Technology procurement in the education sector

There is no doubting the increasing importance of technology in schools today. From almost-unbreakable tablets to introduce primary school age children and pre-schoolers to the digital age, to high-specification hardware for budding engineers, designers and musicians, demand is growing.

Yet when the topic comes up with education professionals, the subject of procurement and how they manage their ICT tends to illicit old-fashioned responses, somewhat at odds with the advanced technology they want for their schools and academies.

There is still an over reliance on the historical approach to procurement, with a large capital outlay separating the hardware and software, from the support services. Support has typically been supplied from within, only calling on external support when time is pressing or the problem is particularly trying.

The pressure placed on the school ICT team is now greater than ever. Mobile device management and network security alone have heaped the work onto the professionals manning the ICT office; you know the one, small and dark, filled with profane language and heaps of old computers.

The key role for any ICT manager in education is strategic planning, yet day-to-day break-fix issues still get in the way for most. It’s not an unusual situation though and one we have faced many times before in the commercial environment; the big difference being, this was a while ago.

The private sector is even more loathed to agree large capital expenditure and multiple contracts, when requirements can be met with a single monthly payment to a single trusted service provider.

Admittedly in the past the education sector has suffered at the hands of the unscrupulous, but transparent pricing, open book contracts and the increased commercial professionalism of the new generation of educators, is removing the fear.

Very few commercial organisations are replacing their technology on a wholesale scale, then agreeing an IT support contract with a separate service provider and buying-in specialist support for niche requirements. Few are even bothering with high-end hardware. Most are now choosing thin-clients running a hosted desktop solution.

On a personal note, I have just agreed to be an Enterprise Advisor to Bloxwich Academy, part of the renowned Matrix Academy Trust. I will be attending the academy in Leamore Lane on a regular basis to offer insight into the world of work. My experience with technology and its growing importance in the workplace will be central to my role as a mentor.

When your primary objective is to learn, you are more worried about what the technology can do to help you, rather than how it is being funded – I suspect my conversation will rarely venture into the world of manged IT services and spreading the cost of funding,

But when you consider just how many of the children in education today will sign any number of lease and hire-purchase agreements in the coming years, from mortgages and rental contracts to phone and car purchase contracts, perhaps it is an area we should discuss more openly.

For now, I will content myself with discussing managed IT service contracts with IT managers in the legal, insurance, finance and transport sectors, until ICT managers in education catch up and realise what an opportunity they are missing.

Rob, Wheeler, Sales Executive, Quiss Technology

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