Support vs Service: Technology and Everything Else

keyboard and two persons on white background
keyboard and two persons on white background

Currently, my main leadership role is in technology. One thing I have begun to notice and understand is that there are two dominant perspectives among people with regard to the department of technology: Support and Service. In a school, the later can be devastating to teaching and learning, and the former can be empowering.

Support implies that the end-users know their jobs and can do their jobs most of the time. It also implies they know when to ask questions. Users wanting support often have ideas, and need help making those ideas into a reality. They need instruction and training, but they can see their own ideas through to the end.

Service implies, regardless of their role/title, the requesting employee will not do the work. Meaning, they might have an idea, but they cannot implement a solution. Service also implies that all phases of any problem, including the planning and resource allocation, will be provided by a third party.

Most schools have to prioritise their headcount to be heavy on those in the areas of teaching and learning. This means those focused on providing IT service (meaning they do not work in the curriculum), are small in number. Problems are often solved by people in multiple roles helping the community; and solutions come from small groups of specialists and often hobbyists.

A support model, and a community viewing those who are leading technology as support, is an excellent model for schools to follow and maintain their mission to focus on teaching and learning. However, if people start to see everyone who can help drive change as providing a service, then basic operations start to break down. Dependency by the many on the few creates the famed 80 20 Rule (Pareto Principle). This is not healthy in a school, and all school leadership should strive to drive the learning community away from the idea that certain people are a third-party, and at the campus to provide a service.

I am never shy to point out to people that –This is not TV. This is not Best-Buy. This is not Amazon. I am not here for service, I am here to support you.

Tony DePrato

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