Take it from an IT manager, schools are being flogged tech that they don't need

Take it from an IT manager, schools are being flogged tech that they don't need

I get an average of 15 people a week phoning me up to sell me something. I'm an IT manager, so in many ways it is no surprise: from salespeople and trainers, to course organisers and seminar sellers – you name it, they have something my school couldn't function without.

They often use underhand tactics to get through reception, my favourites being:

  • "We've done business before." (About 10 years ago)
  • "You could get a free printer." (If you spend £5,000)
  • "We can save you lots of money." (One person told me they could save me over a million pounds)

I struggle to hold on to my will to live as they try to peddle their wares, which include:

  • Cloud systems (even though they are free)
  • Networking (even though most schools wouldn't need anything more than they already have)
  • Support (which often isn't good value for money)
  • Training sessions or seminars (where, surprise, surprise, they tell you their way is best).

Every single one of these people has one thing in common: they are trying to earn a living. Their priority is not you, your school or your students, which makes them more than a tad dangerous. They are there to make a buck: to tell you their way, their systems and their product is the best on the market.

Many of them actually lack the experience managing technology day-to-day within a business (or a school). A few have even had home devices and expected them to be the same as a network domain. But the major difference between work and home is that if it doesn't work at home it doesn't really matter – IT in a school needs to be available 24/7.

These people like to challenge IT support and they hate not getting their own way. In fact, however much they love calling me, they certainly hate IT support. We're a threat to their income and earnings, you see. They know we think about the whole picture.

In this brave new world of massive budget cuts, IT specialists are the only ones you should listen to on this topic. If your school has a failing IT system, it is usually the fault of IT and/or your senior leadership team (SLT). IT are either clued up or clueless, set in their ways or open to improvements. If your IT support are too green (usually fresh ex-students), don't complain that your IT system doesn't work. And, for their side of the bargain, the SLT needs to support them with budget and time – if you don't have SLT supporting IT it won't work.

In some ways budget challenges are making school revert to the old ways of doing things: low-cost IT with Windows computers, projectors and "free" systems when available. Rightly so: there's absolutely no reason why you need an expensive Apple product in today's educational environment. If someone told you that you do, they lied. About 99% of what you do with an iPad, you can do on an Android tablet that costs a lot less.

Remember, though, that free doesn't always mean better. Office 365 Live, for example, has a free version but it requires internet for the education version. The paid-for one, however, allows you to install the software so you don't have to worry about being connected – it can be expensive (a typical secondary school will be £3,000 - £5000 per annum) but it takes away the worry that no internet equals no office. 

Next time you hear "this is the way" from pesky trainers, salespeople and seminars organisers who are after your money, here's what you need to do:

  • Remember they are there to make a buck
  • Ignore their claims of how much they could save you
  • Trial, test and trial – all the things they claim you don't need to do
  • Don't believe in magic fixes.

This is an edited version a blog from The IT Guy in Education. You can read the original here.

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