Wednesday, 23 December 2015

10 Questions to ask your IT Manager (that s/he doesn't want to be asked).

These questions were drafted in order to empower school leaders to take greater ownership of the key strategic area of IT in schools.
  1. If there was a major fire in the server room, how long would it be before each of these services could be restored: email, telephones, school MIS and accounts?
  2. If a generous donation of £250,000 was given to the school specifically for IT developments (in addition to the normal budget) what would you recommend we spent it on, and what would be the advantages for the school and end users (Pupils, Staff, Parents)? 
  3. If your budget was suddenly cut by 50%, how could you cope, and what would be the effects on the School and the end users? 
  4. What would be the effect of our main Internet connection being severed by a JCB somewhere? What services would we lose? Have we any backup systems in place, or would they have also been severed by the same JCB? 
  5. Can you show me any records of the systems' reliability over the past 12 months? Do you regard the reliability as acceptable? If not, how could we improve it and how much would it cost? 
  6. What might happen if a major incident occurs while you (or any one specific member of your staff) are away on holiday abroad for 2 weeks? 
  7. How many individuals are sufficiently privileged administrators that they can see my (the Head's) documents, emails, etc.? 
  8. If a pupil got hold of a staff password, and started using it, how would we ever know, and how long might it take to find out? 
  9. Can you retrieve a file which was last seen one month ago, and how long would it take to retrieve? 
  10. For each member of your technical staff (including yourself) what would be the immediate effect on the running of the system if they suddenly (with no notice) left? What specific tasks would it be difficult for the others on your team to perform, and how long might it take to recover fully from the loss? Is there adequate documentation to minimise such a problem?
These questions were drafted by the ISC IT Strategy Group in 2009. 


  1. Hi Mark, as an IT manager I would love to be asked these questions! Some of the answers might be uncomfortable, but I would see it as a sharing of the IT burden, with the imperative being on both the IT Manager and LT to come up with solutions to the issues raised.

    So thank you for posting the questions, they raise valid issues that no IT manager should shy away from. However, I would worry if these questions were to be used to 'gotcha' an IT Manager. IT now effects every aspect of a school, so as long as the IT Manager and LT are in partnership, all the issues raised should be tackled together. But as a result of reading this post, I may use the questions above in my next link meeting...

  2. What a very interesting set of questions and not at all awkward. What is awkward is that the answers to most questions will be seen as negative by management. Reducing budgets by 50% like it or not will have a very marked effect on all users and may seriously compromise service delivery. The answers to the other disaster recovery questions are simple - to have a foolproof disaster recovery plan costs money and the less you spend the greater time to recovery. An IT Manager can only do what the budget allows and under funding and misaligned management expectations are not the fault of your IT staff. Most of my IT career has been in the highly regulated work of financial services where failure to have adequate disaster recovery provision can lead to extremely heavy fines and the responsibility to for delivering that provision lays firmly with upper management.