Considerations for schools making decisions about technical services and support. Support might be for a specific project or for the on-going maintenance of the school’s ICT infrastructure.
A reliable, secure, and educationally functional infrastructure is crucial for digital technologies to be used effectively for teaching, learning, and administration. Typically, such an infrastructure is planned, built, and maintained in collaboration with one or more commercial technical support providers. It is essential that the decisions you make to select and contract a provider are considered carefully, using a deliberate and detailed evidence-based selection process.
Curriculum learning needs should drive all decisions about the technologies and infrastructure your school uses.
Your technical support provider should work with you to ensure that the technology works seamlessly to support learning and problems are minimised. Teachers, learners, and other staff should be confident that the ICT works for them and changes can be requested and are dealt with effectively and responsively.
You may wish to consider working with other schools to contract your technical support collectively.
Doing so provides the following benefits:
The disadvantages of working with other schools to contract technical support include less individual control of the process along with the time and commitment required initially to make the decision to do so.
Technical support for schools encompasses four main components:
It is important for a provider to undertake these to a high standard because poorly planned, built, or maintained ICT solutions are likely to cost your school in terms of time; missed learning opportunities; money; and the goodwill of teachers, learners, and administrators.
Developing and implementing a new ICT solution, regardless of how large or complex it might be, involves the provider working with you to:
Technical solutions require proactive maintenance to ensure they run smoothly, for example by keeping systems updated, by checking logs, or by testing that systems work as required.
A provider should have procedures in place to monitor what they are responsible for. These procedures are increasingly automated but a technician is usually still needed to act upon the alerts or reports that are generated.
A good provider will be able to use monitoring to spot problems before they are noticed by users, fix the problem promptly if it is minor, and advise your school of a range of options to remedy it if the problem is more significant. Monitoring should ensure that potentially significant problems are included in strategic guidance to your school and aligned to your budgeting cycle.
Technology is prone to failures for many reasons. The important thing for your school is that in the event of a failure, whether it just be a sticky keyboard or the whole school network is down, your technical support provider has got the procedures in place to:
Your technical support provider should ensure your school is aware of potential future developments so that it can plan and budget accordingly. For example, they should advise the school about:
Such advice should be provided in the best interests of the school and its community and should be peer reviewed.
To choose, or review, a technical support provider, you need to:
A team approach will help to ensure a variety of viewpoints are considered and that the decision made will reflect more than just one person’s opinion.
Consider your current situation with respect to the technical support you receive – what is working well? What could be improved? You could consider surveying your staff to ensure they have an opportunity to provide input.
What do you identify as your needs and criteria when it comes to technical support? Try to paint a picture of what you’d like to receive from a provider.
Commonly, a school will approach a number of providers for proposals on how they can provide the required services. Such an approach should comprise a Request for Proposals (RFP) document or brief outline of requirements that includes:
The Board may require an RFP to be advertised via the Government Electronic Tenders Service (GETS ), particularly if the likely value of the service is greater than $100,000.
Although specifically in place for procurements related to property, school Boards of Trustees may apply the Ministry procurement framework as a good practice guide for non-property related procurement such as technical services and support. This recommends that the way in which the school approaches the market for quotations is based upon the likely value of the goods and services being procured:
Potential providers can be identified through recommendations from local schools or from advertisements. Providers will typically have a sales representative, account manager, or consultant who will work with you throughout the procurement process.
We recommend your school quickly narrows down a shortlist of two or three potential service providers. The evaluation team should note the pluses, minuses, and things of interest or missing information (PMI) for each submission. This could be based on the relevant parts of the checklist below to help, along with your school’s own specific requirements.
As the proposals are evaluated, consider how well they meet the school’s needs in relation to the "why", "how", and "what" of the services and solutions on offer:
On completion of the checklist:
You will need to ensure that your ICT technical support contract meets your needs. If you are at all uncertain about anything, consider getting legal advice. Particular things you need to consider include:
This checklist is designed to help a school evaluate the offerings from different providers. Download or make a copy of the checklist.
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