If you manage ICT in your school BETT can create pressure on your purse strings. You are highly likely to get many requests for new educational gadgetry from your colleagues, and you may even be tempted to purchase a few things yourself. How can you objectively plan to ensure value for money and not end up spending your precious budget on unnecessary things?
The solution: implement a ‘Requests for Change’ process now – in January or February – BEFORE the budgets need to be prepared.
5 steps to budgeting heaven:
1. Design a 'Requests for Change' formThe RFC can be electronic or paper but it should contain as a minimum the following headings:
- Name of change
(e.g. Visualisers in Art department)
- Brief description
(All 4 art rooms need visualisers and projectors for teachers to demonstrate techniques.)
- Further details of change
(We’ve researched several products and like the XYZ visualiser. We know we need projectors too but we don’t need speakers or interactive whiteboards. In fact we would like the screens to be pull down so we can continue to use all our wall space to showcase children’s best work.)
- How will this benefit teaching and learning? (All students at key stage 3 will benefit as we have large classes and it is always difficult to demonstrate things.)
(Mrs A Teacher)
2. Distribute the form to the middle leaders in the schoolMake it clear that this year you will only be planning the ICT budget based on completed RFCs. No last minute requests. No favours called in. No buying things out of a different budget and then telling you about it afterwards. Everything above board, planned, objective, clear. Make sure they tell their staff that too. You are not being difficult – you are being organised.
3. Use it yourselfYou may know about things that you would like to spend money on. Now is an excellent time to review your current ICT estate and fill in an RFC for everything you think the school should spend money on. You may want to put a business case for a new administration server, a different backup system, a managed wireless system or you know you need to replace the laptops in room 4 or the cabling to the drama block that are aging and becoming unreliable. As the ICT Manager you could end up filling in quite a few RFC’s!
4. Convene an ICT steering groupYour ICT steering group should include someone technical, someone from the senior management team, someone who makes financial decisions within the school and the ICT Coordinator / Director of ICT. Sometimes it is useful also to include the site manager if some of the RFCs might mean changes to the building in anyway.
Score every RFC with a number of metrics that make sense to your school. I would use a 1-5 scale for cost (5 is cheapest), a 1-5 scale for potential impact (5 meaning it will impact on the learning for all students) and 1-5 scale for synergy to ICT strategy (if the strategy is to move towards online learning then 5 represents a project that perfectly supports that strategy). You can then find the product of those three scores and this will give you a sense of what priority you should give this project. The higher the result the more likely it will feature on your budget.
(Reject the RFCs that score badly and the steering group feel definitely should not feature on the budget. Feedback to the originator why it was rejected this year.)
5. Feasibility studiesWith the RFCs you are seriously considering now is the time to invest a little bit of work to assess the actual feasibility. In its simplest form you should now talk to suppliers and establish real costs (not estimates), establish a real plan for how you would implement it (easy if you are replacing laptops, difficult if you are installing a new server), assess what the risks are with this project (upgrading a server is likely to create a loss in service – when is this acceptable). Ideally you get someone else to check through these plans to ensure you have thought of everything.
Hooray! You are there - budgeting heaven is before you.
When it is time to sit down and prepare the budget later this term you have a clear list of all the possible ICT expenditure you could be making, it is prioritised and costed so you can write your budget with ease.
Further supportThe RFC system is covered as part of the Framework for IT Support (FITS) course that Redbridge LA runs termly. The next time this course is scheduled to run is on the 5th and 6th March 2012. The cost of this two day course depends on where your school is based. (LGFL schools can access a 20% discount.) Please contact us directly to find out more.
Alex Rees, @alxr1
This article is part of the ICT-Redbridge Management Calendar (ICT-RMC).