With the education sector’s budget being squeezed, it’s important for those who sell to schools to understand how they differ from other businesses. Steve Norman, commercial director at Stone Group, explains…
Stone Group’s roots are entrenched in the education sector, it’s been our lifeblood for the past 25 years. Obviously, the education system is governed by umbrella regulations and standards, including Ofsted, just as other businesses are. However, in our experience, that’s where the similarities usually end. It’s knowing and understanding the subtle differences in attitude and requirement that makes working with the sector so rewarding for our team.
We all know that the education sector is being squeezed for budget. We believe that understanding the extreme stress this can cause teachers and support staff is key, so we don’t push for the right solution to be new, expensive and urgent. We work with them to see what can be done with their existing kit. Can we refurbish it or augment it in the short-term to keep the classroom online, and then look at a more comprehensive solution later? Can we help them establish the ‘one thing’ that will make the biggest difference (such as moving to the cloud, or new Wi-Fi)?
Schools are inspired by other schools – it’s common practice to source a school which has achieved what you would like in terms of ICT, and learn from it. The education sector is happy to share. We support this as part of our consultation process, letting our customers speak to each other and see how we helped.
Particularly in primary education, but increasingly in other areas, the procurers of IT may not have much technology training, or even much inclination to rely on technology. The right provider should take on that role for them, lead with enthusiasm and understanding and pitch at their level. Speeds and feeds are not the way to elicit excitement in education.
Stone Group has its own recycling plant at our headquarters and we offer our customers a recycling service. Schools, colleges and universities retain large amounts of obsolete equipment. We gently encourage a positive technology cycle and help the education industry comply with the EU data laws. There are damaging and depressing ways that IT equipment can have serious long-term effects if not disposed of properly, and a school’s own recycling policy is an excellent way to demonstrate to its pupils that it can be done safely with no negative impact on developing countries.
As a multi-product and service vendor with over 4,000 school customers, we get some very specific requests. One may want to purchase 500 tablets from one specific make. One may want to replace their backup facility with the same solution.
We consider it our job to gently challenge such purchasing decisions, especially if, after consultation on the outcomes they’re trying to achieve, we believe there’s a better way forward. We’re not afraid to do this so that the technology empowers both staff and pupils to succeed consistently.
Steve Norman is commercial director at Stone Group.