An education in technology
by Julian Mitchell, Education Sector Manager, Eduserv
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Selling Services to the Higher Education and Further Education sector is a complicated affair. Understanding how the sector works and how decisions are made varies greatly from organisation to organisation.
Often you will deal with Central IT Departments who manage large resources often two Data Centers plus staff and plenty of on Campus equipment used by students. The Computing Faculty tends to be self-sufficient and can pretty much manage their own affairs, Research Departments have a certain level of autonomy to purchase high spec computing and other Research related hardware, software and services. There are multiple decision makers and multiple purchasers. It’s no wonder doing business in the sector is often avoided due to the complex sales cycles and lead times and yet it’s a great business to be in.
Higher Education/Further Education people are approachable, open and always happy to put their cards on the table, unlike the commercial sector. Once accepted as a credible supplier to the sector there is a wealth of opportunity. The sector does not like to be ‘sold to’ it’s very much a case of ‘work with’ and ‘support’. Not all suppliers are prepared to work this way, it takes longer to gain trust in this sector and sales cycles being quite long don’t gel well with quarterly driven sales targets in commercial organisations. You have to be prepared to play the ‘Long Game’, more of a Test Match than a one day event.
Difficult times though are upon us. Student numbers are down by 10% for the 2012 intake, what about next year and the year after? Will numbers continue to fall and hence budgets become more squeezed. The Further Education sector is already feeling the pinch and as a consequence are looking for ways to deliver ‘better for less’ often acting as a catalyst to move to Cloud services and to find new and innovative ways to deliver.
Technology refresh decisions are now being considered as an opportunity to maintain a smaller presence ‘on Campus’ for critical Applications, but ‘off Campus’ things like Storage, Student Authentication to apps like Moodle/Microsoft 365 and take advantage of lower cost Disaster Recovery Solutions freeing up space and resources on Campus. The Further Education Sector being smaller has a good grasp on where the money goes and on their budget or lack of it - something the Higher Education Sector appears to be a little behind in.
Has the time come again for Finance to show the way? Will Institutions continue to bear all costs or look to allocate these to the appropriate cost centre? With these controls in place, when the time comes it will be easy to judge value for money and the pros and cons of in-house services as opposed to external provision. Without these controls in place judging value for money and it’s a guessing game and a potentially costly one at that. Of course it’s not all about money, the ability to deploy new solutions quickly requires a more agile organisation but a firm understanding of costs to deliver services today is a good place to start. Only then will organisations like Eduserv really be able to add significant value working as a true business partner.