TRSO: Information Gathering
To understand what is needed and build the vision of your organization, you will need to gather some information on existing systems, users, and future needs. You cannot know too much about the needs you are trying to fulfill. So take some time in this and be sure someone qualified and capable of overseeing the effort is in charge. This work should be led by an experienced systems analyst.
Good organizations are built with a solid understanding of what the needs are and should be flexible enough to accommodate anticipated growth. I suggest that you break these into present, near term, and future. Present would include all existing needs, those soon to exist from systems purchased but not yet delivered, and needs from funds currently budgeted but not yet spent on purchasing new technology requiring support (current fiscal year). Near term are those requirements expected the next fiscal year. Future needs are those beyond the next fiscal year (FY) that are anticipated based on current demands and demand growth as well as new initiatives to add systems and extend capabilities to existing systems (i.e. extend or expand scope of existing systems). I also recommend that the future needs be planned for at least 4 years beyond the current fiscal year.
INVENTORY OF SYSTEMS
If an inventory does not exist, perform one. You will find this information invaluable not only for developing your organization, but also for such things as budget development, planning new projects, determining impact of new systems, determining impact of staffing changes on support, etc. You will gather information that will be useful in determining a system’s needs, its interfaces, who uses it, what it is used for and when it is needed. If never previously accomplished, this may take some time initially, but is relatively simple to maintain thereafter. A good time to update the inventory information is prior to the start of budget planning. Some important information to gather is provided in the table below.
BUDGET AND SPENDING PLANS
Solicit from all managers information on what they will be buying in the current FY. Also, determine what their plans for support are (i.e. are they purchasing vendor support). Be sure to get in the loop on all purchases of new systems and software so you will have advance warning of what is coming regardless of what you are told by managers. The best of plans change and you do not want to be caught unaware. This is best implemented as an approval on all contracts and purchases of technology related systems, components and services.
BOARD, CABINET, AND MANAGER FUTURE NEEDS
Future needs point to how the organization must grow and, thus, where it needs flexibility and special attention. Anticipating support growth will allow for preparing the appropriate plans and organization to support this need. Solicit from all managers what their specific purchasing plans are and where they believe growth in technology assets or services will be. If your district does a detailed breakdown of goals to the manager level from Board/Superintendent Goals, then be sure you analyze each division manager’s goals along with your own to determine where new systems, automation, services, and support augmentation would be useful then discuss your findings with appropriate managers. Be sure district and manager priorities are understood and assigned to any projects or initiatives resulting from your analysis of goals. When reviewing needs, including division manager goals, it is best to get inputs from a variety of information system (IS) professionals for their perspectives. So draft an approach to meeting the needs and goals and be sure to let everyone in the IS department review pertinent aspects of the proposals.