A Positive Start Matters


By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on LinkedIn

Stress at the start of the school year is normal. I firmly believe that a positive start leads to a positive year. Here are some suggestions I like to give to people at the start of the year.

What do you need to start the school year?

Students. Teachers. And a place for them to meet. Many of the things people stress about are not required to actually start the school year. Remember, not everything can be the most important. If everything is critical, and everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority.

No, really, what do you need to start the school year?

Here is a core checklist for the school start-up:

  • A roster of students who should be attending
  • A roster of students who left, to make certain they do not return without re-enrollment
  • Schedules (or at least a plan for the first week while scheduling is being sorted)
  • Lunch planning needs to be sorted and should be running smoothly; food is important; the communal time is important
  • Two to three weeks of lesson plans that can be executed with the resources from the previous year
  • Buddies for new staff, with a simple schedule to keep them connected and interacting
  • Short meetings scheduled to touch base on facilities issues; administrators should take the issues down and get everyone back to work
  • If the technology is being unreliable, remove layers of complexity, and simply give people access to the internet; new management protocols and summer updates can take weeks to sort out
  • Keep students connecting socially, and offline; build community first and the curriculum will be easier to deliver

Consider Staying Offline for a Few Days

For students under USA grade level 3, I would keep them offline for 2-3 weeks. Focus on social interactivity, building a relationship with their teachers, and learning how everything works within the learning environment.

For students in who are USA grade levels 3 -5 and middle school grades 6-8, I would keep them offline for at least a week. I would make sure they do a full review of the school’s AUP and Digital Citizenship program.

High school students in USA grade levels 12 and 11 should be the main focus of IT for the first two days of school. Grades 9-10 can wait. Once the upper grade technology is sorted, move down to 9-10. Remember, high school students are flexible, and they can meet IT for support in varying intervals. High school should be all online within the first four days of school.

The Big Bang is Not Good for Stress

The Big Bang Implementation Approach  (big bang), is something schools tend to do annually. Basically, they try to do everything for everyone at once. For example, connecting all BYOD devices K-12 in one day. Think about who needs access, and when they need it. Consider the curriculum. What percentage of a grade level’s content is only available with a device in hand? Do the higher percentages first, and the rest later following a steady pace.

Communicate the planning to everyone. Take a breath. And keep the school start steady, positive, and peaceful.

Tech Savvy, Are Your Sure?

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

There are many uncomfortable situations people in technology leadership have to endure annually. Normally, uncomfortable situations are created because someone did not understand the far reaching ramifications of a single bad decision. Often, these are not isolated incidents. Too often, in meeting rooms or private conferences, these words hang in the air when such uncomfortable situations occur, “Tech Savvy”.

What Does it Mean to be Savvy?

savvier; savviest
: having or showing perception, comprehension, or shrewdness especially in practical matters

the quality of having or showing good powers of judgement.

I think something often ignored in a definition, is how it connects to other concepts. If savvy has a relationship with shrewdness, then a savvy person needs to be shrewd in order to be savvy.

Being savvy does not simply mean being informed, it means being able to make decisions (often tactical decisions) in very difficult circumstances.

Defining Tech Savvy

I have been working in some type of technology field, or technology skill related job, since I was 19 years old. In 24 years, I do think I have ever said I am tech savvy. I would need to review many thousands of words I have published, but I am certain that day-to-day I avoid using the term.

I have tried many times to define what Tech Savvy means. I have often thought having a “Tech Savvy” certification for teachers would be an interesting idea.

Unfortunately, every time I try to define the term, outline the metrics, and make a public statement for people to comment on, I pause.

Technology is a generic term for a massively diverse universe of things, concepts, solutions, and industries.

Educational Technology, EdTech, would seem to be an area of technology that is easy to define. Being Tech Savvy in EdTech should be easy to define, and T-shirts should be printed in mass.









Even EdTech, is hard to define. Some core areas of EdTech many teachers and administrators do not fully or completely understand:

  • Data standardization
  • Assessment Data Collection and Analysis
  • Data Privacy
  • Transcription
  • Scheduling
  • Network Security to align with Child Protection and Academic Honesty Enforcement
  • Admissions Processes and Withdrawal Processes

In international education each one of the above is more complex, and they often need to meet multiple language and governmental requirements.

To not completely understand, means, there is a lack of shrewdness. So, who should be making these decisions? Sitting in these meetings? And, who knows everything?

No One is Tech Savvy

There is a Japanese proverb I studied many years ago. It states: Even the Monkey can Fall from the Tree.

Even though I spend hundreds of hours a month working on multiple EdTech projects, I take time to pause and plan each project. I do make mistakes. I also take steps so I can revert my mistakes. I expect to make mistakes. Maybe I am Mistake Savvy?

I research projects, even if I have done similar projects multiple times. I look for new models, and methods. I consult dozens of professionals, and open the door so they can easily consult me. Writing a consultation for a third-party, is one of the best ways to measure knowledge, and ignorance. Can you make a plan, that someone else can follow, but you cannot direct? 

I am never going to be confident enough to say that I am universally Tech Savvy.

I would rate myself as an expert in some areas of EdTech. However, for each of those areas I continue to study. The more I study, the more I realize there is to learn. Maybe I am a Savvy Student?

To have a good culture in a school, or any organization, I believe in avoiding labels. No one should be left making decisions alone, especially when student data and learning is at risk. Being shrewd and tactical is powerful in a leader, but it is even more powerful in a team.

Fix Your Mission Statement

I firmly believe in good mission statements. I have seen many mission statements, but have seen very few good ones. Leaders need missions statements. Everyone in leadership feels isolated at times, and, they often believe they need to be shrewd to stay relevant.

To avoid bad decisions, and to neutralize bad labels, add this to your mission statement: Do No Harm, Now and in the Future.

Students leave. They move on. That is the purpose of education. All present decisions, impact students after they leave. I have found no better way to plan long term than to plan to support students after they leave, and never to impeded them.

Planning only for now, or until a student moves from grade-to-grade (or class to class), will do harm.

A long term view of students, and their academic and professional lives, is a defense against the short term bad decisions individuals and teams can make.

A person can be Tech Savvy right now, but rarely, as Tech Savvy in the near future. Take the long term view.  Do not try and be savvy in something that is always changing, and often filled with false promises and overstated features.

Be a savvy planner. Be a savvy researcher.



Inventory – Just do it!

For the past three weeks I’ve been putting together an inventory for our school. We’ve never had one here before so I thought it was time to make that change, but this post will explain why we did it, how we did it and how we will use it going forward.

I will start off by explaining why we didn’t have an inventory in place and what prompted me to decide now was a good time to set one up. My school is small, less than 500 students and it only goes up to 8th grade. Like a lot of schools (large and small) widespread WiFi is pretty new. Less than 5 years old. Before that we had desktop computers, plugged into our local network with an ethernet cable. So if we had a room, we most likely had a desktop computer in it. Taking inventory would be as quick as looking at a map and counting.

With WiFi at the school people no longer wanted desktops. They wanted laptops. Fair enough, now we have devices that are no longer “chained” to a desk and most likely leave the campus every night when our teachers would go home. This would have been an ideal time to start the inventory. Now we have student iPads, computer carts, teacher iPads and spare laptops. Now there are a lot of moving devices on and off campus – I felt an inventory was essential.


A lot of people think that the purpose of an inventory is track who has what device and you know what? They’re not wrong. It is good to know who has what device and to track any problems with the device and so on. Having a record of the device itself is also valuable. If we know it is a device that is constantly causing issues, then it may have to be taken out of service for repair or replaced. An inventory helps you track these issues.

Also, when budget time rolls around it is good to know how many older devices we have and how many of those we need to recycle and replace. Instead of guessing, jotting down notes, setting up multiple meetings with people, you can run a report and discuss who has what device and if it does need to be replaced. Now you have concrete numbers to work with, not just educated guesses. When you are dealing with concrete numbers, then you greatly reduce the risk of over or underbuying a product. This is a good.

How we set it up

There are a lot of inventory systems out there and most are expensive. I didn’t want to spend money on this system. As I mentioned we are a small school with one campus. Most proprietary systems are way more than what we need. Here is what I wanted. A system with a lot of search features, a number of fields that I could manipulate for each device and a way to export that data (PDF, CSV or Excel). Oh yeah, I didn’t want to pay for it or pay very little (ideally less than $100/year).

I found (thanks Tony) GLPI. This is a free open source inventory and ticketing system. It does a lot more than just that, but this is all I needed. There are others out there, Spiceworks and OCS. They seemed pretty good but I was familiar with GLPI and I didn’t see a real advantage of the others.

There is a catch with open source software. There is no support line. You need to trouble shoot it all on your own. Also, you need to host it. We have it hosted locally on a Mac Mini using MAMP (which is also free). I’ll write more about how to set up GLPI and MAMP on a Mac – it’s easy and you don’t need to be a super techy person either.

Once installed, I started to configure it. I wanted to know where in the school (middle school, lower school, office, etc.), if it was working, who was using it, inventory number, serial number, etc. Check out the screen shot below.

When I add a device, it looks like this. I have a few templates. They basically fill in some basic information about the device ahead of time.

Then I can input all the information I need. If you are setting up your own, don’t feel the need to fill in al the information. Only record what you need. Sometimes too much information just gets in the way. This info is basically all that I needed. With this info, I can tell if the device is allocated to a student or faculty member, where, who, what type of device (which gives me a solid idea of how old it is) and if it was a student, when they graduate.

From that first screen. I am able to search based on any of those criteria that I inputed. So, if I want to see how many MacBook Air computers we have allocated to students, I can see that!

If I want to export that search result, I have a bunch of options. I can do PDF, CSV or SLK (apparently this is Microsoft format meant to transfer info from databases to spreadsheets).

The system wasn’t entirely free. The software (GLPI and MAMP) was free, but I wanted a bar code scanner and a label maker. Here is what I purchased (all from Amazon). The bar code scanner is this guy. He s cheap and seems somewhat reliable and so far has worked fine.

For the label maker I went with Brother. They make good label makers and I wanted one that I could connect to my computer and print out a bunch at once. Brother has some software that allows it to pull data from a CSV file so it will print lists of people. Nice.

I spent a little more than I wanted and picked up this guy. DON’T BUY FROM BROTHER DIRECT!! This same printer was $150 MORE!

Then I bought some label tape. I bought black on white but made sure to get the extra strength. I wanted to get the silver with black letters, but I found out that the barcode reader will not read them reliably.

How I can use it

As I mentioned before, I can use this data in a variety of ways. Of course I can track who has what and even record anecdotal notes such as the condition, minor observable damages, etc.

Our school is in the midst of reaccreditation and this data will be very useful for our report. We can say how many devices students have, the ratios of those devices to students in each grade and really demonstrate how many opportunities students have to engage and utilize technology.

From a budget perspective, I now have a very clear understanding of what devices we have and what we need. We budgeted that our devices should be replaced every four years. Running a few reports on GLPI will give me a specific number of what devices are ready to be recycled. No guesswork anymore. We know that we have 47 devices that meet that criteria and therefore that’s what we need to order.

If a teacher wants more devices, since we have such a strong sense of what the budget will be, we can sit down and talk options. It’s not one of those Well, let’s wait and see, situations. You know how many devices you need, you know the price, you have a working budget and should be able to talk intelligently with that person about what to expect.

Inventories are important, but they don’t need to be done just at the upper echelons of administration. You can use GLPI for a lot of different situations. You could use it to set up your own classroom library. This way you could track who has what book and how popular some books are compared to others!

Ever try to keep track of theater or IT equipment? This could be your answer. Know who is working with what and for how long. I am sure there are other examples too, please leave your ideas and examples in the comments section!

STUCK in a an Authentication Loop being Pwned


By Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

There are two things you never want to happen. #1 – You never want anyone to gain access to the root user or super user account of any system or piece of hardware. Even an air purifier or printer can be turned against your network if this happens. #2 – You never want an application to be stuck in an Authentication Loop where the password it is trying to use is no longer valid. On Friday the 13th, 2016, this is what happened to me and my team.

Authentication Loop

Imagine a two year old that has decided to say the same word over and over all day. Maybe something like, “No!” or “Nope”, or even “DogDogDog”. After about four or five hours, most people would be near the edge of insanity. This is the same thing that can happen to a database when a program sends the wrong password to the database a hundred times in a minute.

The database is like, “Hey! This is wrong. Stop sending me this password!” Then the database decides to make a note every time it happens. In about 60 seconds (in my case) that equates, or equated, to about twenty notes. This is roughly 1200 notes in a minute.

The database is not happy about working so hard, so it locks the application out, and no longer allows the application, or the IP address from where that application lives, to try to connect anymore. It removes all VIP privileges, and sends that application back outside to wait in line with the other services who may or may not be allowed to join the club later.

Being PWNED as a Team

Skipping all the technical details, my team and I knew what was causing the problem. We followed the DIY steps on the support forum only to find that none of them worked. We also found via forum comments some people never gained control of the problem and waited days for a third party to rescue them. It was pretty hopeless. Hopeless is a term used in education when a program or service is about to be the focus of 1000 parents doing online registration, and that program or service is offline. It was hopeless.

Anyway, we were PWNED or Owned or being controlled by someone’s badly written software with a broken process for updating it’s login credentials. We were under its control, even though it only really had the same control my cat does over her need to constantly go outside and back inside, and then back outside.

I can say though, it is much better to have a team approach to solving problems, even if some people on the team are asking seemingly unrelated questions. I noticed on the discussion forums that people who seemed to never solve the issue, were lone tech people in a basement somewhere trying to speak the illogical cat language of the faulty program. I was lucky to have a person next to me, and a person on email, standing by for support. I also had two people to manage the complaints that were streaming in.  I cannot imagine working on the technology and emailing the frustrated families at the same time. All in, 5 people.

Why Those in Education Need to Care about this Story

This story is not about technology, or a cat. This is about a department that had a plan for disasters. A department that had a team which had practice responding to problems, and containing the damage. Forget prevention. When the unknown happens, life is about containment. Prevention is too late when the problem occurred in the past. Focusing on prevention in the middle of a crisis is a fools errand.

Anyone who is in a leadership role needs to sit down with their teams a few times a semester, and instead of reviewing jobs and complaining about people, the team needs to imagine disaster. The team needs to imagine multiple lose-lose scenarios where there may not be a positive outcome.

Working through this thought exercise is the best way to prepare for the unknown. When things do happen, a team who has practiced is going to be in the correct mindset. Eventually they will calm down and the panic will subside. Once each member knows they are supported and have a job to do (and not all jobs to do) then, and only then, is a possible solution going to appear.

In education there is too much time spent focusing on the positives, not being critical, and not actually discussing the worst case scenarios. Scenarios are often specific to each operational department. Although a school might prepare for a fire or earthquake, they probably are not preparing for an angry parent attacking the institution with a onslaught of paid social media. That can be just as damaging as a fire, and actually worse, since there is no such thing as social media smackdown insurance.

Departments of ONE are a Bad Idea

Never have a department or team of ONE. If there is a department of ONE add someone to that department as a liaison or assistant. Any administrator can be an assistant to a department. Administrators often can help improve communication in an emergency and bring other resources to bear. Leading in one area, should not exclude people from being a participant in another area.

A department of ONE, regardless of their skill level, cannot work and communicate at the same time. Both functions are important. School leadership needs to audit all departments and support functions(groups) to ensure no one is standing alone in an emergency.

Had I been alone on Friday the 13th, my only solution would have been a broadcast email to parents telling them the system was offline until further notice. Imagine reading that message. As a tuition paying member of the community, how would you feel?

It is going to happen. You and your department, or campus, or team will be PWNED. Prepare. Think. Be paranoid. When the initial noise has subsided and the problem is clear attack, and work, and if you fail do it together. If nothing else, it makes for a better story.

Tony DePrato





Lesson Plans : Essential and Often Forgotten


Last week was a transition point in the year. After introducing a new position at the campus, my time has finally be able to shift away from pure technology, and back to educational technology. This has been a struggle for me for more than two years. The work was needed, but now, I welcome the change.

A teacher was absent last week, and I heard some rumblings about lesson plans. As any administrator knows, no one ever says anything great about lesson plans. The norm is a nonverbal look of piercing annoyance when lesson plans are mentioned.

I actually created the school’s lesson plan archive, so I decided to explore the contents. I found many inconsistencies. I realized that unless this content translated clearly down into the classroom, outward to the parents, and internally to the curriculum mapping, it just was not worth doing.

I cannot mandate lesson planning for most departments. However, I did go to the head of the school and request that I be allowed to lead the ICT department in a brief project to clean-up lesson plans, plan for long term leave, and develop a system to help non-ICT teachers deliver ICT lessons. I was given a green light.

I met with the ICT coordinator (in my school structure I am not the head of the subject), and reviewed the issues. She agreed, and she had even better ideas than I did. The department is small, so the plan came together quickly. I formally sent an email saying that as Head of Technology and with the direct support of the Principal, all ICT lesson planning will follow this plan, etc. and here is a template. I added the words non-negotiable, to make sure I was clear.

Why People Hate Formal Planning

Here are the reasons I think most people dislike lesson planning:

  • They feel like they know the material, so why does it need to be written out in detail.
  • They might want to make changes, and adjust during the week, therefore it is a waste of time.
  • Time. Lesson planning is time consuming.
  • Plans are written for other people to read, which adds a level of formality not needed by the person writing the plan.
  • No one ever checks the lesson plans, so they are a waste of effort.
  • IF the school has curriculum mapping or an online class management system, lesson plans are redundant.

Why Administrators and Heads of Department Should Ignore All These Reasons

I also hate lesson planning. Only after heading a department and being an administrator did I see the value. Only after having a colleague take emergency long term leave did I realize how negatively missing lesson plans can affect an entire division of teachers and students. With this experience under my belt, I no longer support lax planning.

Let’s start with a current educational topic that seems to be part of most of the conversations I have been having in the last six years, curriculum mapping. Although a curriculum map can contain lesson plans, and although the building of a map can be done in such a way that people can search for plans down to a given day, curriculum mapping is not a process designed for day-to-day lesson tracking. The data can be very difficult to read, since it should be connect to longitudinal information spanning the entire school.
Technology should always be applied to the scope of it’s design, and the concept of a single perfect solution should be clearly avoided. Tools are used when needed, and technology is a tool. Hint: Single Sign-On, Not Secure, but It gets rid of many complaints.

Online course management systems can easily hold a lesson plan, but the breakdown of links and activities is not a lesson plan. I am often guilty of using this as an excuse for not adding a formal document to explain, in detail, a particular area of an online course. Systems like Edmodo move chronologically and the content can shift down quickly. Lesson plans get lost in systems like this unless there is a very strict standard for where the go and how they are referenced. Therefore, lesson plans can be included in online learning systems, but they probably need to “live” somewhere else.

After winning the redundancy argument, you can ignored everything else, because lesson planning is not about being convenient. It is about being accountable to the students, families, and other people in the school. It is about having something that can allow a person to subtract themselves from the equation that is the school, without leaving a huge damaging hole in the educational pathways that children follow day-to-day.

Administration and Oversight

If lesson planning is a requirement, a non-negotiable, a strain on everyone’s time, and a important- then make it important. I believe Stephen Covey said, “Do the important things first.” As an administrator or head of department that means read the lesson plans and occasionally make sure the lessons in the classroom matched the plans.

Make sure teachers know plans are being checked. Comment on good ones. Have meetings about bad ones. Make planning important by making it come before broad conversations around curriculum mapping, homework, etc.

Remember, technology for lesson planning can and should be simple. Do not over complicate your processes. If the school has some software or platform that has organically developed a smarted lesson planning process, then stick with it. However, if people are comfortable using normal documents and a shared folder, then maintain the simplicity. The second the focus shifts from good planning to high tech solutions for planning, problems will arise.

The Standard

Everything needs a measurement or a standard. For lesson planning, that standard is simple: If a stranger (Teacher-Administrator-Parent) were to read the lesson plan would they understand the learning objectives. 

Not the HOW. Not the WHAT. Just the WHY and the OUTCOME.


Tony DePrato



2015 – Bad IT Planning is Still Going Strong


Consider this question: If you want to run an event, start a new curriculum, communicate better with organisational stakeholders, audit for efficiency, train a group of people economically, or simply show a movie to a large group of people, would you do those things with technology? Would you require support from specialists or tech support?

The answers are simple. Yes, technology is required. Yes, most people need help doing anything outside of their normal routine. I would estimate that 90% of the events and activities within organisations require technology and technology support. Unfortunately, only a small fraction of those people planning events or core organisational changes take the time to plan for technology, and with specialists, before finalising plans.

It seems to be assumed that anyone working in the Technology Department can support any type of project, without time for planning and preparation. There needs to be a fundamental shift in the way planning looks at technology. Technology and those that can manage an implementation are not trivial accessories. They are a necessity.

I often find that people in tech support are juggling problems that are occurring in realtime due to organisers being unprepared. The expectation that “things should work”, is unrealistic when those “things” go from unknown to known minute-by-minute.

The scale of this problem is not limited to trivial activities such as presentations and one-off media projects. As anecdotal evidence I would like to offer this gem: A building project to construct a new performance space, not consulting the Technology Department before designing and building the facility.

The space was not built to physically accommodate the required systems needed to make the space functional. By the time anyone from the department was involved, it was too late
to change the dimensions of the space. The space will never be what it could have been, nor will ever be as cost effective and efficient as it should be.

The worst part is this anecdotal evidence is not from a single situation. This has happened to me on at least four occasions I can remember, in the last 5 years. Technology is seen as a requirement and an afterthought at the same time. This is paradoxical logic.

Working in education and education technology, I see many people wearing many different hats. Most are happy to be a teacher, a network specialist, and a live music mixing specialist, all in the course of a single day. That is not an exaggeration, that is literally how my day, and those who do my job at other schools around the world, flows.

Very few jobs require a skill set that is as diverse and flexible as those working in educational technology. Often due to budget limitations, committed educators have to create opportunities for children by creating the infrastructure and resources. Thus, Technology Departments within schools are often staffed with people who have diverse skills are varying degrees of proficiency. In other words, often they can do the impossible, but they need to study and practice. They need time. They need to prepare.

All organisations need take a step back and look at their organisational charts. They need to start shuffling the pieces to eliminate the paradox. If technology is a requirement, then it must be a requirement, a driving force, and a regulator from the beginning of any project or event. Instead of forcing the entire technology department to react and play defence, organisations need to allow technology to implement strategy and coordinate outcome.

George: I think I understand this. Jay Peterman is real. His biography is not. Now, you Kramer are real.

Kramer: Talk to me.

George: But your life is Peterman’s. Now the bus tour, which is real, takes to places that, while they are real, they are not real in sense that they did not *really* happen to the *real* Peterman which is you.

Kramer: Understand?

Jerry: Yeah. $37.50 for a Three Musketeers. ~Seinfeld , The Muffin Tops

Tony DePrato



Animal House 1978

This week I had an interesting experience. I received and email that was vague, but critical, about a project I had been working on.

Like anyone, I hate having to mull over everything I have done wrong. I do make it a point to spend the last few hours of work at the end of each week doing just that. To facilitate the reflection, I do inventory or something very mechanical while I think.

In this case though, I was confused about the comments. The reason being- the project was finished in October 2012.

I myself have to constantly follow-up on numerous projects. Almost everything I do is in the public view. This is one reason I document everything, write reports, and update the school’s IT Policy and Procedures Manual every 3-4 months. If I cannot deliver a criticism to someone within a short time after a project is finished, I just move on. The time between projects is short, so I never want to carry the negative energy from one project into another.

If I have been working with someone, and they seem to constantly repeat mistakes, I make a point to be prepared for that behavior, and deal with it while things are fluid and in progress.

As annoyed as I was, I had to admit that there was a problem. I was not sure what the problem really was, because the comments I received were very vague. I was not sure if the issues were from something else that had triggered some negative memories from October, or if, the concern arose since were approaching planning for the next year.

I dug into my Google Apps and found the IT report I wrote in November of 2012. This was a report to show the current state of IT after switching to BYOD and to Apple in the secondary division. Both projects, very huge, and they occurred concurrently.

The report clearly shows that I had summarized, with data and comments, where the school “was” after the two implementations.  The person who contacted me about the October 2012 issues, was the person I wrote this report for, and met with, in November.

I feel now that I may have been on Double Secret Probation for most of the year. What I mean by that, is, obviously for a very long time there have been concerns with the way I managed these two large implementations.  These concerns, were not voiced all year. I feel like they were not voiced because everyone was busy, and things were actually working fine when the implementation was finished.

I knew, at the time, the level of stress was high. I predicted a six month period of issues and adjustments with these two big implementations. The fact is though, we only suffered a three month adjustment period. The staff and students were amazing and adaptive. I assumed, which one should never do, that the stress among the school’s leadership team would be reduced after the staff and students had settled in. I was wrong.

I should have had more contact time with those who felt the most concerned about the projects, if they had failed.

As I have said, most of the things I do are in the face of the community, but I am not the face of community. It is easy to forget the people who are trusting the technology plan are also the people who have to be accountable for it. It was, and will always be, a mistake to not provide extra time for those whose support is the fuel for change. A lesson to not be forgotten- at least for me.

At the same time though, feedback has to come quickly to people who are working on projects. Projects require planning, budgeting, and are often connected. By not being up front, and even confrontational, about problems, the community can suffer. Mistakes can build up, and a bad project, following a bad project will lead to an exponential growth in problems.

At this stage, I am hoping last year’s data will help eliminate the stress, and get to the heart of the issues. I know one thing, I want to be off of Double Secret Probation as soon as possible.

Tony DePrato


Setting Goals without Making Loopholes


I notice people seem to set goals for their IT development that are either undefined, too general, or too specific. This causes a waste of resources and time, and often a declaration of SUCCESS! without any real results backing-up the excitement.

I think common sense can tell you where I am going with this, so I will not drag out the philosophy. Instead I am just going to outline an example that most of you can relate to, and may have even experienced.

Let’s say that the school calls a meeting and asks this question, “How can we reduce paper consumption.” After much debating and creative thinking the following directive is given : Within 2 years all of our forms, event registrations, accounting submission, and paperwork must be process electronically.”

OK that seems common and simple enough. So with this directive, the IT department makes a bunch of online forms that send emails to people and they place many well organized documents online for people to download, complete, and email.  SUCCESS!

FAIL! Utter failure. Epic Failure. Completely pointless exercise. Why?  Because the IT department does not know anything about making and implementing legal protocols related to documents. Nor do they work day-to-day with people who are joining the community. People who do this type of work are found in the legal department, human resources, registration, accounting, etc.  IT did execute the directive, but in the end all their work will tossed-out as soon as someone challenges information that was sent.

The directive needed to be more specific and drafted by multiple departments. It needed to include a checklist of objectives. This allows all stakeholders to track the success of the directive from various points-of-view. If it were me I would have written it this way:

Within 2 years our organization will establish a set of protocols and procedures for electronically processing all forms of communication between the organization, its stakeholders, and external partners. These protocols and procedures must meet all local, regional, and national requirements for secure electronic processing. In addition all community stakeholders and external partners must be fully informed and compliant with these policies and procedures. Anyone not wishing to comply with this new direction in data-management and paper reduction maybe asked to leave the community and/or supplement these procedures legally and at their own cost when paperwork is required. 

Then of course a set of criteria needed to determine success:

Human Resources:

  • Research and confirm legal requirements.
  • Document and present best-practice case studies from similar organizations with the same directive.
  • Identify areas that electronic processing is not legal.
  • Determine the legal amount of time data must be stored.

Information Technology Department:

  • Determine which forms of secure processing and authentication best meet the legal requirements put forth by HR.
  • Create a prototype solution for the legal department to evaluate. The prototype needs to include various types of electronic processing such as accounting, event registration, “calling-in sick”, etc.
  • Determine backup and archiving solutions that are redundant and cost effective.

I could go on and on. This is just a sample that I came-up with on the spot, but I do believe that setting goals and defining success is critical to real growth in an organization. We need to spend less time congratulating ourselves for empty achievements, and more time building a framework that truly measures SUCCESS!.

Tony DePrato