Experts in leading innovation and change in IT
Call Us Free: 1-800-123-4567

Managing change

Funding cuts, budget pressures, in school demands, hard selling suppliers, complex balancing acts and difficult decisions – all everyday issues for school leaders, yet technology seems to be a particularly challenging area.

At BETT 2012, EXite and IET Associates will share ideas on ICT development with school leaders and detail the EXite programme and its activities through a number of seminars, briefing sessions and other events.

Following changes that have taken place in the past 18 months, including the reduction in support for schools, fragmented advice and increasing pressures on costs, it is critical that school leaders take a clear, strategic view of their commitment to technology and, in particular, consider how to manage costs while ensuring that learning and running a school is not compromised.

However, this is not just about bringing down the costs of technology, it also has to be about maximising the value of technology for learners, exploiting technology already in place, and not reducing provision to the point where it undermines future decisions about learning and about learners themselves.

International, European, UK, regional and school level experiences have helped us to identify a number of themes that can help reduce costs. We find consistently that to be effective, cost management needs to be handled as a leadership issue, not a purely operational issue, and it has to be seen as a management concern rather than merely a financial activity. Cost also needs to be managed with an outcome driven agenda, not as a technical topic. In advance of BETT 2012, here are some tasters of what leaders should consider.

The virtual cupboard

Regardless of your longer term plans, it could be worth thinking first about what you already have, how much it is used and whether it is fit for purpose. Quick and simple audits across departments and administrative areas will almost certainly reveal software and technology that has been forgotten, or is not even known as staff have moved on. Often, some of this forgotten software can do a reasonable job, or hardware can supplement existing provision. If the technology is not relevant or of use, move it on, declutter and keep only what is helpful and appropriate. Revisit what you have, assess how much and how widely it is used, and be objective about how effective it is. It may be specialist software with low use, but high impact. Equally, it could be generalist software with little impact or real value. Think also of the hidden costs. Does the software or hardware demand unnecessary support or take too much valuable time to manage? If the costs of maintaining something of low value are now higher than upgrading or finding alternative resources, perhaps it is time to let go and look for other solutions or approaches. Seek out tools, advice and guidance to help you audit and assess provision, and of course, help you to develop a technology implementation plan.

An objective view of cost

Technology is moving fast and it is easy to be beguiled by new features without understanding the true costs. The equation covering costs, value for money and impact is complex, but there are some core elements. Understanding total cost of ownership – or TCO – is important when making decisions about technology and requires looking beyond purchase and maintenance costs.

Cost issues

When new software, hardware or services are bought, are costs assessed in terms of new training demands and time needed for familiarisation? Are staff costs being built in as changes are made and is it possible to identify improved efficiencies that can balance the costs? Looking at new provision and approaches requires an understanding of the cost of existing consumables, licences and support contracts for the current provision. These then need to be mapped to the costs and, ideally, cost reductions for new purchases and contracts. Importantly, have gains in productivity, engagement and environment impact been documented and assessed, and have expected outcomes that are expected to balance potential increases in cost been detailed?

Further ways to reduce cost

Although technology costs money, it can also save money, not only in terms of time efficiency, but also in reducing other costs. For example, in terms of consumables, effective use of managed print services could significantly reduce photocopying costs, printing costs and reduce wasted time. Looking again at technical support costs and arrangements – do you keep a log of calls, issues and responses? – will help you work out if in-house or external contracts are better for your circumstances. There are also many free or low cost tools available. Schools are taking advantage of services such as Google Apps for Education and Microsoft’s Live@edu to replace in house email and calendar systems. They are also starting to use other facilities that those services offer, including document editing and storage. All of these services can be accessed both in school and from any internet connected device.

Connectivity

Connectivity continues to be an important consideration. With an increase in availability of services that are managed and located outside school, including those mentioned above, but also an increasing use of management information systems, it is important not to jump to the cheapest available service. Bandwidth used by schools has consistently doubled every 18 months since the earliest days of internet provision in schools. By 2015, this would mean schools would need somewhere between 80 and 800Mbps. The cheapest connectivity available today will not scale to those levels.

Devices

Do you need to buy every computer or device used in your school? Plan for the use of student owned devices and make it easier, but still safe, for them to be used in school. Many of the latest tablet devices, such as iPads and iPod Touches, are designed to be personal devices rather than items to be shared between many users. If students have access to their own tablets or laptops, making it easier for them to use them in school as well as outside can reduce the financial burden on the school.

Find out more

This is just a sample of what school leaders can look at to address value for money and start to think more strategically about ICT costs and efficiencies. If you would like to find out more about these issues and gain a wider set of tips, ideas and tactics for leaders, the EXite programme could be for you. Visit the EXite website for more details of the programme, costs and dates.

This article was originally published in ICT for Education magazine in their BETT Preview 2012

From Twitter:

Contact us

Independent Education and Technology Associates Limited is a company registered in England and Wales. Company registration number 07441632.

Registered Office: e-Innovation Centre, University of Wolverhampton, Telford Campus, Priorslee,Telford, TF2 9FT

Telephone: 0121 288 3594

E-mail: info@nullietassociates.com