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FITS will fit all your needs!

What a wonderful week it has been. After a chance to catch up with schools involved in a local Apple RTC project (lovely to see and hear of teachers and pupils excited and engaged by the chance to try something different) we had the first piece of training for our new Technical Champions.

The course is actually the “Level 4 Certificate in ICT Support in Education: Practitioner” and is delivered via accredited training partners using materials from The FITS Foundation. In Northamptonshire our training partner is NEOS IT and we had the pleasure of George coming to Lodge Park Technology College on Tuesday and Wednesday to deliver training to the Technical Champions plus a few others.

A key concept across the whole course was the use of the word management. I know that I joke (quite frequently) about that particular word … even to the point of never using it but substituting the word ‘manglement’ instead … but it is really important in a heck of a lot about FITS. Once you get past the first stage of a service desk pretty much everything else has an element of management in there and this builds into the idea of Change Management.  I’ve written about the importance of Change Management before but it is explicit in the training materials. Without it then any significant change or choice your school makes with technology and learning … well … it is likely to fall flat on its face and it will probably end up being the missing piece of management from the FITS materials … Blame Management!

Why will some technicians, IT Managers and SLT not like what this means? Well, it introduces a large amount of accountability via a group that is central to Change Management (often call Change Advisory Board or Change Advisory Committee) and is likely to contain people like the IT Manager, a member of SLT, whoever looks after finances and then we get onto representatives of the stakeholders at the school. The training was quite interesting when we discussed who should be a representative. Of course people remembered about teachers, some mentioned about admin / office staff, one person mentioned about governors but I was disappointed that I was the only one to raise the students. And this was with a forward thinking bunch too … it got me to thinking that we still don’t communicate 2-way with our students enough and that this is partly down to the ethos of the school more than anything else. At this point people really understood who deep FITS can be involved with school change and transformation … and people were excited by that, a little daunted perhaps but the excitement is important.

My question to those reading this is how would you set up a group to manage change at your school? Do you have one already? Does it also deal with IT changes? Who is involved in the group? If you have student representation how do they feel about being involved?

I know … a typical Tony-style blog … talks about stuff and then asks a heap more questions. Oh well, you should be used to it by now.

One of the things I will be prodding the Technical Champions to do over the next month s to set up their blogs and I will share their links here too.

7 replies on “FITS will fit all your needs!”

What you’re talking about sounds very ITIL related.

“but I was disappointed that I was the only one to raise the students.”

Perhaps things have changed since I supported school systems, but I can’t see how students would have meaningful input.

I authored the course you describe and am delighted that George did a good job. He was on the train-the-trainer course I ran for the FITS Foundation at the beginning of November.

The job of the CAB is to advise. The CAB doesn’t decide on authorising changes. That’s the job of whoever wears the Change Manager badge. But if the change is big enough the Change Manager should refer the final authorisation upwards if needs be. There’s some fairly obvious things about CABs that might be worth recording; they don’t need to examine every change only significant ones, they don’t need to meet at all – an online forum with a deadline for submissions would work well and finally the composition should change – the idea is that all those who might be effected by a change should have a chance to let the Change Manager know how it might impact on them, so in some cases the CAB might just be a couple of people in other a dozen. The Change Manager should select members based on the change being discussed.

Remember the point of the CAB – to prevent a change being authorised without all aspects of the impact being considered. Sometimes a change should be authorised in the face of some opposition, it’s the job of the Change Manager to judge this. Of course a sensible Change Manager will refer highly political and contentious decisions up the tree.

Hi Dale

Students have lots of areas to input into. even if you break it down into ITIL terms then they are the sinlge largest client you have of the systems. If you don’t consider the needs of *all* your clients then you might not deliver the right solutions.

We are now beyond the stage where the teacher is the fount of all knowledge and with the growth of independent learning we really need to provide services suitable to learning rather than just suitable to teaching … a fine line I know but you would be surprised how switched on the kids are … sometimes more so than the staff.

Thansk for the comment Alex, really appreciated.

To explain a bit more the problem I have with the CAB and the roles in it is that how it is set up will vary from school to school, and is affected by factors including size of school, size of support team, commercial partners / suppliers, political conditions (ie strong teacher voice, strong SLT voice, strong student voice) and the skills of the people involved.

In some CABs it may be that the SLT member is always going to be the Change Manager as the buck has to stop with them, in some schools it can be the IT Manager as they are the person best able to make the decision based on risk assessment, knowledge and experience. It may be that the school takes a democratic approach to the decision and all those that offer advice effectively vote on it, discuss compromises and it is the titular Change Manager that puts their name to it, but the decision was jointly reached.

In all of the above circumstances it can be made to work, but it is the job of the school to tweak this so that ownership reamains with the CAB and not constantly having to go directly to the Head for each slightly contentious issue (which will probably all of them in some schools)!

I’ll be interested to see the different formats of CAB that appear in the schools who just went on the training. We should get some interesting case studie out of them for it.

Change management is one area of FITS that I can’t implement here. I’ve suggested it to the SMT member who usually pushes changes for me, and have been told, quite rightly, that no-one likes meetings. Forming a panel which contains representatives from different aspects of school life would involve making people think about what they want before they want it, make them work as a complete team (ie. asking other teachers what they want. If they don’t do that, then they wouldn’t be representing very well), and face being held accountable with the decisions they make.

I can see the value in it, but in a small school (600 kids) it is unlikely that it would work. People demand flexibility.

The best some of us can hope for is an ad-hoc process where we do the change management decisions entirely by ourselves, hoping we get it right.

Hi Tony

Yep, it sucks when you don’t get SLT buy-in on this … and you have to battle it on your own.

I have a few suggestions that may help and I would be interested in your feedback on them

1 – Produce an SLA that sets out expectations of you and your users. Each time someone from SLT pushes something your way point to where it fits in with the SLA. Every time they push something that cannot be done in the timescales (due to other people throwing too much at you) point out how the SLA would stop that and allow you to get on with what *they* want and need.

2 – Even if you can’t get a CAB with 2 or 3 others in it then do it yourself on your own. At this point you choose a few things to do as if there is a CAB, arrange a meeting or two with a few people (who would have been in it) and then get them to look at something you are changing … don’t call it a CAB but just say you are looking for a steer on something … they will give advice and then you make a decision (ie by the change manager) and get on with things. Do other projects without a CAB and then present them with the differences. The first projects should have been a bit smoother (or a lot) than the second lot …

3 – Get hold of the School Development Plan … get the IT Strategy out of it and prepare the stuff you need to plan ahead. If you keep throwing the prep and planning at them eventually a bit sticks … and then keep throwing until more sticks. Once you have some stuff the rest could come along too.

Then again, it may be that you have tried all this and you are getting nowhere … at that point I would suggest you try to use teachers or the bursar as a way in to this. Find an eager teacher that wants to have a bit more freedom … they can’t have that unless it is managed, etc.

Try whoever deals with CPD and sell it to them as it makes their job easier. Instead of seeing it as wasted time (a committee) they should see it as an investment in a bit of time to save more later down the process.

Finally … if you get nowhere with any of the above find out which of your governors works in teh public sector or industry where change management is the norm. Get *them* to be your ally.

Excellent to see FITS being discussed so enthusiastically.
I think that implementing FITS without wholehearted support of someone in senior management is difficult. Doing so in the face of indifference or even hostility to the idea is almost impossible.

Perhaps a CAB could even work as an email out to those who might be impacted by a change with an invitation to respond by a set date. If no-one responds the manager can make the decision with their own understanding of the situation. If they decide to implement and then get objections, staff who object can be made aware of the opportunity to comment that they missed. As I said before the CAB doesn’t need to meet face-to-face. Further, the number of changes that need to be scrutinised on a month by month basis will vary greatly. In some schools it a term could easily go past without a change needing to be considered. The CAB is shorthand for the process of gathering views. The method for doing so can be designed to suit the school situation.

I’d also like to argue against democratising the process. Managers are paid more than others to take difficult decisions and be responsible for the consequences. If a change goes through on a vote that causes system downtime who would be accountable?

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