The importance of the ITS and Facilities relationship

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared on CoSN’s blog and is reposted here with permission.

Key points:

One of our jobs as CTOs is developing great relationships with other district leaders. IT touches every aspect of the modern K-12 district, and our success, as well as the success of the district, relies on our ability to build and maintain these relationships.

All relationships are important, but the ITS and Facilities relationship cannot be overstated. From the simplest ‘thorns in our sides’ to the most wicked challenges, our relationship with the facilities leaders can pay off in big ways.

Simple  example – IU5 and the generator

IU5 is a service agency. We provide professional development and other services for districts at our main facility. Our Executive Director was unhappy when we had to send hundreds of teachers and administrators home during a power outage. We were in the process of bidding a generator for just the data center. After the power event, we were instructed to ensure the entire facility could stay powered up for an extended period. We initially worked with facilities to solve the problem, and in 2004, the Caterpillar generator was installed. Jump ahead 19 years, and we were experiencing inconsistent startups (30-40 second blackouts before the generator would start and provide power) when power failure events happened. The maintenance company was having difficulty isolating the problem. Through collaboration with facilities, we captured multiple data points about what was happening from the point of failure until the generated power was active. This data proved instrumental in finding the problem and finding a resolution. Teamwork is fantastic–especially when the relationship is conducive to making it happen instantly.

A complex example – Curtis and the “Not a Tornado”

On August 10, 2023, at about 10:30 pm, the central part of Wichita Falls was hit by what is being labeled as a microburst. It looks pretty similar to a tornado in damage capability. It removed most of the roof and toppled a wall at our alternative education center only three working days before the start of the 23-24 school year. Phones started ringing around 11:00 pm that same evening, and those relationships that had been built before that event were put to the test. I’m proud that the trust relationship between Technology, Maintenance, and Fixed Assets was already strong. This allowed us to trust one another’s judgment and rapidly move toward a common goal. On Friday morning, while the rest of the staff was at Convocation, these three teams were hard at work stripping all the salvageable equipment from the damaged campus. We were then able to coordinate together to rebuild that campus completely at a previously abandoned location. There were simultaneous efforts from Warehouse personnel delivering items to the “new” campus, Technology installing networking, classroom, and security hardware, Maintenance performing last-minute repairs, and Fixed Assets rounding up surplus items to complete the puzzle. We had this empty campus up and running again for the start of school on Wednesday. The timely coordination required focus, grit, and respect for the needs of each department. This could have never been accomplished between silos or dysfunctional leadership. So put in the effort today to build those bridges between other departments and leaders, for you never know when a “Not a Tornado” could roll through your own life.

Build the relationship now

These examples are some of the many reasons that having a solid relationship with your facilities team is essential to the successful technology support of any school organization. However, you do not want to wait for an emergency to build the relationship. Make a concerted effort to build those relationships now so they will be there when needed.

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