The week that was.

Published by Matt Setchell on

I still can’t believe, that in a matter of less then 2 weeks, schools have fully adopted Office365, devices have been bought and rolled out via Intune and azure, software has been purchased to increase adoption in schools and I’ve delivered training consecutively to full rooms.

It only took a worldwide pandemic 😂

When the news started to report cases, I was paying more attention knowing my brother lives and works out in China. I could see a little where this might be going and sent out some guidance to our schools.

I can track who reads our emails, and it has been interesting to see the number of read emails climb with each update I sent as people more and more realised the potential of Covid-19 to have a real impact.

It’s a new one on me, living through a crisis like this, managing a team through this and delivering support through this.

So, let’s break down what we have done so far:

  • We put on training, opened it up to anyone whether we supported their school or not, we decided to focus on 3 key platforms all our schools could use – OneDrive, Teams and SharePoint. We have over 150 people turn up over a few sessions. It was very specific and direct training.
  • We started planning, but not only for users, for our support and also for the end of this crisis. Whatever we put in now has to be suitable when people return.
  • I laid out 3 key milestones – 1) the prep and inform stage, training and constant comms 2) partial school closure – where we would have a hybrid of people going off and solutions not fully adopted, this now includes the current situation of schools open 3) full school closure where everyone would be working at home this is now more a situation where all our staff have to work from home
  • We worked to redeploy student devices to staff. This was a gamble because at this stage, it was impacting T&L, but it was the right choice. We have also purchased lots of devices because schools wanted them, and could see accelerating purchases only moved forward existing plans.
  • We decided to support students and parents when the time was right from home, and this has been a hugely needed and valued decision.

Our solutions

  • Office365. All our schools are setup to use it pretty much other then some newer schools. This makes it very easy to focus our support.
  • SharePoint – we have been using the new Mover tool from MS to migrate some local shares to the cloud
  • OneDrive – encouraging staff to migrate their files to the cloud
  • Teams, as our main teaching and interaction tool
  • Remote Desktop – we have this everywhere, but we are now restricting numbers at each school to ensure QoS for those who specifically need SIMs, if we hadn’t don’t this, people would not have moved to the cloud, and that is much better at handling the load.
  • IAMCloud Cloud Drive Mapper -we have previously encouraged schools to move data to the cloud and some did, but the missing link is this software that is affordable and quick to deploy.
  • Senso – to ensure our users are safeguarded on any of our devices

Deploying and managing devices

This is the first large scale role out of Intune devices for us. Weirdly around Valentine’s Day I was setting this up and testing it – so I was able to quickly deploy it. We are now able to manage all deployed devices from the cloud, including changing settings and installing software. The setup was also quick enough to support it.

Managing the team

Our job means a lot of our team are out at different schools. This wasn’t great for them, but it was essential whilst we implemented plans.

Mid last week we began a phased withdrawal to our central team – we did this as we had done all we could do on site – we could still react and go to sites if needed, but as people went home, we needed to get devices ready (all done centrally) and increase help desk capacity.

We have split our office into 2 zones with no cross movement as much as possible and we have increased our capacity into training areas to allow for social distancing. Right now we still need people in work this week to ensure service delivery and supporting staff and students on the transition. A key reason is our staff need support with the new setup.

We have split our team over 4 locations, with others located within our home MAC schools where they have a classroom each!

The idea being we won’t all be affected when the inevitable happens.

My team have been incredible. Supportive and adaptable, and we have smashed through an ever increasing job list and ticket list. They really have been amazing.

Supporting customers

We have a pretty cool helpdesk solution anyway, so it’s all been about scaling that provision up. As we have pulled back technicians from sites they have gone onto helpdesk, having VOIP means we can plug in phones or use the soft phone option anywhere, even at home in the future.

Freshdesk loves tickets. And we have adapted some elements – we have set up to support students with some new groups, created some new logging options to prioritise responses, ensured chat is monitored as well as phones and emailed tickets.

We have two numbers, our usual and a new one for parents and students. This is so we can distinguish between loads and in future perhaps shut one down when students return.

We have not only had to provide IT support, but also strategic support to multiple trusts and schools on how things might happen, and the impact and in some case whether the solutions they hoped for were even possible.

What’s next?

Who knows. The next step for us is to cope this week with people working from home – we are expecting this week to be busy as people adapt.

We will also start delivering training remotely for students and staff on key remote working and learning skills. We will also continue to make sure whatever people are doing now, is easy to continue on their return to schools.

Then it is to see how we can move fully the week after into people working from home effectively (the can all now if needs be, but I want to see what we can do to make it better, in terms of devices) and coping with team members inevitably being off.

So there you go, a few ramblings from me on how we have adapted so far!

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