New Year Tech Check

Checklist image with highlighter

About three years ago our CIO challenged us to solve a major district problem. No matter how productive we were over the Summer break, many teachers and administrators came back to the new school without properly working technology equipment. Now to be clear, this was not an inconsequential problem in a school district with roughly 48,000 students, nearly 3,500 certificated instructional staff, and almost 100 schools.

Our solution was like a strange love child of Zappo’s CEO Tony Hsieh’s extreme customer service and Atul Gawande’s Checklist manifesto.

Tech Check Goals

We had two major goals with tech check:

  1. All IT staff needed to get into schools so that their “day to day” work can be informed and inspired by the actual staff we serve.
  2. All instructional staff must be guaranteed a standard level of working technology from the first day back to insure student learning.


The Big 5 Checklist

After reviewing previous years tickets and talking with staff we determined that the following 5 things were the most impactful to staff.

  1. Staff have network connectivity and/or WiFi
  2. Staff can log into their computer and other district services (i.e. SIS, Google, Canvas, etc…)
  3. Staff can access their previous year files
  4. Staff can print to a nearby printer and schools copier
  5. Staff can connect and display video to their classroom projector

This is really just the technology equivalent of food and shelter but it was disappointing how often we had staff with one of the issues above.

In the Schools

Many of our back office staff had not been in a school since they graduated high school and were very nervous about going into the field. As a team we had to prepare folks to step outside of their comfort zone. We found the following very helpful:

  1. IT leadership conveyed the message and goals of tech check to the entire staff (100+) altogether in the same room.
  2. Training sessions were conducted on face to face customer service, conflict resolution, and basic trouble tips.
  3. A special temporary tech check call center was assembled so that Tech Check staff had a direct line to higher levels of support while they were in the field.

Additionally, we found that we need to two special roles in each Tech Check Team. Those roles were:

  1. Tech Lead – This was the field services guru in the group. As we checked all the teachers this individual picked up the difficult cases. They were empowered to immediately fix the issue or could accurately escalate the problem to a person that could quickly resolve the problem.
  2. Communications Lead – This was the team member that felt most comfortable talking with staff and principal. They would be the first to arrive at a school and would then make sure that we had accurate staff rosters to check and school maps to use.

Teams were then balanced by blending groups of staff from different departments and experience levels.

The Results and Summary

It worked! Not only did we see a large drop off in teacher calls, but our IT staff reported high levels of satisfaction with the process. We have repeated the process for several years now and it is now just an expectation that staff will get a chance to see their IT folks during the first week of school.

Here is the process summarized:

  1. Commit everybody on your IT team to serving teachers and administrators for a few days. (**Definitely keep a small skeleton crew of staff to address any major incidents during this time**)
  2. Define your districts key school start checklist
  3. Train your tech check teams for the customer service and support skills they will need to be successful.
  4. Schedule times with building administrators so that they have you during a useful time.
  5. Log the interactions with staff during your tech check, everybody loves data!
  6. Smile Lots.
  7. Hand out heaps of candy!

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