When the need arises
There have been some interesting discussions in one of my "Linked-In" groups about the role played by the ICT Departments in the way that Educational ICT is run. There is a polarisation of thought, as you would anticipate, but the discussion has also begun to have certain common agreements and some very sensible suggestions about how issues might be prevented. Who needs the ICT supporting team and the ICT users falling out? No one.
There should be ways of working together to reduce pressures that come from everyday issues so that, for instance, developmental or experimental work with new technologies can be carried out.
I was aware of one situation in my previous job where a school had waited 18 months (with promises of "soon") for something to be looked into, and it didn't even feature on ICTs priority list. During this time children lost opportunities to be involved in a technology programme and there was a danger equipment might languish in cupboards. Frustration from the education staff was obvious.
So, what can ICT support teams and ICT teachers do? Let's start by understanding each other: and that can happen by collecting data and seeing the issues together.
Without identifying the source of the sample contained in the following article, let's just refer to it as a medium sized ICT Department dealing with several High Schools and around thirty Primaries. I wanted to take the commonly referred to issues and try to place some metrics around them. Only with sound metrics can any sort of analysis be undertaken. As it happens all support requests, however they originated, were supposed to be logged. The sample I extracted should, to all intents and purposes, cover all eventualities.
What I did was to take a period, in this case 12 months, and analyse the support issues that arose by categorising them into similar types of request. From comments made by the schools I dealt with, it was clear that there are some periods in that 12 months when the number of issues (support calls) were less pressing than at others, but had I had time there would be a good reason to explore the dates and the time taken to resolve the support requests.
The results from extracting and analysing the data follows:
| Calls to ICT Helpdesk (logged) 01/01/2010 - 01/01/2011|
|Category||Number of Calls||Percentage|
Set up new user
I cannot access/lost etc
email not getting through
I need access to
Please amend my details
I need advice
My Printer/PC/Phone etc is not working
Everything is running slow
Please add user to group
I can't log in
Can you Configure?
What is happening with?
Can you help me diagnose?
Increase my mailbox size
Please change phone
Can't log on/log off
I give YOU advice
I want to close a call
Whiteboard software problem
Total Calls for period 01/01/10 - 01/01/11
The data collected was then charted, however it is clear from the table shown that around 25% of all Help-desk calls were due to just two categories of call. More on this follows. See the chart below which graphically highlights the extreme disparity of call numbers.
Taking the analysis further the first 8 categories take up over half of the volume of support calls. This information is invaluable, but only so if it is used to inform where resources should be directed in the future.
There can also be some variation in how calls are responded to depending on where the calls originate from. Certain types of call have a degree of importance over others, but what is very important is that everyone knows where their particular issue is, and how it is dealt with. The variation in time taken to resolve calls ranged from 3 months to same day.
Where did all of this analysis take me?
As I referred to earlier, further work was required to test out some ideas, but the main question this analysis raised was:
"How can we reduce the impact of the most regular support calls?"
"Are these issues able to be resolved by the users themselves?"
Taking the first and second most prevalent support issue:
"Set up a new user" and "I cannot access/lost"
The first "Set up a new user" might initially seem to be a vital ICT central role. But why should it be? The first question should be "Why can the school not have responsibility to set up their own users"? Such limited control would relieve the issue centrally, saving time, but it would also ensure that the school saw minimal delays in getting this process carried out. I discovered it was treated as a lower value activity and was carried out just once a week. When I spoke to schools about their view of the importance of getting new teachers into the ICT systems, they saw it as a very different priority to ICT staff!
As to the second highest volume of calls, some investigation would be required to further break down the problems being reported, but once again some localised authority to search in individuals files would reduce demand on ICT's own staff.
The whole reason for this analysis, and the empowering of the schools was aimed at making them self sufficient so that other developmental type activity and trials could help move other parts of ICT forward......
.................and ultimately to reduce overheads, increase efficiency and lower end-to-end times for issue resolution.
No one can argue with that!
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