|Create Date||July 31, 2017|
|Last Updated||July 25, 2017|
By Kevin Robinson, services consultant at RM Education.
A large number of schools have historically outsourced their catering or cleaning services, because these tasks aren’t an integral part of the skillset of the school staff team; they call in specialists to remove the hassle of these tasks, and let them worry about the processes, laws and risks.
But today, a growing number of forward-thinking schools are also outsourcing all, or part, of their IT support. This trend is driven by our budget-conscious education climate, where it’s becoming increasingly important for school leaders to achieve a high level of ICT delivery and support, whilst also keeping costs down.
For these schools, there are a myriad of benefits; improved ICT provision, tangible cost savings and countless teaching and learning benefits. So could outsourcing or co-sourcing ICT be the answer for your school?
A reduction in staff overheads (without losing teachers)
The highest spend in most schools is on staff salaries, and when pressures are put on budgets, the thought of having to make teaching staff redundant to save money is a choice no school wants to make.
So if you have a gap in your IT team, you could recruit a like-for-like technician and continue to bear these costs, or work with an IT partner who can provide this staff member for you, either as an extra body or as a flexible, remote support service. Many schools experience significant savings and an improvement in IT service delivery by thinking differently when a vacancy creates an opportunity for change.
Preventing unnecessary or frivolous spending
Almost every school has an ‘old kit cupboard’ somewhere. It’s often full of expensive technology that looked shiny and impressive when it was purchased, but now languishes in the cupboard, forgotten and unused, because no one could make it work in a lesson.
If the IT choices you make aren’t aligned to your school’s strategic development plan, or underpinned by an understanding of the technologies available and how they suit your pedagogy, you’ll continue to add more unused technology to that cupboard!
Outsourcing or co-sourcing your technology to an IT support provider who can manage the strategy, risks and costs of that technology means your IT costs are predictable and cost-effective, while your technology is future-proofed.
Increasing your IT expertise
A school’s IT technician or Network Manager is a generalist in IT. They need to know a little bit about everything, but they may not have in-depth expertise in a particular area, or access to high quality advice for complex issues. As a result, the IT technician fixes the symptom, not the cause.
When outsourcing or co-sourcing IT support, you have access to the expertise of a wide team of professionals, rather than one or two in-house IT employees. They have generalists too, but also a deep pool of expert knowledge in every single area of IT – so you’ll always benefit from the best support and advice, as well as critically faster issue resolution when complex problems do arise.
Identifying underperformance in IT
Managing an IT team and resources isn’t easy if you don’t understand or keep up with the latest IT technologies – I haven’t yet met a School Business Manager who has enough spare time to be able to do this! This can lead to a lack of confidence in when to challenge colleagues who appear to be IT experts, so underperformance in all areas of IT tends to go unnoticed.
If your IT procurement choices are made on the preferences of your Network Manager or teachers because it’s what they’re familiar with – rather than a future-proofed and more cost-effective tool that will benefit the school longer term - then how can you make the best use of your budget?
When you co-source or outsource your school’s ICT, you have the safety net of a mutually agreed contract to ensure that your school gets maximum value from all your IT resources – whether it’s improving the effectiveness of your own in-house team, offering training and support or providing SLT summary reporting for improved visibility.
Improvements in flexibility of service
Outsourcing or co-sourcing to an IT partner can provide year-round support services, and gives you the capacity to easily cover illness or annual leave – a luxury not often enjoyed by schools with small or even single-person IT teams.
It also gives you the flexibility of scaling your support to meet specific needs, such as if you need to tackle a big project, or your enrolments suddenly spike or scale down. Using remote support services to fix everyday issues frees up your existing technicians to provide more support in the classroom and removes the need to recruit new staff.
Optimising security and minimising risk
Keeping your network, school data, teachers and learners safe in a digital age is a complex and never-ending task, as the technology landscape and associated risks constantly change.
Outsourcing or co-sourcing security to a specialist IT partner can keep you ahead of the latest security risks and ensure that your infrastructure, data security and pupil access to appropriate materials are all kept as secure and up to date as possible.
A clearer focus on educational priorities
Teachers want and need to focus on providing the best outcomes for their pupils; anything else is an unnecessary distraction. The same applies to the School Business Manager; their role is pivotal to the smooth running of operations, and they should have the capacity to fully support admin staff, teachers and SLTs to ensure teaching can take place unhindered.
By outsourcing or co-sourcing your IT management, you can pass on the risks and time consuming management of technology in school, whilst retaining ownership of your strategy, budget and activities. Your IT partner can ensure your IT strategy delivers the best value for your priorities, and help you understand what’s working, what’s not working, what future technologies might offer, and how they might benefit your school.
Futureproofing your technology
The process of innovation using a school’s in-house IT team will typically involve a fairly long research, development and implementation time. But specialist IT companies make it their business to be at the forefront of technology use, so schools can benefit from their focused innovation after all the research and testing has been done.
They can work with your existing IT team to combine your insider knowledge of the school with their external perspective to ensure you’re using the technologies that fit your school perfectly.
Retaining or retraining your IT staff
These times of change can be unsettling for the staff involved; but a good IT partner will enhance your school’s existing support service, rather than negating it. They’ll work with you to understand what you need to achieve, and help you to move towards your desired outcomes with sensitivity and confidentiality.
Outsourced services from an IT support partner can be integrated into your existing IT support structure in various ways - if you’re looking to fill a short, medium or long term skills gap, it can be more cost effective to add in a remote support service to complement your current on-site staff.
RM Education is a supplier of software, services and systems to UK education.
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