Do you see Education Technology as an integral, strategic part of your curriculum and operations? Or do you see it as an expensive “nice-to-have?” If you see it as a “nice-to-have,” this isn’t the blog post for you. But if you value the technology in your classrooms and believe it’s a fundamentally important part of modern education, we want to help you squeeze every possible bit and byte into your budget.
Spring is right around the corner so it’s time to start thinking about the 2019/2020 academic year and budget. What’s your vision? What are your goals? Do you have a reactive strategy or a proactive strategy? Macro Connect was built to help Southeast Michigan’s schools and districts take a proactive approach to IT management and investment. Click the button below to review our IT Checklist. If it helps you identify any gaps in your current IT support structure, our team can help you move from a strategy of reactive fire-fighting to proactive improvement which saves you time, money, and ibuprofen.
Reactive vs. Proactive
Many, if not most, school districts have an IT team on staff or on call. Computer running slowly? Call IT. Software for today’s lesson needs a patch? Call IT. Need a new teacher account set up? Call IT. You get it. It might sound totally normal to you. But we believe that an IT department that is solely focused on these activities holds an organization back because it’s completely reactive. You’re only getting help after something prevented users from doing their jobs! It can also be needlessly expensive, both in terms of actual dollars spent on technology and wasted staff time. It hinders your teachers from teaching and your administrators from leading.
Imagine instead a world where everything just works. A world where your IT team comes to you with ideas on how to improve and optimize performance. This proactive approach lets your team spend time doing what they were hired to do and frees up resources so you can start amplifying the effects of technology instead of putting band-aids on what you already have.
As you begin the budgeting process, look closely at how much you spent on IT Support and quick fixes over the last couple years. Now consider how much time was lost due to technology problems. What if that line item had instead been spent on a quantifiable improvement to your technology environment?
A Comprehensive Approach to IT
Our model for comprehensive IT has four key pillars: Support, Centralized Services, Proactive Technical Alignment, and Virtual CIO (vCIO) Leadership Services. When actively managed together, these four pillars help you shift your focus forward, toward new and exciting possibilities. That is how you create a high performing work environment for staff and an inspiring learning environment for students.
Pillar #1: Support
There will always be a need for Support. Everyone forgets their password once in a while. Macro Connect offers both remote and on-site support to solve those immediate needs, quickly and efficiently. So, while our mission is to minimize or eliminate this need, we’re always there, just in case. But to be clear, this is not an IT strategy on its own.
But even in support, there are opportunities to innovate. Gone are the days where every problem needs to solved with an onsite visit. We estimate that 70%+ of issues can be resolved remotely which is faster and less expensive for you. We staff our virtual help desk from 7am – 5pm every week day to reflect educators work hours, which means, in a pinch, just before that first bells rings, a teacher can dial our support line and have a human being save their day.
Pillar #2: Centralized Services
Schools are big buildings with a lot of devices that need to be secure and up to date at all times. There’s nothing more time consuming than having to go to every single room to update the same piece of software. If you’re paying an hourly rate to handle these kinds of tasks, you’re paying too much and waiting far too long for business critical updates. Consider how a centralized management system could improve this workflow and make better use of your resources.
Our team uses best-in-class monitoring agents to enable centralized control of your entire IT end user environment. This allows our expert team to monitor and maintain equipment and systems remotely from one location as well as deploy updates during off hours on a pre-planned schedule. We can keep tabs on system performance, download and install patches or updates to any device, and aggregate the data for efficient review and analysis. This kind of efficiency will greatly reduce your need for the kind of IT Support that drains your resources every year or leaves your core systems vulnerable to outside cyberattacks.
Pillar #3: Proactive Network Administration
The third pillar, our Technical Alignment Audit, gives you a dedicated team who actively looks for opportunities and prevents problems from happening in the first place. Most IT providers play defense and audit/document your environment only when asked. We, on the other hand, believe the best defense to a major failure is a great offense. Our Technical Alignment Managers audit all our clients’ IT environments against the Macro Connect standards for school IT. Scoring across these standards pinpoints areas of risk and creates a quantifiable, objective score through which we can measure improvements to a district’s infrastructure.
Part of every Technical Alignment visit is also spent on proactive tasks that are driven from previous audits, so the cycle of continuous improvement is constantly in motion. Managing IT in this fashion means less downtime, better data security, and more informed technology investments.
Pillar #4: vCIO Services
In today’s information rich workplace, every organization needs a resource who can translate technical jargon into operational strategy. Macro Connect’s vCIO service helps you get all that expertise at a fraction of the cost of hiring a full-time C-level executive. vCIO’s are resources with deep technology, education management, and business experience, who can tie the results of your Technical Alignment Audits, centralized services data, and ticketing information, into actionable priorities including the costs associated with taking on any new initiatives. Having these resources on speed dial gives you access to a key voice of reason during important funding deadlines like E-Rate, School Safety Grants, and Title funds. A vCIO is also a valuable source for best practices and trends in the industry – since he or she spends the bulk of their time with other district leadership teams.
The interaction between the Technical Alignment Manager and vCIO makes up what we call our super power. As the Technical Alignment team audits the environment, they feed information to the vCIO who prioritizes projects and reviews them during bi-annual meetings with your leadership team. Over time, the quality of the technology environment steadily improves while the risk generated by your IT operations steadily decreases. This results in a positive cycle that shrinks the costs of support for both organizations, which is the textbook definition of a win-win situation.
Get Started Now
As you consider your staffing and financial plan for the upcoming school year, pay special attention to the value that’s being created by IT. It should be an investment that generates a visible return, not just an expense. If you find yourself in a pattern of spending, without a proactive plan in place, review our IT Checklist below and then give us a call.
If you notice any gaps that you’d like to fill, or want help designing a grant application, please give us a call. We’d love to help you make your school a safer learning and working environment for everyone.