From education to employment

Why IT Managers in Further Education need to stop thinking they should be Superhuman

Jamie Wilson

In this feature, Jamie Wilson explores how IT managers can’t be experts in every aspect of IT, and how collaboration can ensure their success in today’s fast-paced and ever-evolving tech landscape.

The further education sector is undergoing a revolution. Digital platforms are becoming increasingly integrated into the student learning environment, and IT managers are under immense pressure to keep up.

IT teams are responsible for ensuring connectivity and collaboration for the entire institution as well as providing academic and personal support for students. However, with the rate of digital adoption and fast-paced advances in technology, it is not feasible for IT managers to have a comprehensive knowledge of everything.

IT specialists may have a broad understanding of technology and be experts in their field, but that does not mean they know – or can deliver – everything required for IT across an entire educational institution. For example, specialist sports suites need in-depth smart technology to monitor movement and energy burned and spot potential medical weaknesses in study patients. However, this is a very different set of technology to an interactive lecture theatre that can incorporate sound, lighting, visuals, and even log attendance. And this is different again to high-end gaming PCs for e-sports.

IT managers with in-depth knowledge of one area cannot be expected to have the same level of expertise in a different specialist sector. By definition, educational campuses are a hive of learning and development across a broad range of areas. Just as lecturers in one discipline would not be expected to deliver teaching in another adjacent field, the same is true for IT managers.

To avoid burnout and acknowledge these limitations, IT managers working in an educational institution must accept that limited resources and budgets constrain them and that there are a finite number of IT specialists. This acknowledgement can change the mindset and enable IT managers to focus on broader objectives instead of the day-to-day minutiae.

 The vital role of Lifelong Learning

Continuous Professional Development (CPD) is essential in all disciplines, but especially critical for IT managers. The IT industry constantly evolves, with new technologies and trends always emerging. To stay ahead of the curve, IT managers must become lifelong learners.

This doesn’t mean IT managers need to be experts in every new technology. However, they need to be familiar with the latest trends and developments in the industry. They also need to be able to learn new things quickly and adapt to change.

Professors and lecturers of IT and technology need to keep abreast of the latest developments continuously, so why would an IT manager be any different? Specialisms or applications they worked with two or three years ago are likely to have been improved or updated and the onus is on specialists to continually update their skillset and knowledge base to avoid being left behind. By staying up to date with the latest advancements, they can anticipate potential challenges ahead and drive innovation within their organisations.

The Power of Asking for Help

IT managers often bear the weight of complex problems on their shoulders. However, acknowledging the power of external support networks can significantly enhance their ability to overcome challenges and help ensure they keep up-to-date with developments that will improve their own practice. Once IT managers have recognised the immense pressure they put themselves under to manage and deliver in all areas, they can then review and address the most pressing issues that require their attention or a specific skill set that the IT manager can identify and outsource.

IT managers in further education will lead major projects more effectively by taking a collaborative approach. This means seeking the assistance or expert knowledge of others, rather than trying to do everything themselves. By working with external specialists, IT managers can ensure that projects are delivered successfully, while maintaining a holistic overview of the project and guiding it forward. This approach can help IT managers to avoid the pressure of taking on too much work, and to stay up to date with the latest technologies.

Here are some specific ways that IT managers can take a collaborative approach:

  • Create cross-functional teams. This means bringing together people from different departments or disciplines to work on a project. This helps ensure all aspects of the project are considered and that the best possible solution is found.
  • Use project management tools. Several project management tools are available that can help IT managers to track  project progress, communicate with team members, and identify and resolve problems.
  • Hold regular meetings. Regular meetings with team members and stakeholders can keep everyone on the same page and help identify potential issues early on.
  • Be flexible. Things don’t always go according to plan, so it’s essential for IT managers to be flexible and adaptable. This means being willing to change direction if necessary, and to make decisions quickly.

IT managers in the further education sector can gain a significant advantage by tapping into the knowledge and experience of their external network, allowing them to drive innovation within their institution while exploring new technological domains. It also provides them with an opportunity for upskilling, which may have been difficult to achieve alongside other ongoing projects.

Working with a partner with specialist knowledge of the education sector can help ease some of the burden on IT managers. Novatech has been working within the education sector for more than 35 years and has recently been awarded a position in an exclusive technology consortium, utilising its specialist knowledge to help the education sector access the most up-to-date and cost-effective technology solutions.

By fostering a culture of collaboration and embracing external expertise, IT managers can tap into a wealth of knowledge and experience that helps them deliver innovative technology for their educational institution.

Once the details and delivery are delegated, IT managers can approach challenges with a more open mindset and a problem-solving attitude, bringing the benefit of their expertise rather than putting unrealistic pressure on themselves to be superhuman in their skillset, efficiency, and delivery.

By Jamie Wilson, Chief Technology Officer at IT Partner Novatech

FE News on the go…

Welcome to FE News on the go, the podcast that delivers exclusive articles from the world of further education straight to your ears.

We are experimenting with Artificial Intelligence to make our exclusive articles even more accessible while also automating the process for our team of project managers.

In each episode, our thought leaders and sector influencers will delve into the most pressing issues facing the FE sector, offering their insights and analysis on the latest news, trends, and developments.

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