IT Services and Admin

Sometimes the borders of responsibility to IT systems are a little blurred.   Take for example a complex HR and payroll system.   The IT team might know the technical requirements and how to get the software up and running.   They might know what integrations with other systems exist, including integration possibly with the schools Management Information System and with Active Directory for example.    But will they know how to solve a problem with an HR workflow which has been setup within the HR system?

This is where the lines blur.   As the HR and payroll system is an IT system, sometimes it is assumed that IT support teams will know the user interface and how it works.    Sadly, this is seldom the case and given the number of systems which a school might have, is it any wonder that IT teams can’t be expected to know how each system works and the user interface for each system.

Let’s just consider some of the systems a school might have:

Management Information, Payroll, Asset Management, Safeguarding, Trip Management, Room Booking, Parent Evening Booking, School Website, Parent payment gateway, Parent Communication Platform, Human Resources solution, Visitor Management, Cloud based productivity suite (e.g. Office 365), Timetabling solution….. and that doesn’t include the IT specific platforms and several other solutions which may be used in schools.

For me the key in deciding IT involvement relates to the need, or not, for domain specific knowledge.    The payroll systems for example will likely need some accounting and payroll understanding along with understanding of school payroll related processes.    It needs knowledge from the payroll domain, knowledge IT teams won’t necessarily have.   As such administration of this system should sit within Finance or Payroll, where the required domain knowledge exists.

Personally, I do however think there is a place for IT support teams to have some skill, experience and the ability to provide training in the schools’ core productivity solution, such as Office 365, including understanding how it can be used by teachers.  Productivity suites tend to be flexible for applications in different domains, however in their use within teaching and learning, this clearly would suggest need for knowledge from within the teaching domain.    For me though, as teaching and learning is the key aim of a school, there is therefore significant value in IT teams being able to support this aim.    

I think as we use more and more IT systems, the lines between what IT support or services teams can do in relation to IT systems and what they cannot continue to blur.   Also, as the IT systems we use in every day life become more and more user friendly I also think this increases the perception that trained IT staff can troubleshoot and support all IT systems, hiding the fact that role or process specific systems continue to be specialist and required specific domain knowledge.

If I was to sum up, lets use a medical analogy:  IT Support teams are like your GP.   We keep things generally running, are good for your general queries, but when it comes to brain surgery, or the payroll system, am not sure I would want them carrying out the operation. Equally am not sure a brain surgeon, or someone for payroll, would make a GP……. or an IT Technician.

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Author: garyhenderson2014

Gary Henderson is currently the Director of IT in an Independent school in the UK. Prior to this he worked as the Head of Learning Technologies working with public and private schools across the Middle East. This includes leading the planning and development of IT within a number of new schools opening in the UAE. As a trained teacher with over 15 years working in education his experience includes UK state secondary schools, further education and higher education, as well as experience of various international schools teaching various curricula. This has led him to present at a number of educational conferences in the UK and Middle East.

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