Schools have a range of options when deciding how to use outsourced IT teams to supplement the efforts of their internal IT specialists.
School leaders have a lot on their plates. As anyone who works in K-12 education will tell you, administrators’ schedules can quickly fill up between meetings, hall duty, emails, and after school activities. Technology management, which also often includes extensive technology troubleshooting, is yet another item on many school leaders’ to-do lists that threatens to drain valuable time away from instruction.
As a result, many school leaders quickly realize they need a dedicated IT specialist on staff, someone who will deal with day-to-day troubleshooting, answer teacher and student questions about their technology and, when needed, assist parents with, for instance, issues that arise during remote learning. This specialist might also “own” technology inventory management and procurement at the end and beginning of each school year, respectively, as well as, potentially, the school’s annual E-rate funding process.
There comes a point, however, when even the school’s IT specialist may become overwhelmed, when, like the other administrators they were brought in to assist, they too become bogged down with simply too many items on their to-do lists. It’s here where an outsourced IT team can make a difference, supplementing the efforts of the school’s internal IT specialist to deliver exceptional educational technology services that fulfill the school’s unique mission.
A partnership between a school and an outsourced IT team can take many forms. At one extreme, the school could choose to simply outsource all or a vast majority of its IT services to the external provider. Relieved of any day-to-day responsibilities of their own, administrators, under this arrangement, simply engage in vendor management, with one school leader typically designated as the external provider’s point of contact.
On the other hand, the outsourced IT team may only be brought in once the school reaches a certain escalation point, whether this be a certain time of the year with high troubleshooting traffic or a particular enrollment level (e.g., the outsourced IT team may be responsible for grade 4, while the internal specialist is responsible for grades K-3). Similarly, the outsourced IT team may be responsible for specific technology domains such as, for instance, infrastructure, which includes management of the school’s routers, switches, cabling, and wireless access points.
Finally, the school may consult outsourced IT teams on an ad-hoc basis, bringing in the external provider on a somewhat random schedule to address specific issues at the school or to assist with particularly hefty projects for which the internal specialist lacks capacity. Under this scenario, the outsourced IT team may simply serve as an advisor, recommending, for instance, a particular Chromebook or projector model the school may want to purchase for the upcoming year.
For a school with a single internal IT specialist, outsourcing the majority of IT services may make sense.
As a school continues to grow, a staffing model that includes a single internal IT specialist becomes increasingly untenable. With more devices to service, more teachers to assist with technical troubleshooting, and more parent inquiries to field, a single internal specialist can become quickly overwhelmed with the addition of a single grade.
For this reason, outsourced IT teams that take on the majority of technology-related operations often make sense for schools with large student populations. Here, the internal specialist can simply act as the director, serving as the point of contact for the external provider and monitoring progress on co-created project plans or other technology-related initiatives at the school. Rather than running from classroom to classroom each day fixing individual technology issues, the internal specialist can, instead, sit back and direct school community members to the external provider, while devoting the majority of his or her time to long-term planning and higher-level decision-making.
The same holds for new schools, as well, who often don’t have the financial capacity to hire an internal IT specialist for their first year. Instead of simply adding technology to one school leader’s list of responsibilities, the school can, instead, look to outsourced IT teams to manage their new school’s technology and, depending on enrollment changes or other developments, adjust the model as the school sees fit.
Outsourced IT teams can also assist a school when its technology needs to cross a certain threshold.
For schools that embrace a threshold model of outsourced IT team support, end-of-year close-out, and beginning-of-year start-up offer textbook examples of times when outsourced IT teams can make a real difference in schools’ non-instructional outcomes.
At the end of the year, for example, it would be daunting for a single IT specialist to inventory hundreds of Chromebooks themselves, tagging and logging each device in the school’s internal database and chasing down any missing devices, one by one. The school might, instead, bring in an outsourced IT team to assist the internal specialist with these especially busy times. Here, rather than doing the work themselves, the internal specialist can serve as a project manager for the outsourced team, providing a high-level vision of the work that needs to occur and ensuring any key deliverables and timelines are met.
The same holds true for other high-traffic times, including remote learning launch when additional IT support is likely needed to troubleshoot any issues with student technology and any online testing days held by the school. In each instance, the stakes of the initiative or single event are high. Bringing an outsourced IT team to assist the internal specialist can provide a school with peace of mind and, more importantly, ensure smooth continuity of technology services.
When assigned specific domain areas, outsourced IT teams can take certain tasks off of the internal specialist’s plate.
A related, but slightly different, outsourced IT model delegates specific technology-related domains to the external provider while reserving a select few for the internal specialist, who either lacks the capacity or technical knowledge to effectively manage them.
These assignments might, as previously mentioned, relate to specific dates in the school calendar, such as start-up and close-out, but often more broadly address topics like daily troubleshooting, inventory, or device-specific oversight.
For instance, by outsourcing daily troubleshooting to an outsourced IT team, the internal specialist can ensure that his or her schedule isn’t overwhelmed by incoming tickets and can instead address other, longer-term technology-related issues that similarly deserve attention. Rather than triaging individual issues themselves, the internal specialist can direct users—whether students, teachers, or parents—to the external providers online form or phone number.
The same holds true for inventory management. Rather than chasing down individual devices him or herself, the internal specialist can lean on the outsourced IT team to monitor the school’s list of devices. Instead of maintaining and updating the school’s “master list” all by themselves, the internal specialist can simply alert the external provider when a particular device is damaged or needs replacing, and the outsourced IT team will take it from there, ensuring the school has an accurate accounting of its hardware.
Finally, given an individual’s limited technical knowledge, a school can bring in outsourced IT teams to manage a particular suite or model of device with which the internal specialist has little experience. In this case, there’s no need for the internal specialist to hit the books and learn the ins-and-outs of a particular operating system, device model, or online instructional platform overnight. Instead, the outsourced IT team can manage that particular range of devices, while the internal specialist continues to do what they do best.
Of course, a school can simply call upon outsourced IT teams on an ad-hoc basis when the need arises.
Sometimes, however, a school simply wants the flexibility to call on outsourced IT teams only when they’re needed, requesting the external provider “swoop in” on an ad-hoc basis to assist with a particularly hefty project such as a new school launch or to fill a gap during a staffing transition.
The advantages to this model are, potentially, of course, cost-savings, but also an assurance that continuity of service will continue no matter what happens at the school. Ideally, students and families will have little sense that the outsourced provider has assumed technology leadership over a particular element of non-instructional programming or has been brought in to fill a staffing gap.
At CTS, we work with our partners to offer easy-to-understand pricing plans and service offerings that make sense for their school.
We’ve worked with more than 60 schools across the United States in various capacities to accomplish their unique missions. From a full suite of managed IT services to discrete, project-based assignments, including educational data analysis, our team knows that schools’ needs rarely match one another exactly.
With our transparent pricing and depth of industry knowledge, our team stands ready to help make your school’s vision for educational technology a reality. Contact us today to learn more about our services, and how we can help your school fulfill its unique mission.