Stone Group’s Steve Norman highlights why managed services is starting to impact schools…
Could there be any more different consumers of technology than a rural primary school and the engineering faculty of a Russell Group University? The education ICT market is delicate – from the fragility of its funding to the vast range of knowledge and appetite for technology amongst its decision makers. Therefore, managed services have had very different levels of impact, but at Stone we’re beginning to see things change.
If you asked 10 teachers what a managed IT service was, you’d probably get a very varied set of answers. The now defunct Government BSF (Building Schools for the Future) program made managed services more common – BSF schools had a supplied and managed IT infrastructure. To some schools, a managed service is having 24/7 IT support from someone offsite, to a university faculty it may be outsourced print services.
But with education comes the responsibility for children, their safeguarding (both on and offline, on and off premise) and the delivery of their education in the most effective way possible. At the core of the uptake of managed services in any sector are two key issues: the perception of risk; and the potential cost savings managed services could deliver. With education, those two issues loom very large and the debate becomes emotional – in the worst scenario – what price, some believe, can be put on a child’s wellbeing at school, and should anybody outside the school walls be responsible for any aspect of that wellbeing?
Managed services in education tend to work best when there’s total immersion in the vision and values of the school or college involved, and when the supplier knows more about the school than the immediate requirement the managed service solves. In short you can’t just provide a service to the school; you need to become part of their trusted ecosystem.
At Stone Group, we have a firm bedrock of customers that initially knew us as the front-end hardware assemblers we predominantly were, and have now become our Infrastructure Services customers. We manage the security and support for the devices we supply, via the cloud, for example. Our Stone SI (Schools Infrastructure) offering is a core infrastructure especially designed for education. These newer, fully managed services offerings are a natural progression for our customers, who appreciate our experience in working with every kind of teaching environment.
Schools also want to work with providers who provide them with a touch of sensitivity when it comes to understanding how best to work with them. It’s easy for a school or college to feel overwhelmed by a large number of vendors, brand names, software packages and technology terms they don’t quite understand all coming together to form one managed service. They don’t want, or have time, for multiple support lines or ‘contacts’. We always try to minimise this where we can.
A good managed service in education should make sense to the school because it makes a demonstrable difference to lessons, makes education more effective and school no less of a secure environment to work and study in. In other words, it should be invisible in its tangible effect, leaving the school to get on with the business of education.
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