Tech Talk: Consider The Source

June 1, 2007
Is outsourcing really the answer?

Students and parents want their schools equipped with the latest technology. But who should manage all these technology services? School systems are using contract services for everything from custodial and maintenance to energy management, food service, security and transportation. Some education institutions have decided it might be more efficient and economical to seek independent outsourcing.

Will outsourcing really solve your problems, or will it lead to even worse conditions? Making outsourcing a success is a learning process that demands careful planning, commitment and communication.

Some reasons for outsourcing:

  • Shrinking budgets.

  • Simplified technology delivery, support and maintenance.

  • Standardized equipment and services.

  • Uniform performance and service.

  • Better responsiveness to changing conditions.

  • Quicker response time.

  • Complexity of requirements for existing staff.

  • New source of knowledge and ideas, procedures and methodologies.

Outsourcing does not always reduce cost or provide the benefits required. However, outsourcing to a firm whose quality is substantially superior to your own may both reduce your cost and increase satisfaction. The quality of the product or service should be the primary criterion for outsourcing.

Questions to ask:

  • What services are being required?

  • Will these services increase technical expertise, stability and efficiency?

  • What are the costs to provide these services, and how are those costs computed?

  • What is the proposed response timeline for services?

  • What are the penalties for not providing the services within the allotted response time?

  • How do schools measure the results of the service?

  • Are replacements or upgrades to equipment (computers, printers, servers, hubs) included?

  • To what extent will the outsourcer provide training?

  • Will they provide a help desk for software and hardware questions during school hours?

  • What is their experience with schools?

  • What impact might you encounter with existing IT personnel?

Outsourcing isn't a fit for all institutions. Schools need to evaluate on a case-by-case basis whether to outsource their technology systems and support, looking at factors such as the cost of providing the service, how critical it is to day-to-day operations, and how comfortable they are with having an outside company do the job.

Day is senior analyst at KBD Planning Group, Young Harris, Ga., a firm specialized in educational facilities and technology planning. He can be reached at [email protected].

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