The Oldham College demonstrates how using Microsoft products, including SharePoint, continues to improves efficiency in a learning environment. Gerald Haigh, freelance writer to Microsoft, paid a visit to The Oldham College to then share with us how SharePoint, along with other Microsoft products, is directly improving the learning experience of its 8000 students.
Pete O’Donnell, Assistant Principal, Planning and Performance described how SharePoint is working with other Microsoft products in the cause of management efficiency and create:
“A change in the culture of the College into a more project-based environment.”
Jon Evans, IT Services Manager, The Oldham College
In the past, the many strands of activity in the college or any other organisation, were fitted into a static structure of meetings and committees, taking their turn as agenda items.
Now, the key activities are separated out as clearly defined projects. These are managed and run by task groups of people from whichever areas of the college are appropriate to each task.
“Where ‘Improving teaching and learning’ was once a strategy and a committee under a senior manager, it’s now a project with a task group headed by a middle manager who’s far closer to the action and can enable better decisions.” explains Pete
The task groups meet if and when it’s necessary, using Microsoft Project to manage the process, and posting progress updates on the College’s SharePoint intranet.
“A meeting might be held in a small room, with Microsoft Project running on a big screen.”
The project-based structure is effective because the day to day work of project teams is always accessible to team members. It is also transparent to strategically responsible senior managers, who can carry out their monitoring and decision-making roles without having to be present.
“What we now have,” says Pete, “Are clear lines of responsibility and clear time scales which before were shrouded in discussions and the minutes of meetings. It’s massively more efficient. Decisions are made more quickly, and there’s visibility about whether or not action is being taken.”
Each project to be informed by a stream of live data, and this is provided from the ground up by Microsoft software. So SQL Server 2008 R2 collects data from numerous sources – student grades, student records, finance, human resources -- into data warehouses, with Analysis Services creating key performance indicators (KPIs) and organizing them as “cubes”. Finally, Performance Point (now integrated with SharePoint 2010) presents the KPIs to the task groups.
The principle of taking some key tasks and functions away from an organisation’s hierarchical structure of regular meetings, and handing them to single-purpose task groups is well enough known. What the Oldham College experience shows, though, is that with the creative application of IT it’s possible to go further and make the whole management structure project based. The key lies in the transparency, flexibility and collaborative possibilities offered by SharePoint, supported by high quality and up to date information produced by Microsoft data-handling software.