Supply and demand

Understanding your school’s Total Cost of Ownership of ICT is key, says Geoff Chandler, Director of Moxton Education

✥ Give us some background on Moxton Education and what it is that you do?

Moxton Education work with schools, Trusts or organisations that have schools as their end customers and need specialist support. The support we provide currently covers 15 ICT areas including total cost of ownership (TCO) reviews, impact on teaching and learning analysis, support with the Computing curriculum and procurement; basically we support any aspect of ICT from technical to operational, financial and pedagogic.

We offer an independent, value-for-money service: our packages are priced according to outcomes, not according to days, and so we bear the risk, not our clients; we also offer reductions on bundles of packages.

We’re an independent team of senior leaders with many years’ experience in Edtech. We offer a broad range of skills, from full-scale national programme management through to individual school support. We have all worked as leaders within the education sector
and understand the demands and challenges of ICT and change management within schools.

✥ How have demands changed over the last couple of years for ICT in the education sector?

There has been a number of changes in the last few years that have radically changed the way ICT is purchased. In parallel to this technical innovation has also moved on to enable a much more mobile world to become a reality. Both the procurement and technical developments have provided challenges and opportunities to schools.

There has obviously been a move away from large national schemes to a more fractured education market; authorities have become increasingly marginalised and there is less scope for aggregated purchasing. The growing number of Trusts and Academy chains brings with it the need for more cohesive intra-Trust strategies and approaches. However, aligning ICT services is often not addressed in the early phases of Trust development given everything else that needs to be established, and this brings its own set of challenges when it comes to activities such as cross-Trust data reporting.

The ICT equipment within schools is aging as budgets are squeezed, on average equipment is now five years’ old, up from 3.5 years a few years ago. The sustainability agenda has also sharpened the focus on ICT investments: energy and resource savings are key to evaluating the value of ICT expenditure and strategies.

The use of mobile devices within schools has also burgeoned but circa 80% of schools do not have the infrastructure to support the use of these devices fully due to lack of coverage and throughput. The associated rise of BYOD as a way of providing one to one has brought its own set of challenges around e-safety and device management.

✥ What are the benefits of adopting a long-term strategy?

A long-term ICT strategy is imperative for many reasons. A planned, phased development programme means that change management is coherent. For example, a one to one programme plan would involve ensuring that kit, mobile device management, training, storage, power management, insurance, data protection, connectivity and content are all considered. Additionally, the process of developing a long-term strategy focuses staff attention on ICT and brings associated benefits: a sustainable refresh programme can be costed; a systematic and regular review of existing software and hardware contracts can be undertaken; ICT training needs and requirements can be addressed and the impact of training measured and aligned to the school vision. 

✥ If you could recommend one thing that a school should change to reduce ICT costs what should it be?

All schools spend differing amounts of money on ICT and this relates to the vision they have along with local issues and priorities. Therefore, the key is to ensure that a school is getting a value for money (VfM) ICT service that delivers the vision the school aspires to. 

The first step is to undertake a full total cost of ownership (TCO) review so the school can understand where VfM is not being achieved. One area of ICT provision which frequently needs to be addressed is under-used software licenses which are simply renewed each year without assessing their impact on teaching and learning. Moving schools towards a more sustainable, revenue-based approach to funding is key to success. In our experience, there are multiple areas – from technical to operational – where VfM can be improved. 

✥ What’s the single biggest source of wasted spend ICT expenditure?

Overheads such as power consumption and printing are key areas which often need to be addressed. We have significant experience in bringing these costs down. One school we worked with in London had printing costs of £2,000 per week and we reduced that, almost overnight, to £500. Other issues may include a poorly staffed or supported service, licensing which hasn’t been rationalised, or poor-value broadband provision. The reasons, obviously, change from site to site.

✥ How much future scope is there for further reductions in ICT costs?

There is huge scope – untapped in most schools; many schools could be saving immediately. Again, VfM should be key in evaluating where savings can best be made. Training is often axed early to save costs, but if staff cannot utilise the technologies the school has invested in then this represents poor VfM. The key is sitting down with the school and establishing a full TCO, analysing where the spend is currently and looking to improve or remodel/cut that spend if appropriate. We then support the school in understanding and agreeing a cost-saving strategy. Every penny spent on an analysis of ICT spend, understanding TCO and on the development of a long-term strategy for ICT will provide payback many times over. 

For further information contact:

geoff.chandler@moxton-education.com
07970 661087