IT Management Uncategorized

The Calm Before The Storm

I can’t believe that the summer is drawing to a close already. Exam results have come down and been issued out (congratulations to all who did well and commiserations to those who tried but didn’t quite get what they wanted , needed or deserved), some teachers are off on their second holiday and others are back into planning mode.

Many IT Technicians and Network Managers are now playing summer catch-up. That list of jobs that they had to do at the beginning of the holidays still seems a bit longer than they wanted or has had to be moved around a bit as other priorities have cropped up over the summer (including working out how to save money now the HT grant has been cut!)

So, in the hope that a few folk read this I thought it would be an idea to cover a few things that need to be done prior to the new school year starting.

  • Testing : No doubt many people have had new kit to set up, new software to install, machines to move around. The first thing I have to plead with you to do is test. Test, test, test, test, test! I know you cannot test every possible permutation of all software you have running on a computer but there are some things you can do. Log onto a few computers as an admin, a teacher and a student. Make sure the printers work as you would expect, internet access is ok, and that any ‘fiddley’  software (you know the stuff I mean) works … check that files can be saved to the correct locations and that any dedicated hardware works right (CAD/CAM, camcorders, midi keyboards, etc). We all know that at least one thing will go wrong … but try to do what you can to keep it at one thing … not a dozen.
  • Tidying : There is nothing worse for a teacher than to come back into a classroom a few days before the new term and they find that there is a mountain of boxes or a plethora of unplugged kit laying around. They also might only have a few days to get displays put up, to move desks about and to make sure any cupboards are tidy with all resources where they need them. This is doubly so when teachers have had to swap classrooms around. The sooner you can get things clear in rooms the better (we can always talk about tidying up rooms as you go along but in reality it is difficult) and if you have to leave anything out and about try not to get too annoyed if a teacher, cleaner or site staff move it around to allow them to get on with *their* jobs. Try to leave notes about where it is moving to and approximately when.
  • Logging : The perennial nightmare for support staff is keeping track of kit, new and old. With all the changes that may have gone on during the summer you need to make sure that you have kept your inventory up to date (including which room kit is in, what is install on what kit and who are the principle users), that any new items have been asset tagged and security marked, the old equipment is mark for disposal and when disposed of, that you keep at track of who you disposed it with, what the nominal value for the asset was and when it was disposed of.
  • Planning : There are going to be things you could not complete. Or things that came up that have had to be put on hold. Or things that just did not work they way you expected and will need more work. Set some time to one side to decide when you are going to start planning to do this stuff, whether you can do it in term time, whether you need to wait until the next holidays and so on. The sooner you start planning the easier it is to let people know about things.
  • Communication : Which leads me onto the next item … if you have new kit or services then let people know about it. Ideally, this should have been part of your planning anyway and so you have already got a training plan for staff *and* students (if needed) and a set of messages and announcements for people too. Back to the planning bit … allow for staff and students to give you feedback on the changes. This helps to plan for any future work … and purely relying on people putting in support calls will never be able to give you all the information you need (eg the lack of support calls is not always a good measure of you getting it right!) so plan for other ways to get information from people.
  • Breath and relax : Remember that you are not superman/superwoman/superdog … there are times when you need to sit down, take a few deep breaths and relax. I always liked to have a film afternoon as a reward for getting things done (ok … only managed it 3 times in 10 years of being hands-on in a school) but others have a meal out or a few pints in the pub.

So … a few ideas there … some might recognise that there are examples in there of change management and configuration management (communication, planning, CMDB, definitive software library, etc) … but hopefully it gives a bot more of a real world approach to it.

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