Nysais presentation may 2010

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One IT Director's take on how the CFO/CTO partnership can add value to school technology efforts. Some do's and dont's for CFOs.

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  • Thank you for that nice introduction.

    Glad to be here for two reasons.



  • Glad to be here--two big reasons. The first is that I like school business officers. It’s been an honor and a privilege to work with two terrific business officers at Lab, and in fact, whatever success I have had over the years is due in large part to their support, encouragement, and cooperation. I have repaid their trust with a lot of hard work, loyalty, and stewardship of the funds I’m given to work with. They also helped me understand that we have a lot in common.

    Over the years, I’ve learned that people like you and people like me have a lot in common.

    Surprises in our world are almost always bad.

    Very few people in a school deal with EVERYONE. Dealing with money--or dealing with technology--we are often in a gray area between people’s personal lives and their professional lives, and, truth be told, we usually learn a lot more about school employees than we ever really wanted to know.

    We have never done a favor for anyone that didn’t prompt a desire for more...

    No one really understands the full impact of what we do every day and how hard it is to make apparently simple things actually happen. We could explain all the nuances to others, but we don’t generally have time and most wouldn’t understand it anyway.

    And though we love the warm fuzzy teaching and learning part of our school, the hard reality is that if we don’t do our jobs, the school grinds to a halt.
  • Glad to be here--two big reasons. The first is that I like school business officers. It’s been an honor and a privilege to work with two terrific business officers at Lab, and in fact, whatever success I have had over the years is due in large part to their support, encouragement, and cooperation. I have repaid their trust with a lot of hard work, loyalty, and stewardship of the funds I’m given to work with. They also helped me understand that we have a lot in common.

    Over the years, I’ve learned that people like you and people like me have a lot in common.

    Surprises in our world are almost always bad.

    Very few people in a school deal with EVERYONE. Dealing with money--or dealing with technology--we are often in a gray area between people’s personal lives and their professional lives, and, truth be told, we usually learn a lot more about school employees than we ever really wanted to know.

    We have never done a favor for anyone that didn’t prompt a desire for more...

    No one really understands the full impact of what we do every day and how hard it is to make apparently simple things actually happen. We could explain all the nuances to others, but we don’t generally have time and most wouldn’t understand it anyway.

    And though we love the warm fuzzy teaching and learning part of our school, the hard reality is that if we don’t do our jobs, the school grinds to a halt.
  • Glad to be here--two big reasons. The first is that I like school business officers. It’s been an honor and a privilege to work with two terrific business officers at Lab, and in fact, whatever success I have had over the years is due in large part to their support, encouragement, and cooperation. I have repaid their trust with a lot of hard work, loyalty, and stewardship of the funds I’m given to work with. They also helped me understand that we have a lot in common.

    Over the years, I’ve learned that people like you and people like me have a lot in common.

    Surprises in our world are almost always bad.

    Very few people in a school deal with EVERYONE. Dealing with money--or dealing with technology--we are often in a gray area between people’s personal lives and their professional lives, and, truth be told, we usually learn a lot more about school employees than we ever really wanted to know.

    We have never done a favor for anyone that didn’t prompt a desire for more...

    No one really understands the full impact of what we do every day and how hard it is to make apparently simple things actually happen. We could explain all the nuances to others, but we don’t generally have time and most wouldn’t understand it anyway.

    And though we love the warm fuzzy teaching and learning part of our school, the hard reality is that if we don’t do our jobs, the school grinds to a halt.
  • Glad to be here--two big reasons. The first is that I like school business officers. It’s been an honor and a privilege to work with two terrific business officers at Lab, and in fact, whatever success I have had over the years is due in large part to their support, encouragement, and cooperation. I have repaid their trust with a lot of hard work, loyalty, and stewardship of the funds I’m given to work with. They also helped me understand that we have a lot in common.

    Over the years, I’ve learned that people like you and people like me have a lot in common.

    Surprises in our world are almost always bad.

    Very few people in a school deal with EVERYONE. Dealing with money--or dealing with technology--we are often in a gray area between people’s personal lives and their professional lives, and, truth be told, we usually learn a lot more about school employees than we ever really wanted to know.

    We have never done a favor for anyone that didn’t prompt a desire for more...

    No one really understands the full impact of what we do every day and how hard it is to make apparently simple things actually happen. We could explain all the nuances to others, but we don’t generally have time and most wouldn’t understand it anyway.

    And though we love the warm fuzzy teaching and learning part of our school, the hard reality is that if we don’t do our jobs, the school grinds to a halt.
  • Glad to be here--two big reasons. The first is that I like school business officers. It’s been an honor and a privilege to work with two terrific business officers at Lab, and in fact, whatever success I have had over the years is due in large part to their support, encouragement, and cooperation. I have repaid their trust with a lot of hard work, loyalty, and stewardship of the funds I’m given to work with. They also helped me understand that we have a lot in common.

    Over the years, I’ve learned that people like you and people like me have a lot in common.

    Surprises in our world are almost always bad.

    Very few people in a school deal with EVERYONE. Dealing with money--or dealing with technology--we are often in a gray area between people’s personal lives and their professional lives, and, truth be told, we usually learn a lot more about school employees than we ever really wanted to know.

    We have never done a favor for anyone that didn’t prompt a desire for more...

    No one really understands the full impact of what we do every day and how hard it is to make apparently simple things actually happen. We could explain all the nuances to others, but we don’t generally have time and most wouldn’t understand it anyway.

    And though we love the warm fuzzy teaching and learning part of our school, the hard reality is that if we don’t do our jobs, the school grinds to a halt.
  • Second reason: when Barbara shared your questions, I knew I had the right audience.

    You are asking the right questions, the important questions -- they don’t all have easy answers, but they have to be asked if you want to have any prayer of building a technology presence that actually matters.


  • I had to do this. The President was a Lab School parent and I’m a Chicago guy. I couldn’t not sneak in an Obama joke.

    So let’s get started.
  • Some of what follows may seem obvious to you.
    If it is, I’m sorry.
    I can tell you that it isn’t obvious to every school.
    Find me later and I’ll tell you how I know.

    I can tell you that it isn’t obvious to every school.
    Find me la
  • The Consortium for School Networking is an advocacy and technology leadership group for K-12 schools. Institutional membership runs $250 year but is one of the best tech investments you will make.

    Timely reports on current and emerging issues, research, best practices for tech leaders. Also provides access to the tool kits I’m talking about today.

    Hardware costs in schools only account for about 25% of TCO.

  • The CoSN tool has
  • Cost drivers can drive costs up or down --
  • Every school has its own set of unique cost drivers. To get at your TCO, you’ll need to find them. Here are some examples from my place -- I’m sure none of this ever happens at your place :-)

    Autonomy is highly valued --teachers, departments, divisions -- but so is consensus in decision making, leaving people like me in the Bermuda Triangle -- figuring out what everyone can live with takes some fancy cat herding-- often, the usual consensus is that everyone should keep on doing their own thing...

    Spontaneity: incurs convenience cost...I don’t know if I AM going to need this all the time, but I MIGHT -- fine line between being spontaneous and being disorganized, and I know it when I see it

    Customization: Progress Reports -- Middle School has close to 30 different progress reporting formats
    “How Many Lab School teachers does it take to screw in a light bulb?”

    UC Affiliation -- Cuts both ways...Microsoft Campus Agreement vs. Griffin

    School Offices Slow to Own Their Data Needs-- I tweak at least one or two IT positions every year, but office staff job descriptions, when we have them, haven’t changed in 10,15 yrs or more even though what the school needs from those positions has changed remarkable. Guess who picks up the slack?
  • A/V used to be a Facilities thing--SMART Boards, Wireless projectors, centralized management over IP

    Voice Over IP means network is even more crucial---really has to be bulletproof

    Convergence of print/copy/scan, evolution to “document management” is pretty much over

    Parents and students looking for more content delivered to accommodate every possible device...beta testing a Lab School App right now

    Admissions and Development -- exploding demand for data to fine tune activities “There is no data about any constituent I am not interested in having?”

    Mobile devices are truly disruptive technologies...most significant development in recent years



  • Every school is different, and in your beginning TCO study, you may only make baby steps in progress. But a continuous process over time will give you better and finer assessments -- but it’s unlikely that you will have the time or the ability to define PRECISELY what your TCO is at any given moment.
  • Determining TCO will help you get at ROI but it will only take you so far in that area.

    Even though they are multimillion dollar businesses, schools have different metrics for success than most corporations do, where profit is the benchmark. Figuring out the real value of any existing or proposed investment in a school demands consideration of intangible factors that need to be assessed in a different way than ROI alone.



  • VOI gives you better information about setting priorities than ROI alone because you come away with a better handle on the true value of any given project to the enterprise.

    Another thing that focus on VOI provides is an opportunity for CFOs like you to partner with other school leaders, and the CTO in particular, in building a stronger program based on deeper strategic thinking than a straight balance sheet can tell you.


  • In the end, the workbook yields a weighted score that accounts for project risk, projected cost, and ranked value.

    Other workbooks are available to determine different project components.

    Don’t want to spend too much time on the how to--they have done a much better job than I could -- but knowing the tool is there, and can be tweaked to fit your school--like any “canned” product, you’ll find strengths and weaknesses -- but like TCO, any baby steps you can make will help.

    It is the concept of VOI that is the takeaway for today.
  • My italics --- “Spending” doesn’t always mean dollars, though that was probably what you were asking about. Space, time, people, program...these can all be technology resources. I am fortunate to have an ample budget, but what is not allocated is TIME outside my workgroup -- and the PRIORITY we need tech to have for us to achieve true excellence intentionally and purposefully.

    Where you spend should support what you are trying to accomplish; if you can get clear on that -- and that means saying what you are NOT going to do as well as what you ARE..where to spend becomes much clearer.
    You can’t spend enough to be all things to all people. Make choices and learn to say no.

    I am fortunate to have an ample budget, but what is not allocated is TIME outside my workgroup -- and the PRIORITY we need tech to have for us to achieve true excellence intentionally and purposefully.
  • NYC had quite a little bomb scare last Saturday. H1N1 threatened us last year, and the avian flu the year before. Hurricanes, flooding, blizzards -- these things happen all the time. What plan do you have in place to safeguard and access information in emergency conditions? Can you still offer any semblance of school online if students are prevented from attending? If not, what reasons will parents have for giving you tuition money?

    Usually in schools there’s one person who is the “glue” for a variety of critical IT services. If that person were hit by a bus, where would your school be? As you rely on technology for more critical services, can you afford to have critical knowledge wrapped up in one individual? What pressure does that role put on that person?

    Do you know what is supposed to happen if your student information system is breached? Does your HOS?

    Some schools have taken this very seriously, but more have not.
  • In many schools I see, communications and expectations are as snarled as this ethernet cable. You can untangle them if you spend time developing clear job descriptions that accurately reflect and revisit what people actually do.

    I wasn’t evaluated for the first ten years I had the job; that’s not good for the school or the employee. Four years ago, I started doing quarterly activity reports to document workgroup goals, outcomes and activities. Now I am getting evaluated..but the transparency created by the quarterly docs will continue. Partner with your people to set annual goals.


    Hire as much for interpersonal skills as technical expertise. Also get a writing sample...more of the job entails writing clearly than most people think. Get help if you think you can’t evaluate technical skills.

    Turnover is expensive in IT. Keep the good people you hire. Compensate them fairly and give them opportunities to grow professionally. Let them have appropriate control over what they’re asked to support...no end runs by teachers or other administrators.

    If you are ambivalent about giving your CTO your full support, you have the wrong person in the job.
    I wasn’t evaluated for the first ten years I had the job; that’s not good for the school or the employee. I was fortunate to have my CFOs complete trust. Four years ago, I started doing quarterly activity reports to document workgroup goals, outcomes and activities. Now I am getting evaluated..but the transparency created by the quarterly docs will continue. Those reports also serve as an institutional memory of IT projects and evolution.

    Technology makes everyone interdependent...a tweak over here usually has an outcome over there...your CTO is the only one in the right position to see how this plays out at your school...s/he needs a place at the cabinet level if you want real leaders.

    There is a place in almost every school for outsourcing some services. Just be sure to read the fine print on the contracts before you sign them.




  • Every project you and your IT people pull off will lead to several more; plan for that before you begin anything...
    ..we should have a good idea by now of what people will and won’t do. Spend first on what people actually do, then on what they might do
    People only see their portion of the school; technology connects people in subtle but powerful ways (admin data example). Need to make those connections explicit. Not much room for “silos” any more.
    spend first on what people actually do, then on what they might do





  • A sustained commitment to examining emerging technologies is part of any thriving tech operation.

    Here are the “hot topic” items currently:

  • Can work for desktops, too -- advantage in lower support costs, cheaper workstations...but relies on strong infrastructure
  • Available on demand, pay for what you use (or look at ads that monetize the provider)

    Managed by the service provider, not you

    Many schools dropping support for Office, not offering their own e-mail anymore, letting Google do it

  • Game changers. Ubiquitous. Low Cost. Increasing power. Students already have them.
  • The question is a little like asking if wind is overrated. It’s just something that’s there and isn’t going anywhere. It’s not a fad, and even if you had a choice about using it or not as you got older, today’s kids don’t. The business operations you now run require technology if they are to be done at all. The Kaiser family foundation recently studied kids from 12 - 18 and found they are consuming media 7 and a half hours per day. That has to affect what we do in school whether we like it or not.

    But let’s say for the sake of argument that the question isn’t moot. In that case it depends completely on what you expect from it.
  • Technology can’t fix other problems your school may be having--but it will absolutely shed light on whatever those problems may be. It is very much a canary in the coal mine for your school...or a litmus test to see how people at your school really feel about navigating change and figuring out what is won and what is lost any time you adopt a new technology.

    If you have issues of trust, or poor communication, or lack of accountability -- technology can’t fix those things. It can’t make bad teachers good and it can’t make smart students wise.





  • Nysais presentation may 2010

    1. 1. Making Your Tech Dollars Matter: What CFOs Should Know NYSAIS Business Affairs Conference May 5, 2010 Presenter: Curt Lieneck, IT Director University of Chicago Laboratory Schools Senior Collaborator, Educational Collaborators LLC
    2. 2. A Little Background UC Lab School Me PreK-12, 1770 students 17 yrs. teaching Lower School 320 Faculty and Staff IT Director since 1998 9 f/t tech support people Not a boxes and wires guy 850 Macs Robust growth in tech resources 14 Servers on my watch Planning the largest building NAIS Tech Task Force 3 yrs. project in school history ISED-L Co-Manager 6 yrs. Consulting 3 yrs.
    3. 3. We Have a Lot in Common
    4. 4. We Have a Lot in Common We don’t like surprises
    5. 5. We Have a Lot in Common We don’t like surprises We deal with everyone at school
    6. 6. We Have a Lot in Common We don’t like surprises We deal with everyone at school Our good deeds never go unpunished
    7. 7. We Have a Lot in Common We don’t like surprises We deal with everyone at school Our good deeds never go unpunished If we aren’t good at our jobs, school grinds to a halt
    8. 8. We Have a Lot in Common We don’t like surprises We deal with everyone at school Our good deeds never go unpunished If we aren’t good at our jobs, school grinds to a halt We spend a lot of time in the twilight zone
    9. 9. You’re Asking the Right Questions What are we really spending, both in our educational program and in business functions? How do we measure ROI and therefore establish priorities? Given finite resources, where should we be spending on technology? Are there new technologies relevant to schools that we should be looking at? Is using technology in program or business functions overrated? Do we get more productivity and better educational outcomes?
    10. 10. Can We Answer Them All This Morning?
    11. 11. Can We Answer Them All This Morning? YES, WE CAN!
    12. 12. A Quick Disclaimer
    13. 13. Answer: Question 1: Determine Your Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) What Are We Really Spending? http:///www.cosn.org
    14. 14. Direct Costs: All the technology charges that show up on your ledgers What + Indirect Costs: Comprises All the costs that don’t show TCO? up on any ledger Divide Total by # of Computers = Total Cost of Ownership
    15. 15. Hardware Software Support Training/Professional Development Connectivity Direct Costs Retrofitting Replacement Costs Power Consumption Insurance... ...and so on
    16. 16. User Overhead: Down Time Indirect Costs Peer to Peer Support Data/File Management Time “Intangibles” Associated With Change Can be up to 60% of TCO Metacommunication according to Gartner Hidden Cost Drivers
    17. 17. Hidden and Not-So-Hidden Cost Drivers at My Place Autonomy vs. “Cultural Attachment to Consensus” Spontaneity Customization (My Personal Favorite) University Affiliation/Database Integration School Offices Slow to Own Evolving Data Needs
    18. 18. Other Current Cost Drivers A/V Convergence VOIP (IP based telephone systems) Evolution of MultiFunction Devices (MFDs) Escalating Demand for School Communication Increased School Data Needs/Data Integration Across Discrete Solutions IP Based Security Systems Netbooks/Mobile Devices Demand for multimedia over the network (Bandwidth)
    19. 19. There is no set TCO formula. Its value to your school hinges on what you choose to include.
    20. 20. Question 2: Answer: Determine Your Value of Investment How do we (VOI) measure ROI and therefore establish http:///www.cosn.org priorities?
    21. 21. What’s the Difference? VOI ROI Tangible Outcomes “Soft” or Intangible Benefits Objective Subjective Quantitative Qualitative Summative Formative Source: Educause Center for Applied Research, Research Bulletin, Volume 2003, Issue 18, September 2, 2003: “Value on Investment in Higher Education,” Donald M. Norris, Strategic Initiatives, Inc.
    22. 22. Project Risk Curricular Fit Mission Fit Factors Equity Student Engagement Affecting User Satisfaction VOI Political Return Staff Retention ...and more
    23. 23. CoSN’s VOI tool kit provides a great place to start
    24. 24. Answer: Question 3: What are you trying to accomplish? Given finite This will vary from school to resources, school. where should we But in general, some areas be spending on need more attention from technology? independent schools. Remember: time is often > money
    25. 25. Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity Planning Risk Eliminating human and technical single points of Management failure Documenting critical system operations
    26. 26. Tech Staffing Clarify roles and responsibilities; monitor workload Write job descriptions and evaluate regularly; get the right people on board and the wrong people off Once you have good people, let them do their jobs Give your tech leader your support -- and a place at the cabinet table Outsource wisely
    27. 27. Nothing drops ROI or VOI like a lame network Whatever happens next in technology, it will need Infrastructure bandwidth and electricity The unsexy stuff needs you: decent server closets, service contracts, battery backups
    28. 28. This is more about spending time than money Admin staff are almost always neglected on PD Professional days; they are your best Development targets for investment No curriculum review should take place without a tech component that drives teachers’ PD needs
    29. 29. Success=more work ahead A Few Random If you build it, they will NOT come Thoughts on IT Networked technology Spending compels interdependence, thus disrupting silos
    30. 30. Question 4: Are there new technologies Answer: relevant to ALWAYS schools that we should be looking at?
    31. 31. Server Virtualization: One Server Becomes Many More virtual servers = less: Hardware -- Service Contracts -- Power Consumption Cooling Demand --Down Time
    32. 32. “Cloud” Computing Delivering hosted services over the Internet..
    33. 33. Open Source Applications Productivity Learning Image Web content OS Suite Management manipulation management Crowdsourced, open architecture applications written and maintained by a worldwide developer network. Source code available generally at no cost. The source code is “no cost.” Implementing open source takes time and a learning curve for tech staff and for users.
    34. 34. Mobile Devices/Handhelds
    35. 35. Answer: Question 4: Does the answer really matter? Is using technology If it does matter, what do you expect it to do? overrated?
    36. 36. What Technology Can’t Do for You
    37. 37. Technology Shines When It: Empowers us to create things we care about Minimizes drudgery Helps us tell compelling stories Expands our world Helps us be good stewards of resources entrusted to us Offers new opportunities for ethical fitness, moral courage, and service to others
    38. 38. CFOs Can Be “Change Agents” Partner with your CTO Learn to lean into the discomfort that technology creates Grow your tolerance for risk; reward it judiciously Model good technology use Expect accountability for resources you provide Work toward a predictable, sustainable budget that can accommodate steady growth Build trust through transparency and open dialogue
    39. 39. Q and A? Thanks to Barbara Swanson, the Program Committee, and you, a fine audience. Please feel free to stop by if you are in Chicago. I really mean it. curt@ucls.uchicago.edu

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