These are my notes from tonight’s school board meeting. I hopefully will be given five minutes to talk, hence the brevity. But I hope this will make sense to everyone.
Thank you for time tonight. My name is Brian Wohlgemuth. I am an engineer for CenturyLink, a 20 year IT consultant, and most of all, a dad with several children in the Huntington County School Corporation. Tonight, I want to talk about projects that succeed and those that fail. In most cases, projects fail due to a misunderstanding between ambition and reality. In IT as in many disciplines, a good foundation means you can build almost anything. In the case of IT Project Management, a clear understanding of the costs/risks/and roadblocks is your good foundation. I’ll try to cover all of this in four minutes.
The current plan as proposed to the board is to deploy iPads to every student in the High School and Middle Schools this year. This device will be replacing most if not all textbooks in the school environment. While I find this exciting, I have to ask what will replace the textbooks when it comes to problems, examples, help, etc. I am not an advocate for the textbook system, but they can and do serve a purpose. How will that purpose be addressed in the iPad world?
This also means the existing data/management infrastructure will have almost 2,000 new clients added to the network, and this is just at three facilities. The logistics of Procuring, Assigning, Accounting, Installing, Distributing, and Training 2,000 new devices to a network is quite a challenge. In fact, most companies would take a year or two phase in this scope of project. You have 64 days. I am not saying this is impossible to do, but the accounting and distribution will be daunting especially in a school environment.
You tech support will be your greatest asset. When things break (and they will), it will be your first line of defense. As I said before, you are adding over 2,000 clients to your network. Weird problems can and will show up, especially in what is an unmanaged client environment such as this.
Your new clients will demand a lot from you this first year. The equivalent of a multi-million dollar supercomputer from just a decade ago is sitting in each students hands. Current Department of Education specifications are a 100kbps connection per user. You will have at the end of this project, almost 4,000 users. That means you will need at minimum a 400Mbit protected connection to the Internet. These are Department of Education standards, not numbers I came up with.
Your new clients will actively challenge your network on a daily basis. In a corporate environment, doing anything outside of policy can get you fired. In high school, it will probably make you popular. Most High School IT Administrators treat the public infrastructure as hostile one. Is this what you are planning on doing? Why do I ask this?
Because of one recurring theme I hear from school administrators. That “Apple=Safe”. In this case, I simply point out the latest threat analysis from Kaspersky which expects the first iOS based malware to hit the world in 2013. Right as you are ramping up for phase two of this project.
2,000+ clients. Hitting your existing network in 64 days. Which by next year will be subjected to malware by a group of (in the IT world) hostile users.
Which brings me back to my point tonight. Earlier I said “In most cases, projects fail due to a misunderstanding between ambition and reality”. 64 Days.