Time to move your school out of its ICT comfort zone?

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A quote to refresh the server farm for St Paul’s School for Girls in Birmingham proved to be the spur for Network Manager, James Wilson to move out of the comfort zone provided by RM CC4 and look around to see what moving to a vanilla network would entail.

Background

James takes up the story: “I received a quote from RM that was just unfeasible. Irrespective of how good the network would be – it could run the school, make my coffee and clean up after – it was so far above my budget that I knew I needed to look elsewhere. CSE were not the first company I called but I had been vaguely aware of them for years, and knew I had to look at a few alternatives. I phoned their office and the advisor who took the call listened to my requirements and promised me a swift call back from the account manager responsible for schools in my area. Within five minutes I was talking to an old friend!”

Gary Dowling, CSE’s dedicated account manager, has been working with schools across the West Midlands and further north for over 20 years, and had worked with James at his previous school where he provided consultancy and advice on a major project. Potentially starting a new project with someone that James already knew and trusted proved to be a boon as the project developed.

Gary wasted no time; as soon as the phone call ended he was on his way to meet with James and his colleague, Simon Green. The first meeting was all about getting to know CSE – our capabilities, experience, and the processes employed. Gary went to great lengths to talk about how CSE work and their success in similar, recent projects. CSE have been doing this for over 23 years and that experience and ability is a key element of every project approached. 

Whilst James and Simon were keen to learn about CSE, Gary was also asking plenty of questions of his own and soon learned that finance was the key driving force behind the school’s thinking. The school had been an RM customer for years. The current network being a replacement of a CC3 network in 2012 and that network had replaced a previous incarnation of an RM network. This meant that there were other functions to consider apart from a network. Gary, James and Simon spit-balled ideas over the following weeks and the project then grew to include alternative classroom management solution and alternative anti-virus solutions.

A visit to existing clients

Soon after, Gary took James and Simon to another customer of CSE – Tudor Grange Academies Trust in Solihull. Here they saw how a 1500 pupil school, rated ‘good’ by OFSTED, was able to manage their network and other ICT solutions with a relatively small support team and no supplementary network management software. James and Simon had prepared thoroughly for this meeting, and were armed with a long list of questions to ask the Tudor Grange IT Team. 

The relaxed atmosphere in the Tudor Grange Office, the small number of support calls, the complete absence of any tension in the team, and the ability to manage a bigger network, were all game-changers for James and Simon and it was at this stage that they truly believed moving from their current provider was not as daunting, difficult or challenging as they had previously thought.

Tudor Grange use ‘Impero’ for their classroom management and the pros and cons of this solution were explored. Another solution also being considered by the school was ‘Net Support’. RM Tutor was heavily used across the school and as it is a derivative of Net Support, James and Simon’s opinion was that the latter would be a smoother transition with less change for staff. However, Gary wanted to create a level playing field for this comparison and so negotiated on behalf of the school; he requested identical pricing for the two potential classroom management products – Impero and Net Support. Gary then set up webinars for both products so that an informed decision could be made.

Sign-off

Following the webinars, quotes and scope of work were produced and James was given the most important task of the whole project – obtaining sign-off from the Head Teacher. This proved to be less difficult than anticipated with the costs being considerably less than was first signposted. The Head Teacher was also assured by the confidence James was displaying in CSE and the limited amount of noticeable change being described.

This week, CSE’s Technical Services Director, Stewart Priestley visited the school to give final sign off on the scope of work and verify that all aspects of the project from rack space to switch capacity, and engineering resource were appropriate and achievable.

And that brings us up to date. The next episode will detail the start of the installation process - scheduled for next month. Read part 2 of this blog post here!

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