How Outsourced IT Supports Strategic Technology Planning

Schools that focus on the day-to-day miss out on the benefits of strategic technology planning.

School administrators around the country know the drill: you walk into the school on a Monday morning, determined to accomplish all of the items on your to-do list, and, suddenly, the day’s plans change. Rather than ticking off their list of to-dos, school administrators spend their day putting out tiny fire after tiny fire. A student becomes violently ill and has to go home, an irate parent shows up in the main office demanding to speak with the principal, an unannounced health inspection catches the school cafeteria workers by surprise. Each of these everyday scenarios can easily derail a school administrator from doing the kind of long-term planning necessary for the school’s success.

Imagine, for example, that the school administrator we’ve described, never quite gets to all of the items on her to-do list. Rather than planning ahead for report card distribution, end-of-year close-out, or student recruitment efforts, the administrator spends her day just getting by, keeping the school running without really adding value to its programming. Here, it’s easy to see how the school misses out: report card distribution is a mess, close-out is similarly chaotic, and worst of all, the school’s enrollment numbers decline from the previous year.

School administrators who fail to think ahead when it comes to technology face similar challenges. Failure to begin the hardware procurement process early, for example, can undermine a school’s attempts to offer teachers a one-to-one student-device ratio. Likewise, a lack of systems to monitor the school’s critical IT infrastructure can lead to unexpected outages, compromising classroom instruction.

Outsourced IT helps schools plan for the future. Above and beyond daily troubleshooting, an outsourced IT firm provides schools with a strategic thought partner, one with the industry knowledge and project management skills to tackle even the most daunting of school IT challenges. This partner also alerts the school when it’s time to begin thinking ahead. End-of-year close-out doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes months of careful planning, and an outsourced IT partner can help the school begin the process early.

Outsourced IT helps integrate each part of a school’s technology programming.

Similarly, an outsourced IT firm helps schools see the “big picture” when it comes to their technology programming. All too often, administrators choose the most expedient or cheapest technology product without thinking through how that produce integrates with their existing technology systems. For example, if a school has an existing student information system (SIS) and wants to procure a separate data and assessment system, it should ensure that each platform can “talk” to one another by, for example, automatically populating student demographic information from the SIS to the data and assessment platform. In this case, an outsourced IT team firm can guide schools through the procurement process with knowledge of both the underlying product as well as the broader market in which it’s situated. Armed with information it would otherwise lack, the school can then choose the platform that makes the most sense in conjunction with its existing SIS. These choices may seem small, but they can add significant value to school programming. A teacher, for instance, won’t have to spend time cross-checking rosters in the SIS and data and assessment system once the two are integrated, saving valuable instructional time.

Likewise, an outsourced IT firm can help schools select a suite of online instructional platforms that complement its instructional model. Online platforms like BrainPop and DreamBox have become even more popular with the widespread adoption of remote learning. As schools resume in-person instruction, these platforms are likely to remain a significant part of many schools’ instructional programming. An outsourced IT firm can help a school with limited knowledge of these and other platforms select an optimal mix of software to meet its unique needs and also help the school maintain the various licenses that usually accompany such products.

Finally, an outsourced IT team can ensure that all of a school’s student and staff devices are connected to the requisite printers, scanners, and other auxiliary technology teachers regularly access. No more USB-connected printing or waiting for the “one printer” that works in the entire building. An outsourced IT team ensures each student and staff device is connected to all of the necessary devices on the school’s network, saving teachers’ instructional time and avoiding unnecessary technology-related headaches.

Outsourced IT provides schools with a strategic thought partner.

In a similar vein, outsourced IT teams offer schools a strategic thought partner who can identify and meet the school’s short-and long-term needs. For example, if a school is planning to expand to a new site or add a new grade level in the coming years, an outsourced IT provider will help guide the school through the expansion process and also propose questions the school leader will need to answer as he or she begins thinking about the expansion. Will the school maintain its existing student-device ratio? Does the current Windows operating system make sense for the school’s needs? How will the building manage its technology across sites? Will it monitor a single centralized inventory or decentralize its technology programming to give each site flexibility? Answering these questions early can guide the school’s subsequent decision-making process and more narrowly tailor its technology choices to meet its needs.

Strategic technology planning saves schools money.

Taking the time to thoroughly plan and execute its technology programming can also save schools a tremendous amount of money. By helping schools think more strategically about their technology choices, outsourced IT providers can help schools decide what, exactly, they need to accomplish their unique missions and what items are truly “extra” or “nice to have.”

An outsourced IT provider with experience in the education sector can  help the school implement its annual E-rate bid, assuming the school selects the provider after completing the bidding process. Successful implementation of the school’s E-rate bid can save administrators thousands of dollars each year, allowing the school to procure otherwise expensive educational technology at a fraction of the market price. Rather than devoting precious instructional dollars to routers, switches, and wireless access points, for example, the school can restock its classroom libraries, purchase new science curriculum kits, or enhance its arts programming.

Finally, strategic technology planning can prevent last-minute purchases that cost far more than an earlier purchase would have. Rush-delivering a set of Chromebooks in time for the school’s launch, for instance, needlessly wastes money that could be used more effectively elsewhere. Outsourced IT firms support schools’ long-term planning efforts to ensure these issues don’t arise in the first place.

If a school is planning an expansion, strategic technology planning is key.

Strategic technology planning is especially important for schools that are planning an expansion, whether to a new site or simply adding one or more grade levels to their existing footprint. Projectors, SMART Boards, Chromebooks, and staff laptops aren’t cheap, but outsourced IT providers can often source these devices at a far lower cost than a school could on its own. Similarly, an effective outsourced IT provider will have a global view of the school’s technology ecosystem. Beyond purchasing the devices, for instance, the provider will know that each device needs specific software installed and should be connected to the school’s printers and scanners. School administrators who lack experience in strategic technology planning can often miss these small details, which can lead to more significant issues down the line.

An outsourced IT provider can also inspect the new site and determine what, if any, wireless or other technology-related infrastructure needs to be installed before the first day of school. Working with school leadership, the provider can then devise a comprehensive project plan to ensure that the building is ready on day one. Older buildings, for example, may need entirely new IT infrastructure, which requires time, money, and troubleshooting to successfully install. Alternatively, the school may be able to use some of the new site’s existing infrastructure for its own programming. An effective outsourced IT provider can proactively identify these and other facilities-related issues and ensure they don’t alter the school’s planned launch date.

At CTS, we partner with schools to enhance their strategic technology planning.

We’ve worked with over 60 schools across the United States to accomplish their unique missions. From new-school launch and expansion to E-rate bid implementation and long-term strategic planning, our team offers schools a suite of services schools can use to take their technology programming to the next level. When a school partners with CTS, it’s getting both a world-class managed IT provider and strategic thought partner who can help leaders navigate the challenges of educational technology. Our team is deeply steeped in the missions of our partner schools, and we firmly believe that effective educational technology programs can improve student achievement. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help your school accomplish its unique mission.

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