Schools are massively dependent on their IT systems. Imagine if your school suffered a complete IT meltdown for a day – could you continue to operate? Or if your help-desk was anything but helpful – what would that do for staff morale? Or if your network had insufficient security provision – whose neck would be on the line?
Hopefully these are scenarios only exist in your imagination and are not a reality for your school (or maybe they are the reason you are reading this article!). The point is that if, like many schools, you have made the decision to outsource your IT to a managed service provider, the choice of which provider is a very serious one indeed. The consequences of getting it wrong can be acute.
So where do you start? Our 10 point check list is designed to be a useful guide for schools looking to outsource their IT. These are key features that we believe will make for a successful IT partnership for your school.
1. Education-only focus
Schools are not like corporates or any other organisation, IT is used in a unique and demanding manner, so your managed service partner needs the experience to understand and manage this environment. Experience counts.
2. A proactive service
Waiting for problems to arise and things to go wrong is not ‘managing’ your IT; it decreases efficiency and increases stress on teaching staff. Ensure that the service includes monitoring and management software that spots small issues before they become big problems.
3. Unlimited support
Why would you want to put any limits on the help that you are looking for? Make sure your school gets all the IT support it needs.
4. Flexible and agile
No two school days are the same and the service needs to reflect that. Look for assurances that extra-curricular events such as school productions or parent evenings will be supported by the service.
5. A service that grows with your school
Look for guarantees that this is not a stand-still service; the engineers supporting your school need to be fully trained, and through continuous training, their knowledge needs to be nurtured so that the service keeps up with the progress of your school.
6. Timed and measured service levels
Agree on how quick the response and remedy will be. There should be clear and transparent service levels written into the service and performance against these needs to be measured, reported and reviewed on a regular basis.
7. Bespoke to your school
Make sure that the staff levels being suggested and the structure of the service match the requirements of your school. That is probably easier said that done! A simple way to do this is ask to speak to other school, of the same size as yours, that are managed by your potential partner.
8. Sickness and holiday cover
When your network manager is away, your school should not be disadvantaged. Make sure that the managed service includes holiday and sickness cover, meaning that a replacement network manager is provided in this instance. It is also worth looking for assurance that there is a succession plan in place so that any substitute or replacement staff provided are familiar with your network.
9. Strategy and communications
Make sure that you are benefitting from a wide range of experience and knowledge. This can be used to inform and develop the IT strategy for your school. An effective managed service contract will include the provision of a Contract Manager. As well as taking responsibility for the performance of the service against the agreed service levels, this individual will want to engage with the school’s SLT and promote healthy debate and enthusiasm around IT, and also make the best use of your school’s investment in IT. Using plain English, avoiding the use of IT jargon and breaking down any existing silos between IT and any sections of the school will be key requirements of this role.
10. An unrestricted service with no exceptions
Make sure that there are no restrictions that may not be completely obvious. For example, there may be an expectation that all IT related purchases have to be made through your managed service partner. Whilst it makes sense to take advice and be influenced by their opinion, this should not be a mandatory practice and should not interrupt your obligation to provide best value to your school.
Reducing costs whilst increasing system reliability are the key drivers
for schools moving away from outdated support models to intelligent
outsourcing and co-sourcing.
• Reduce costs
• Increase system reliability
• Unlimited expertise
• Peace of mind