It’s that time of year when your school is looking to either renew an existing IT support contract, or embark upon the exciting (albeit time consuming) task of finding a new IT support provider. This task is not one that should be undertaken lightly, or become a rushed decision in the midst of various other key financial decisions at this time.
With so many IT support providers providing a vast array of support packages, wading through the various options can, at times, feel like an arduous task. Finding the right IT support should be your opportunity to uncover an exciting new partnership where technical expertise, trust, and open-lines of communication are at the heart of your support. Not forgetting, of course, that you are spending the right portion of your budget on support that really is designed to meet your needs.
In light of these various factors, we have put together a small selection of key questions that should be at the top of your list when you are finding the right provider for you.
[expand title=”Can your IT support provider demonstrate their understanding of your vision for ICT?”]
Entering into a partnership with an IT support provider should mean that you both have a clear understanding of what you would like to achieve with IT in your school. This can determine the type of support you receive, and influence the ongoing commitment from your support provider.
By demonstrating that they acknowledge, share, and actively use your vision to formulate their support for your school, your IT support provider is proving that they really do listen to what you would like to achieve. This is promising for communication further down the line, establishing a firm grounding of trust between you both. [/expand]
[expand title=”How easy is it to contact your IT support provider in the event of a fault?”]
For better communication, look for contact forms, and a service desk with an assigned login for your school. The reason why you should look out for a service desk is the automation it provides. Once your ticket is logged, the support team is automatically notified about the fault. It also means you will receive a ticket number associated with the fault-log, which can be used in all future correspondence (useful when keeping track of progress). [/expand]
[expand title=”Are you tied into long term support contracts with dramatic annual price increases?”]
Your support should offer consistently good value for money. An attractive first and second year deal may initially seem like an obvious choice, but it is essential to monitor increasing prices where your service level does not improve.
There is no reason to be tied into a support contract for longer than 12 months, as this can create difficulties in the future should your requirements change at short notice.[/expand]
[expand title=”Do they have a clear Service Level Agreement?”]
Alongside average response times, it is important that you have an idea of when you can expect a fault to be fixed. Support providers with highly skilled technicians will have a high percentage of first fix faults – this indicates that first line technicians are well trained.
Should anything go wrong with your support, double check that a clear escalation process is detailed in your SLA so you know the best procedure for getting customer satisfaction. This shows that your support provider put their customers at the heart of everything they do. [/expand]
[expand title=”Have you enquired about average response times?”]
Most IT support companies should, and will, offer some sort of average response times. Often, these will be distinguished by the severity of the fault to give you some idea of how quickly they will be able to assist you.
Generally speaking, these will be used as internal time frames to make sure that your fault has been acknowledged, and that someone is working to resolve it. The time scale for resolving each fault will differ, owing to the fact that no two faults will be completely identical. [/expand]
[expand title=”Does your IT support provider come with recommendations and accreditations?”]
We are no strangers to the process of asking our friends and colleagues what they think of a service or good that they have experienced or used. The same goes for your IT support – look out for reviews and testimonials from other schools to see what people have to say about the company you are thinking of using. Remember to be wary of ‘rogue’ reviews, or a review based on one poor experience over a long period of otherwise fantastic service. Additionally, a company may have an exhaustive list of their current schools (broken down by borough) who will be happy to speak to you in an honest and frank manner. This can be a great resource to you, as you can truly understand the service level of a particular area.
Check to see the certification and accreditations that the IT company have, and make sure that they are regularly training their staff to compete with the latest technologies. An additional benefit of Accreditation and ‘Approved Partner’ status, for example, can mean that the company have access to exclusive pricing, and extra support that would otherwise be expensive.[/expand]
[expand title=”Can you source hardware and other technical services from your IT support provider?”]
Even if you like to purchase all your different elements of IT and technology from various different companies, if your support provider is able to purchase and install these it can mean that the process of fault-resolution is much quicker. It also helps to know that the people who are supporting the tech are knowledgeable and able to use the technology in your school.[/expand]
[expand title=”Are you given a dedicated account manager or contact?”]
Having a single point of contact will speed up communications between your school and your support provider. By continuing to speak with the same person, or group of people, you will build up a mutual understanding of what your expectations are, and how the company can realistically support you.
Check to see if having a dedicated account manager will also include regular termly reviews to ensure that your expectations are being met, and any changes are to your IT vision are reflected in your support.[/expand]
[expand title=”Are there different levels of support for you to choose from?”]
Important things to consider when you are looking to find the best level of IT support include the current technical ability of your IT Technician or Network Manager. If they are highly qualified, with a lot of experience and dedicated time, then perhaps a fully managed support contract isn’t the most appropriate route for you to take.
By offering different service levels, you are ensuring that you are only paying for the support you require, thus giving you the best value for your investment.[/expand]
Technology and IT in education is always advancing at an incredible pace in order to build a platform that benefits both staff and students. This means that your IT infrastructure and support needs to meet the needs of your unique environment, helping you to build a successful curriculum with IT as a fundamental building block in your school.
So don’t be afraid to ask those questions, and challenge your existing IT support provider. You should be pleased with the service you receive, and the way you are able to access their support. Developing a partnership that relies on open and honest communication with technical experts can mean the difference between simply receiving a support service that limits day-to-day frustrations with IT, and one where any future frustrations you feel likely to face are already being considered before you have entered into a support agreement.