'We don't think of it as the end of dabs, it's a new start' - BT Business Direct on changes and education focus

PCR interviews education channel marketing manager Matt Berry
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PCR interviews BT Business Direct's education channel marketing manager Matt Berry about the IT reseller's education strategy.

Please tell us about the new channel marketing team at BT Business Direct...

The education channel marketing team is a new team created to support our growing education IT specialists. We’ve always had an in-house marketing and design team but we’ve never focused on sectors before.

When we looked at the business strategy for this year, it was obvious we needed to reorganise our marketing teams to support that, while also showing our current customers that we’re serious about supporting them, and our education IT specialists, to use technology to enhance learning outcomes.

As the IT reseller arm of BT, we’re making sure that our relationships with worldwide brands lead to great products, services and prices being ensured for our customers.

Tell us how the role of your team has shifted since the dabs label was dropped in favour of BT Business Direct...

Well, BT Business was around long before dabs sadly closed its doors this April. BT bought us nine years ago and we’re still dabs. All that’s changed is the name - we’re the same people, with the same great products, prices and quick service. 

Rather than thinking of the end of dabs, we’re embracing it as a new start. A new start in terms of the way we interact with our customers - we’re much more than a reseller. If you buy products from us and you’re not making the most of them, we want to help you to do so.

What kind of products and services do you provide?

BT is a huge company, but people still just see us as calls and lines, we are so much more. We’re the IT reseller arm of BT.

Working with the world’s biggest brands, we can provide the IT hardware and software to get students tech savvy. We’re accredited by HP, Dell, Microsoft and Apple to name but a few.

We don’t just want to sell you a PC with the software and the Wi-Fi infrastructure to support it (even though we can if that’s all you need), we want to find out about your IT strategy. That way we can help you use and embed the technology you’re purchasing to improve teaching and learning in your environment.

We’ve been having training sessions with people who know a lot more than us about education – former teachers. And their advice is to adopt the SAMR and TPACK approach to improving the use of technology in schools, so that’s what we’re trying to do. Not only with the products, services and training that we can sell but also through our blog and the free resources that we promote like Barefoot, STEM ambassadors, Digital Champions and BT Volunteers.

Who is in your team?

  • Matt Berry, Education Channel Marketing Manager (pictured, centre)
  • Jade Bates, Education Channel Marketing Executive (pictured, right)
  • Cait Mackenzie, Education Channel Marketing Executive (pictured, left)
  • Michelle Dickinson, Education Channel Marketing Manager (currently on maternity leave)

We also have a vacancy for an education channel marketing assistant.

What are your long-term plans?

Long-term, the sky’s the limit. In education, between our fantastic sales team of IT specialists and our team, we’ve got a great relationship with our customers. We want to learn as much as possible from the schools we already work with so we’re going to more events and talking to teachers and students alike to find out about their IT strategy so we can help them get there.

We want to empower schools to use technology to improve learning and help them to embed the technology as a powerful teaching and learning tool, rather than just as a substitution for pen and paper.

Who is your typical customer?

We currently work mainly with FE and HE academic organisations, but we also work with a lot of KS 1-4 schools and we’re focusing on growing this base. Along with other parts of BT, we’re passionate about improving the knowledge of our next generation.

BT works with Barefoot to help teachers with their coding curriculum commitments, our STEM ambassadors work with KS1-4 and our ComputAbility programme is designed to make a 1:1 device strategy affordable for primary- secondary institutions. So we’ve got the tools, the team and the specialists – we just need to get the word out that we’re here to help.

Some firms have reported a rise in demand for convertible PCs, small form factor systems and higher-end workstations from schools. Are you also seeing this?

In KS3-4, we’ve seen a shift to more mobile and portable devices including convertibles, this has increased in conjunction with a lot of schools plans to create a 1:1 device strategy.

At the same time, we’ve seen many schools opting-out of the traditional computer suites because they want students to have continual access to technology throughout the school day. We’ve also seen a rise in higher-end, more powerful PCs, but again rather than being in a traditional computer suite, these sit in the departments that use them to enhance learning. i.e. an iMac with sound software including garage band for Music, Adobe Creative Suite in DT alongside graphics tablets, 3D printers and the supporting software.

We’ve also seen more powerful PCs being needed as schools add video animation and gamification into their teaching to increase student engagement.

What are your thoughts on the IT education market? How is this changing?

We’re really excited about the amazing changes that are happening in education. The idea of anywhere, anytime access to education and flipped learning are being made possible by the advancement of technology.

We’ve talked to some incredible teachers who are encouraging this advancement and are putting students ability to learn in the style that’s best suited to them light years ahead with the tech they’ve implemented.

What else are you doing in education?

We are passionate about helping our customers – schools, academies, colleges and universities find affordable ways to improve learning through technology. Visit our blog, website and see how we’re already enhancing learning outcomes. We’re on a journey but things like our Tech Factor competition are just the start, there’s a lot more we want to do for education.

PCR's Sector Spotlight on Education - in association with Tech Data - is running throughout July 2016 - click here for more articles

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