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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.

This exercise not only brought greater optimisation of IT resources but also ensured that IT was able to respond to the changing needs of the ministry better. Capacity planning would be done for the next three years based on the business needs and new technology would be exploited, says Lim.

Another important element introduced was portfolio management. So now you have got an IT plan with maybe 25 new initiatives, you would need to prioritise these new ICT initiatives and come up with what we call IT portfolio, and we will then decide how much funds to be allocated.

Attention to detail

Lim and his team also put in place the MOE IT Investment Framework, a cornerstone of IT governance in the ministry. The framework sets out key checkpoints according to the major stages of an IT project lifecycle, ensuring a disciplined and structured approach in planning and managing IT investments.

During the conceptualisation and funding phase of projects, the focus is on business alignment, overall return on investments and the fit into the MOEs IT landscape.  Worthy projects are supported and any adverse business impact or project risk are identified early.

Project teams are required to provide detailed write-ups, including comprehensive information about the projects key performance indicator in relation to the ministrys strategic objectives. The funding justification also requires detailed cost breakdowns and targeted savings, how the various aspects of risks would be mitigated and how changes brought about by the systems would be managed.

One important checkpoint in the whole process is the review of how new IT projects would affect the MOEs IT landscape, and ensuring that the existing infrastructure and common application modules/services are reused as far as possible.

This is to ensure that you can optimally utilise your money, rather than continue to build silo-ed systems, then the components within the silo systems are repeated, duplicated, and it causes a lot of wastage of resources, explains Lim.

To address the high numbers of disparate systems found in the ministry, Lim came up with the MOE enterprise architecture (EA) to govern IT development and implementation. The key effect is to allow for IT resources to be reused as and when necessary.

Development phase

During development phase, all IT systems were required to align with the MOE EA.  The designs of the new IT systems had to be reviewed by a team of managers and the architects for approval. Through this process of review, common services that other applications could reuse were identified. Existing infrastructure and application services that could be reused or enhanced were also highlighted. The design review also ensured that the IT systems would not incur unnecessary recurrent cost for the maintenance of additional new software or hardware.

 

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