Anyone can hire a consultant

It is difficult for school administrators to know what they are getting when they recruit someone to lead their IT programs and/or manage their IT infrastructure. After all if the person comes with a good reference then they probably can do the job. However this may mean out sourcing every school project to a third-party. Administrators often hire people, who simply hire people. This practice causes budgets to sky rocket as every project comes with it’s normal cost plus a consulting mark-up.

Choosing a person can be done more strategically by profiling the type of person you need, and this need of course should have been determined by people in the community who have voiced their opinions on the where they feel the direction of IT should be heading. Often this comes by way of complaints and ranting emails, but all the clues should be somewhere in the community.

First and foremost you need to know if you need someone to build or re-build your infrastructure. This person will not be a long term contract. You will bring them in for 2-5 years. This is not someone who is going to patiently sit around and manage printers and order software. This person is a builder, someone with big ideas and they will have a “hands-on” sense about them. The knowledge to plan a new infrastructure, or up-grade an aging one, comes from making mistakes. It comes from understanding how problems in networks cascade, and how data needs to be structured, maintained, and archived.

The next type of person you might be looking for is the day-to-day status quo administrator. This person needs to be someone who the community can relate to, they need diplomatic skills for managing users and service agreements with vendors. These people also need to know how to integrate technology into the class room. If you do not see a need for a major network or system overhaul within 2 years of hiring them, then they will have plenty of time to do research and find a good solutions partners to deliver upgrades and changes.

The third type of person to seek out is the IT coordinator. This person is usually supporting an IT manager and the teachers and students in the classroom. They need to be an extreme hobbyist, with good research skills, creative problem solving skills, and the ability to translate between the IT Department and the rest of the school.

No matter what type of skill set you decide on or come across you need someone who cares about education. You need someone who understands the irrational demands created by students, stressed-out teachers, and parents. You need someone who can relate to people who are not solely motivated by money and stock-options. Trust me on this, your IT People need to be the beating heart of your institution. Not everything in a school will be about the bottom-line, and many problems are created from the challenge of trying to help others achieve something new. A good IT leader will on occasion make a risky budgetary move, gambling on the un-known educational returns. They will not always measure the ROI on money alone. They have to to care about learning, helping people, and creating opportunities for a community.

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