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Organising I.T. for better education

Jack Loo | Feb. 19, 2009
A focused effort to maximise efficiency, in planning and using IT resources, won Singapores Ministry of Education a prestigious MIS Asia IT Excellence award for 2008.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) is one of the largest government bodies in Singapore. Besides directing the formulation and implementation of education policies, it runs more than 350 schools from primary to post-secondary levels.

With more than half a million students enrolled and a 30,000-strong teaching force,  the MOEs IT team has an intimidating network of screens to manage, 140,000 according to the 2008 edition of MIS Asias MIS 100 index.

Since the advent of IT adoption in the civil service in the 1980s, the MOE has invested substantially in the computerisation of administrative services as well as adopting IT to enrich the teaching and learning experience. Resulting today, in a very diverse technology landscape with varying degrees of adoption and expertise, ranging from legacy mainframe to Web-based systems.  

Muddied waters

While IT was recognised as an important enabler by the ministry, its alignment and support to organisational strategies were not well-articulated and returns on investments were uncertain. Rising recurrent expenditure on IT had been a cause for closer scrutiny by the management.

Also, the ministry recognised that the multifarious technology landscape resulted from IT resources being developed and maintained in a silo approach by the numerous divisions and departments. There were no common definitions, structures nor mechanisms in place to enable greater interoperability of the various IT systems.

Lim Teck Soon, IT director, for the MOEs organisation development division, said the previous IT investment framework did not have a very structured approach. If a business unit has a project in mind, they would submit the project paper, develop the system independently, conduct a post-project implementation review, and thats all. Systems are developed in silos without any corporate IT governance.

Following a review in 2006, MOE management decided that it was necessary to improve how it planned and funded its information technology. There was a need to establish a clearer overall direction and a more deliberate, concerted approach towards choosing business solutions and technology adoption.

Cleaning up

After a major review of IT processes, Lim and his team embarked on a roadmap to reorganise IT governance in the MOE.

One key aspect was the strategic IT planning exercise which would be done annually. Conducted by the IT department, the exercise involves all the business units to jointly plan for the systems to be implemented in the next two to three years to support the ministry and individual divisions.

Instead of building silo systems to react to different needs, the approach is to proactively examine the ministrys needs holistically. The IT plan articulates the strategic business directions and how the IT initiatives would support them. If there were similar needs among the divisions, integrated systems would be developed to meet them.

 

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