Certification is Just a Starting Point in Selecting an IT Service Provider

Certification counts, but it’s experience that matters most for schools.

When choosing between potential IT service providers, schools consider a variety of factors. Does this provider work with other schools or clients similar to my organization? What certifications does the provider’s staff hold, and do these certifications align with my school’s technology needs? What about the cost? Can we actually afford the provider’s services?

While the answers to these questions are certainly important and, in the case of cost, can heavily influence a school’s decision-making process, experience, ultimately, is key. Rather than focusing on whether a particular provider is Sharepoint or CWNP certified, schools need to have confidence that the provider can perform the required work effectively. By evaluating a given provider’s track record, preferably among a diverse array of clients, school leaders can help ensure IT service provision at their school aligns with the organization’s unique mission. 

A Sharepoint certified provider isn’t necessarily familiar with all of a school’s platforms or operating systems.

As any school leader knows, teachers, students, and families use a variety of technology platforms to support teaching, learning, and communication. From Outlook to Google Drive and Class Dojo to DreamBox, schools consistently deploy a range of educational technologies during the course of a given week. 

Experience navigating a range of platforms, as well as troubleshooting the issues that inevitably arise through their use, is key when evaluating service proposals from a given IT firm. Considering a provider’s experience is particularly important for relatively newer schools. There’s no guarantee, for example, that a new school will choose to stick with its current operating system beyond the second or third year, choosing instead to pivot to another platform given shifts in its technology needs. Providers’ ability to navigate these changes with ease, smooth the transition for their clients, and effectively execute shifts in technology have little to do with certification and much more to do with experience. 

The educational technology landscape is constantly shifting. A provider’s exposure to the latest trends is critical to delivering educational outcomes.

Similarly, a provider who’s Sharepoint certified isn’t necessarily aware of existing trends in educational technology, which may differ from trends in other sectors with which the provider has more experience. For this reason, selecting a provider that has both a diverse range of current or past clients, as well as a specific focus on educational technology, is critical to executing a successful school IT program.

In addition to an awareness of broader trends within the educational technology sector, providers with in-depth educational technology experience can provide guidance on key financial considerations as schools map their technology spending over several years. Rather than re-investing in their existing hardware or software, schools may choose to conserve their funds for a later year in which new updates or products are expected to become available. Experienced IT service providers are able to provide their clients with insights that support these decisions, potentially saving thousands of dollars in the process.

For schools planning an expansion, hiring a Sharepoint certified or CWNP certified provider is simply the first step to ensuring a successful launch.

The value-add of an experienced IT service provider is particularly beneficial for schools planning an expansion or launching a new site altogether. Rather than prioritizing Sharepoint or CWNP certification in their search, schools planning to increase enrollment or build-out a new facility should seek out providers with a track record of successful new school launches or facility expansions.

Depending on the needs of a new facility, an experienced IT service provider can recommend investments in cabling, wireless access points, and other infrastructure required to support a school’s educational technology programming. In a rush to replicate an existing grade or site’s educational technology model, schools can easily overlook investments in IT infrastructure in favor of student and staff device procurement, which may not perform as well in a newly acquired space. 

Does your provider have strong non-technical communication skills? If not, troubleshooting may become difficult for teachers and families. 

Perhaps most importantly, a Sharepoint certified provider doesn’t necessarily have the project management or non-technical communication skills that make for a successful IT service provider. From summer work scopes, on-site visits, and everyday troubleshooting, the success of an IT service provider can often be gauged by its capacity to effectively communicate with key stakeholders across the organization.

Lacking the technical experience of an IT service professional, school leaders lean on outside providers to alert them of potential issues down the road or large-scale projects they need to begin preparing for far in advance. Certification alone doesn’t guarantee a provider can fulfill this crucial role, underscoring, again, the importance of experience as schools evaluate bids from prospective firms.

At CTS, our team has the experience to help your school navigate its educational technology challenges.

Our team serves more than 60 schools and educational organizations across the United States, all with diverse needs and unique missions. Contact us today to learn more about our managed IT and other services, and how we can help you navigate the unique educational technology issues at your organization. 

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