forward to solve this.

I hope to be planning a number of SLT events over the year to address this locally, but I have also been chatting with a few others to see what elements of FITS you can get away with yourself and how you can structure your job (and that of any staff you have in your team) to still get a lot of stuff done.

So it is time to talk about the areas that some people like to keep secret and to share how YOUcan manage your Manglement. Most of these are based on real practices of Network Managers, technicians, ICT Co-ordinators and Heads of ICT in schools. If you have more ideas you wish to add please let me know.

Become Sir Humphrey

For those who have seen Yes Minister / Yes Prime Minister this may sound like a terrible thing to say … but you can’t fail to recognise that Sir Humphrey would be able to get things past the Rt Hon Jim Hacker MP on a number of occasions … so let us think how he did it.

Ignore the use of confusing language. We already know that IT has a wonderful sub-language all of its own that makes people go glassy eyed … that is not what we want. Eventually people will just ignore you or work out you are intentionally trying to confuse them. No, I am talking about the careful use of language and the interesting use of providing a variety of options. Have a look at this clip.

Ok, this is a dark art I suppose, but let’s see what it means by putting it into what already happens in a number of schools.

There is a need for an increase in the number of desktops for Internet access, word-processing, etc … not for video/audio editing, etc. You know that if you want to keep this sustainable you are going to have to be inventive with the technology you use. You know thin clients will deliver what you need but there is an initial high cost.

You put together a range of options. Uusually this is three, but sometimes you can have two main options, each of which has some other add-ins. The first option is the out and out howler … brand new, heavy-duty, high performance fat clients because you never know what they are going to be used for in the future. This can be expensive, relies on there being a future need for them (also meaning you are likely to need other low-end machines in the future as the high-end ones get pulled into another areas such as Media, Art, etc) and that there are sufficient funds. make sure that you highlight this into a 6-7 year plan of when they will need replacing and all software upgrades, time taken to install and manage them over that period too.

Option two should be one for minimal outlay … cheap and nasty machines but with little software on them… the plan would be to move to an online office solution to do the work instead of local apps. This, however, is likely to mean more frequent breakdown or damage to kit, an effort to move over to online / web 2.0 tools but at the expense of other parts of the school will still be using local apps so there will be complex problems swapping back and forth … more training would be needed and what you save in initial outlay could get lost in all the other costs.

Option three is the one you know will work best with minimal impact or change to the school operations. You cover the costs first. Lower than the high-end workstations (over a 6-7 year period … ie two lots of machines), dearer than the initial outlay for low-end workstations, but with no training or change costs. It is expandable (get costs for adding another suite as thin clients) and if the school is flexible, it could also be used for secure remote access (solving possible DPA issues) and used for access to the MIS (saving the lengthy updates to the local MIS software on every staff laptop once a month).

How does this apply to FITS though? When you need to do a ‘project’ (eg your summer replacement of kit, rolling out a new suite, etc) then you write down everyone who will be impacted by it, the timescales for deliver, etc … yes, basically a project plan. Even if people don’t want to see it you still send it to them if they are involved or impacted.

When someone comes along and wants to make a change or wants to get you to do something for another piece of work then you give *that* person the job of contacting all the people involved. Or, if they don’t want to, *you* contact everyone, with a new timeline and point out why it has had to change and who made it that way. Either way, people start to see who is messing up plans. Over time, this ends up with the introduction of the third option … people meeting before the project gets going to get things sorted out and reducing the problems … and there … you have your change advisory board.

If the CAB is the idea of Manglement it tends to run that bit better in these circumstances. There are times when it will not happen though so *you* have to end up going to each person involved on a 1-to-1 basis to do the CAB. If you are doing this then try to make sure that you see a few key people one after another (ideally in the same room so they can bump into each other) and you will be surprised at the number of people who think it is an idea to hang around to see what the other person says … you get you CAB purely because common sense and nosiness prevails.

So … there we have a beginning. What other tricks have you come up with over the years? Feel free to send them over anonymously if you have to. I am not saying that the above will work for everyone, but it is a start. For those network managers reading … this might feel a bit familiar to you from when a few technically minded teachers have tried to do things with new kit they want to get introduced? As I keep saying … there is nothing new in this game.

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