Within BELVEDERE, the focus is on recommendations that create facilitating conditions inside an organisation, i.e. recommendations on how organisational support could be implemented to facilitate the use of information and communication technology (ICT) at staff level, but also beyond.
- Budgetary considerations related to ICT
- Pre-procurement / pre-implementation
- ICT and effective leadership
Budgetary aspects related to the procurement and maintenance of ICT are important and might necessitate finding compromises between economic and other considerations. The following areas point out some options with budget implications to be discussed well ahead of any ICT procurement activities. However, none of the options per se is positive or negative. But it is assumed that in the context of developing capacity, it is preferable to decide for options that ensure rather stable budgetary foundations for the procurement and maintenance of ICT:
- The management assesses if the organisation needs to own the devices the employees will be using. (e.g. renting hardware; support / donations from local businesses or other stakeholders)
- The management assesses if staff may use their own devices for work (i.e., Bring Your Own Device – BYOD – approach)
- The management always checks whenever there is a need for new software, if it exists as an open source alternative.
- The management assesses all costs and dependencies that come with the procurement of a commercial product for the specific purpose. (E.g., does a lump sum / one-time payment for software include future, potentially critical or essential updates?)
- The management takes all future budgetary implications into consideration such as licence fees or rental costs for ICT.
- The management assesses to which extent donations or sponsoring provide sufficient means to buy, maintain and renew required ICT permanently.
- The management assesses if it is economically more efficient to (hire and) pay internal permanent IT staff or to use pay-per-service contracts or framework agreements with external ICT consultancy / services.
The following recommendations relate to a phase in which the procurement of a new technology is planned, yet no final decisions have been made already:
- The organisation’s management has raised awareness and promoted the need (and, where appropriate, the urgency) of using ICT at an early stage to all staff affected by it.
- The ICT procurement and selection process is implemented in a coordinated and transparent manner, with clear responsibilities, budgets and time frames.
- The management of the organisation formulates the goals to be achieved with the new ICT and defines suitable indicators that are capable of assessing the degree to which the goals have been achieved.
- The organisation provides the (future) users with an opportunity to view various ICT product alternatives available on the market and allow them to give an initial assessment.
- Prior to the actual procurement of ICT, (future) users are provided with an opportunity to evaluate the shortlisted ICT products in practice (e.g. in the context of an on-site test installation).
- The management invites (future) users to take a closer look at the processes and work steps in which ICT is to be used and to examine them for potential improvements.
- The management captures and addresses fears and worries of (future) users appropriately.
- The management of your organisation positively accompanies the entire procurement and implementation process.
- The management of your organisation keeps the users fully and timely informed during the procurement and implementation process.
- The management of your organisation provides sufficient room (e.g. time, resources, organisational support) for (future) users to be involved in the procurement and implementation process.
- The management of your organisation sets incentives for (future) users to engage in the implementation process for this ICT.
- The management of your organisation adapts all relevant regulations / policies well in advance so that users can immediately use the new ICT.
- Application scenarios of the ICT are being elaborated that are relevant for the (future) users, as they match their work duties / tasks / processes and showcases and exemplifies how the ICT would be used.
- The organisation examines at an early stage what ethical, legal and social implications, if any, are associated with the procurement and implementation of a particular ICT.
- The organisation checks in advance to which extent the ICT is compatible or fits well to organisational practice, standards and regulations.
- The organisation identifies the qualification and training needs associated with the procurement and introduction of a specific ICT at an early stage and ensures that the corresponding opportunities are available in good time and to the required extent.
Once an ICT has been procured, organisations can make use of the following recommendations to safeguard the implementation and take-up of the ICT throughout the organisation:
- The management of your organisation sets incentives for users to apply the new ICT quickly and permanently.
- The organisation provides users with an opportunity to personalize / adjust some features of the ICT to their specific needs (by themselves or with the help of third parties).
- The organisation provides users with sufficient possibilities and freedom to adapt the use of ICT to their own needs and to fit it into their individual work processes.
- Trainings for (future) users are offered in good time before and during the introduction of ICT.
- The type and duration of the training meets the needs of the users.
- Contact persons or a helpdesk are available whom users could turn to at any time – even after the implementation and after the end of the trainings – if they have any questions regarding the use of the ICT.
- There are colleagues users can turn to at any time if they have questions about using ICT (peer support).
- The use of ICT is appreciated by management and / or superiors.
- Colleagues show their appreciation when others use ICT.
- The organisation informs participants and employers about the benefits of ICT so that they welcome its use in the transition process.
- Among colleagues, problems or failures with using ICT are openly discussed in order to learn from them and improve as users and the ICT.
- The organisation’s management regularly measures the degree of goal achievement accomplished through the use of ICT and derives change measures if necessary.
- Organisational policies and guidelines are adapted as to increase the perceived ease of use of the ICT
‘Effective leadership’ has been identified as a particularly powerful factor for succeeding to find employment at the open labour market. This means: investing in effective leadership could be a ‘game changer’. Leadership encompasses different responsibilities that – individual, team-based or decentralised – leaders need to fulfil. The following collection of responsibilities is used to structure this list:
- Developing, shaping and pursuing a vision
- Acting as a change agent
- Improving teaching and learning practice
- Creating a positive, motivating and inclusive atmosphere / climate
- Management of individuals, teams, data and processes (Wallace Foundation, 2013)
1. Developing, shaping and pursuing a vision
This first responsibility relates to the future of the organisation / institution: where does it need to go, what is the right direction? Effective leadership requires leaders to look ahead. The anticipation of the future (or of different futures!) is a key component of strategic management; it observes developments in the closer (e.g. changes in participant characteristics of annual cohorts, changing attitudes of regional employers, local / regional labour market developments) or wider environment (e.g. megatrends, policy changes) of the organisation and gathers appropriate data on these developments. Once this data on trends and developments has been collected, it needs to be assessed, to which extent those developments could be seen as opportunities or rather threats for the organisation and its specific vision. Finally, based upon these results, suitable strategies need to be developed to e.g. defend threats or to make use of opportunities that may occur (usually as part of a so-called SWOT analysis). These activities might be relevant to be viewed for possibilities to be supported by ICT.
Experiment with ICT which …
- collects data from publicly accessible sources (e.g. online databases, statistics offices).
- collects data through own surveys among relevant stakeholders (e.g. employers, chambers).
- prepares this data in a meaningful way, e.g. to be able to recognize correlations better.
- shares this data among those who should know about it.
- presents this data in a helpful way (e.g. easy option to export to presentation software or for online publication on your own website).
- performs an assessment of the data (e.g. possibilities for checking the consistency of the data).
- performs an interpretation of the data (e.g. encouraging different perspectives on the data to stimulate different interpretations).
- derives strategies based on the conclusions (e.g. by guiding you step-by-step through a data-based strategy development process).
2. Acting as a change agent
Organisations are under permanent change, due to ever changing internal as well as environmental conditions. While it is relatively simple to define new structures, procedures, responsibilities etc., it is quite complex and difficult to implement and safeguard these changes permanently. The challenge is that members of the organisation (i.e. staff and other stakeholders) tend to be more or less resistant to changes, hence change processes need to be accompanied appropriately.
The people (internal or external) who drive the change process forward are called change agents, and leaders can take the role as a change agent as well. These change agents are individuals who know how to get people in an organisation involved in solving their own problems. A change agent’s main strength is a comprehensive knowledge of human behaviour, supported by a number of intervention techniques / strategies, with expertise in the behavioural sciences and in the intervention technology of organisational design. There are many possible intervention strategies from which a change agent may choose. This list of opportunities is based on six specific assumptions (Beckhard 1969) and examines in this context the role that ICT can play.
Experiment with ICT which …
- supports your managers in working with groups / teams (considered as the basic building blocks of an organisation) in the process of change.
- reduces inappropriate competition between parts of your organisation (e.g. increasing transparency of processes or decisions).
- supports your managers to develop more collaborative conditions in your organisation (e.g. by sharing good practice among staff, enabling peer groups).
- enables decentralised decision-making by those who have the best knowledge about the issue at hand, irrespective of a particular role or level of hierarchy.
- facilitates your managers to continuously manage affairs against goals, at the level of the organisation, of subunits of your organisation and of individuals.
- supports your managers to develop open communication, mutual trust, and confidence between and across levels.
- allows active participation in the planning and conduct of the change of those affected by a change, so that they can develop a sense of ownership.
3. Improving practice
Effective leaders shall offer further professional development opportunities to all staff to ensure quality in their work.
Experiment with ICT which supports your managers in ……
- identifying staff’s professional development needs.
- addressing appropriately these professional development needs.
- evaluating the effectiveness of professional development.
- effectively sharing results of the evaluation of professional development among staff to discuss measures for further / continuous improvements.
4. Creating a positive, motivating and inclusive atmosphere / climate
Good leadership needs to create an atmosphere of motivation and commitment. The following aspects of ICT might be supportive in this endeavour.
Experiment with ICT which supports your managers in …
- showcasing best practice or behaviour to the whole organisation in an appreciative way.
- showcasing staff, participants and key stakeholders as one community.
- communicating all relevant issues in a timely manner to all stakeholders.
- generating individualized communication so that the recipients feel better addressed.
- identifying the intrinsic and extrinsic ‘anchors’ of those who need motivation to change towards the organisation’s vision (e.g. anonymous web-based surveys, quick mood polls).
5. Management of individuals, teams, data and processes
And finally, leadership also encompasses the practical management of people and of processes. Here, ICT can possibly play some of its known strengths.
Experiment with ICT which supports you in …
- efficiently coordinating multi-disciplinary / multi-professional teams (e.g. in finding time slots suitable for meetings).
- easily booking resources such as rooms or equipment for team meetings.
- documenting, distributing and storing results of team meetings efficiently.
- performing team meetings in a mixed mode (i.e. both face-to-face as well as virtual participation e.g. via video conferencing tools).
- providing suitable tools for discussion, exchange and decision-making in team meetings, also in mixed mode (i.e. with face-to-face as well as virtual participation).
- appropriately supporting participants in the transition to employment once they left physically the organisation.
- supporting and staying in touch with employers during the transition phase of participants and beyond.
- distributing leadership, i.e. to move away from a top-down approach towards teamwork and collaborative problem solving, or in cases where responsibilities are distributed by default.
- linking (local) leadership also with a regional level where such structures exist or are meaningful.
- maintaining a good level of information and providing data relevant to management (e.g. performance data) wherever this management is allocated (i.e. in distributed leadership settings) and whenever it is needed.
Final note: Many of the recommendations above may need to be adapted to the level of employee participation that is common and expected in an organisation. If employees are only recipients of information from management about an ICT, or at best are involved in a consultation process, different measures are appropriate than if there is ‘real’ participation. This ‘real’ participation may range from being involved in the procurement and selection processes to being given far-reaching decision-making power. Self-organised organisations may again need to set different priorities.
References / Acknowledgements
Beckhard, R. (1969): Organisation development: strategies and models. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley. pp. 26–27
EICON (2020): Some recommendations particularly relating to leadership were adapted from the ERASMUS+ project EICON (Enhancing inclusion capacity of educational organisations / institutions providing VET with information and communication technologies (ICT)), a KA2 Strategic Partnership for vocational education and training during 2018 – 2020 (Grant Agreement No.2018-1-DE02-KA202-005110). See www.eicon-project.eu
The Wallace Foundation (Ed.): The School Principal As Leader: Guiding schools to better teaching and learning. January 2013, New York, USA.