Getting the best value from ICT Budgets in Independent Schools

Originally posted on 9 January 2017

With ever increasing demands for new and improved technology in independent schools, it is easy for ICT to become a bottomless money pit. Naturally, every school wants to use technology to enhance the learning environment, equip pupils for the digital world that they will be living and working in, as well as ensure that the school is keeping up with its competitors and using technology in a way that will serve to attract further pupils to the school. 

The bursar however, has the unenviable job of trying to balance all these laudable ambitions against a limited budget! 

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Download The Education White PaperThis is where I often get called in to help bursars review current ICT budgets and look at strategic ways next academic year's ICT budget can be most effectively utilised. Because we work with numerous schools, and have a good handle on the technology marketplace, we are able to give bursars a steer on whether they are paying about the right amount for ICT services and staffing both commercially and in relation to other schools. We also look at whether there may be ways they can "flip" their budget to achieve their technological aspirations in a different way. 

Every school is different, but with ICT forming a significant part of the school’s overall budget, it is well worth taking a little time to review how best to deliver maximum possible value from a limited pot of resources. Whilst time and space don't allow me to cover every scenario here, I thought it would be useful to jot down a few of the common areas that I find are worth reviewing:- 

1. ICT Invoice review. This is often a very revealing exercise, as many schools receive a plethora of invoices from different providers each term or year, relating to services, maintenance contracts, software subscriptions and the like. The descriptions on such invoices are often vague or use technical jargon, which make it hard to know what they relate to, whether they are still actually relevant and whether they are offering good value for money. We have spent time with many schools unravelling their invoices to understand just these factors and frequently this exercise alone has yielded many thousands of pounds in ongoing cost savings. 

2. Software review. Most independent schools have an array of software applications that have grown over time. Reviewing (or indeed making!) a list of all applications and asking questions such as "Who uses it?", "What for?", "Do we still need it?" and "Is there a cheaper way to licence it?" normally reveals another nice chunk of money that can be used for more exciting ICT projects. 

3. Internet connectivity. With technological advances, prices for Internet connectivity are constantly falling, but many schools are not aware of this and so are oblivious of the opportunities to re-negotiate their contract, or perhaps add a back-up Internet line for the same cost they are currently paying for their main line alone. 

4. ICT staffing costs. In some cases, independent schools find a better skills mix and a cost saving can be achieved by part or fully outsourcing their ICT function, or by changing provider. 

5. The Cloud. Strategic use of the right public and private cloud solutions can potentially save schools a fortune in hardware and support costs, whilst also offering remote working capability and the ability to securely access the school system from pupil and staff owned devices. 

6. "Closed" cloud. For those schools not yet comfortable with the idea of their data residing off-site, closed cloud solutions can offer similar benefits to private cloud solutions, as well as significant cost savings over a traditional network, whilst still keeping all data in school. 

7. Leveraging your ICT systems commercially. From utilising digital technology to market your school more effectively, through to renting out your shiny new music technology suite over the holidays, remember you can use your technology to boost your bank balance too, not just deplete it! 

If you would like to discover more about how we could help your schools ICT, download our FREE White Paper >>

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