06 Mar 7 Essential Pillars of Making Smart School Technology Buying Decisions
Schools are facing tough school technology buying decisions. Upgrading school IT is essential to stay current – it enables reliable access to learning resources for teachers and children, and technology is key in keeping your school’s core functions running smoothly.
With costs rising across the board, school budgets need to stretch further. School leaders must squeeze every drop of value from them.
When it comes to complex and costly responsibilities like upgrading IT, how can your school make smarter technology buying decisions?
Define your school’s IT needs
The first step is to identify the specific improvements you need. Many schools experience problems like broadband that’s too slow, or a system that grinds to a halt when too many devices are connected.
If so, faster broadband or the ability to connect more devices will be among your school’s technology needs.
Another common issue is that staff and students find the Wi-Fi drops out when walking from one classroom to another.
A stronger, consistent signal throughout your school buildings will be one priority.
Understand your current school technology
Once you’ve defined some of the gaps, you need to know your current position.
You need to know:
- What exactly do you have in place today?
- Where is your existing technology holding you back?
- Is your hardware outdated?
- Is your system falling behind on the standards of the DfE?
- Are your services delivering on their promises?
- Has your school grown or changed since any current systems were installed?
- Are there obvious gaps to fill?
To make smart school technology buying decisions, you need to start with a thorough IT audit. That needs current IT knowledge and understanding of the dynamics of an education establishment.
Smart school leaders use an expert in school technology – like Simply IT – to provide a full assessment.
Research and compare school technology options
With a proper understanding of how your school tech is serving you and what needs updating, you can begin to identify options for your IT purchasing and upgrade needs.
Even a quick online search will present a bewildering array of choices that is hard to navigate. There may be school buying clubs weighing in. Preferential packages and deals on offer from local and national suppliers may show up.
You really need advice before you dive in.
It is very tempting to get swept up in the potential discounts available. However, focusing on these alone will limit your pool of potential technology suppliers that could be equally cost effective. You may not achieve the best solution to your school’s tech problems.
An expert can help you make smart selections from among the possibilities and know of options that won’t show up on search. At Simply IT, our central location in Northampton means we can support schools across the country.
Specify your school IT purchasing properly
You need to specify potential school technology purchases carefully and in detail, otherwise it’s impossible to know whether you’re making cost-effective technology buying decisions that will achieve the specific outcomes your need.
It is also important that the IT you purchase will meet DfE standards for speed, security compliance and other factors.
It’s worth remembering that the research and specification phases often form an iterative process, particularly for schools without dedicated IT specialists on site. As you begin to specify your school technology, be prepared to revisit both the research and spec stages to develop the optimal IT solution, so you can be sure you’re making the right buying decisions.
Consider lifetime costs of your school’s technology decisions
Making smart IT purchasing decisions means looking ahead to the cost of upkeep.
There are more than the initial purchasing or implementation costs to consider. The ongoing costs for maintenance, support, and subscription services will impact your school operational costs moving forward.
How futureproof is your school IT spending? How will you understand what maintenance or upgrade costs may be involved?
There are four considerations when specifying school technology:
- Capital costs to buy hardware and devices. This is your initial outlay and is likely to be the most substantial – don’t forget to include the costs for any consulting or implementation.
- Operating costs including ongoing contracts for software, services, and IT maintenance.
- Replacement costs are the associated costs of staying current. Understand and allow for the expected lifespan of the school technology you’re buying, and the expense of replacement or future upgrades.
- User costs for school IT support, ensuring your school and its users get the most out of your technology investments every day.
Each cost aspect must be factored in carefully to help you make smart technology buying decisions.
Due diligence means seeking evidence not just reassurance
As you narrow down your search for the right suppliers to upgrade your school IT, dig deeper into research to get the reassurance that you’re making the best buying decisions.
Ask prospective suppliers for references and demonstrations. Be open about your questions and concerns to see how they address your school technology and operational challenges.
Speak to other schools who have already upgraded their systems – how did their own school IT audit and implementation process go with their chosen IT suppliers? Are they satisfied with the results? Did the IT upgrade solve their problems, and meet their financial parameters?
Negotiation and final decisions
Once you’ve shortlisted the IT suppliers for your chosen technology upgrades, then challenge them once ore to give you the best value for money on price, future support, or payment terms.
Smart IT buying decisions in a tough funding landscape are all about making sure you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck. Once you have all the best deals on the table, you’ll be able to decide on the purchases that will work best for your school and your budget.
The bottom line in purchasing technology for schools
All these decisions are only possible if you have a true understanding of your current IT situation. Without a full picture, you could easily waste valuable school budget by spending on the wrong technology that won’t deliver you the value you so need.