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General Chat Thread, Stone Group Research in General; I noticed a quote on a recent BBC article regarding only 14 percent of schools offering out of hours support ...
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    steve's Avatar
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    Stone Group Research

    I noticed a quote on a recent BBC article regarding only 14 percent of schools offering out of hours support - source Stone Group. So I thought I chase down the full story.

    It appears Stone Group have commissioned some research into IT budgets and other things...

    Summary of report here

    General jist is outsourcing = money saving = good for school

    There are a couple of things in the survey that raised my eye brows:

    Even more worryingly, just 14 per cent of schools offer out of hours technical support to schools and staff
    Why is this a worry? Do staff / students need out of hours support?

    The lack of a flexible IT delivery model will become an increasing problem for education establishments, the research claimed. A total of 93 per cent of respondents provide their own network management, 91 per cent provide desktop management, a further 90 per cent provide their own application support, and server management is handled by 87 per cent of schools
    Managing your IT in house then is a problem for education? Why?

    As a long term customer of Stone, I'm pretty hacked off with this report. It looks they are after providing managed services now for schools and are willing to play the "lets scare SLT" card.

    The research was commissioned in time for BETT, so when I arrive Saturday, I'll be rolling up to the Stone stand and asking for a copy and seeing what they've got to say for themselves.

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    tech_guy (15th January 2010)

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    localzuk's Avatar
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    From that linked article "The lack of a flexible IT delivery model will become an increasing problem for education establishments, the research claimed."

    Which model are they claiming is the inflexible one?

    The article linked draws pretty much no conclusion I'd say.

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    Stone Group Research

    Hi Steve,

    Thank you for your feedback.

    Allow me to point you in the direction of the weblink for downloading the research ahead of Saturday:

    Stone Group Research Report

    This will allow you to see the full findings of our research, and most importantly, in the intended context.

    Stone’s assertion, in short, is that due to the growing reliance on online teaching resources and the growing government expectation that pupils have reliable access to school networks whilst working at home in the evenings, the provision of out of hours support becomes all the more vital – in turn making the statistic you mention that only 14% of schools offer out of hours technical support to schools and staff all the more surprising and concerning.

    Furthermore, we have found that whilst the rest of the public sector has followed government guidance to embrace third party service provision, the vast majority of ICT services to schools and colleges are delivered using internal skills – with 51% using no external services at all. To quote my remarks in the press release issued to launch this research:

    “Budget cuts are an inevitability in 2010, but it’s clear from this research that schools and colleges are not currently following what is occurring elsewhere in the Public Sector by considering the use of external resources to maximise the quality of service delivery on the available budget.”

    “Schools and colleges need access to tailored services that can supplement the existing skills and expertise in-house. Skills that can ensure new services are delivered rapidly, systems are acquired in a financially expedient manner – such as via residual leasing – and innovation is enabled rather than constrained. It is time to consider all the options available.”

    Naturally, I look forward to discussing this research with you, and the forward strategic plan for The Stone Group, on Saturday.

    All the best

    James Bird, Chief Executive, The Stone Group

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    In my experience use of external consultants and support can cost schools a fortune and not always provide a good service.
    Schools should trust and support the in house staff - just look at the innovations and projects done by many edugeek users. That is not to say we don't need to call on expert advice when needed - e.g. I am seeing a server specialist to give advice on virtualisation today.

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    localzuk's Avatar
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    So, from your research then, you admit that budget cuts are inevitable, admit that schools mostly have in-house teams, that they require flexibility in the way ICT is provided, yet still say more schools should be paying external agencies to provide extra support? Where would that money come from? The only way that could work would be to cut back on normal ICT spending in school or reduce in-house support provision (ie. sackings). We used to have an external support contract, providing us with extra expertise for 48 hours a year. That cost us something like £4k a year and we found that we simply did not need it. Why would we require external support?

    The reason that 14% of schools have out of hours support is because not many schools see the need for it. We certainly don't need it here. The majority of schools in the UK are primaries. This means that their VLE usage will be much lower than secondaries. So, that number seems about what it should be really.

    To put the 14% into context. In 2007 Primary schools, nursery schools and special schools made up 75% of the total schools. That leaves 25% of schools being secondary, independent and pupil referral schools...
    Last edited by localzuk; 15th January 2010 at 12:01 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by localzuk View Post
    The only way that could work would be to cut back on normal ICT spending in school or reduce in-house support provision (ie. sackings).
    This needs to be shouted from the rooftops!

    Whenever people start talking about "efficiency savings" what they mean is "sacking people"

    Sometimes there are people that need to be sacked but I would much prefer it if politicians (and consultants) just said "What we will do is sack a very large number of people and this will save money" and stop pretending that what they are doing is making the world a better place!

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    I haven't read the full report yet (I will when I get the time); but is there any real present demand for out-of-hours support for home access?

    If users have an internet connection (most families manage their own, though some have it through local government funded initiatives), then I don't really see many major issues that need supporting by the school.

    The PDF doesn't allow copying, but to paraphrase, it says "Microsoft Office is essential." I, and probably a few others, would dispute this.
    Last edited by webman; 15th January 2010 at 12:02 PM.

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    We have discussed out of hours support but there is no demand for it on a regular basis. When it is requested it is for events in school.

    Maybe the 51% of schools who don't use 3rd party support have found this cheaper - I haven't read the full report so maybe it's explained there but I often wonder why there is an assumption that outsourcing etc must be cheaper - it's certainly not more flexible

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    webman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hecate View Post
    ... I often wonder why there is an assumption that outsourcing etc must be cheaper - it's certainly not more flexible
    Call me cynical, but if an outsourcing company commissioned the report then it's bound to conclude in favour of the services it offers. The company would have nothing to gain if the report contradicted them.

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    As I see it just another (not even clever) marketing ploy using the same old techniques that the spin doctors of this government have used for eons to depict a case scenario that School IT systems are not really in their eyes fit for purpose according to this opinion poll, which could be construed to be quite biased towards the classic BSF and external forces market.

    Why when major corporations are now bringing their IT systems back in house do we have an opinion poll which states that educational institutions should move to external forces to supply a better and more flexible service!!

    Take a look at our NHS IT solution which went out to external forces and British gas which lost over 40% of its revenue virtually overnight, as a result of their use of so called external flexible outsourcing, they have now brought it back in house and have recouped most of what they had lost.

    I feel that throughout these last 3 - 4 years that large companies have seen the education market as easy and rich pickings and have bullied and cajoled the government into believing that they and only them have the answer, all I can say to that is "B***S**T", it will cost this country far more in external costs in the long run as these costs can only get much worse as the companies that run these systems get greedier and squeeze the service until they can squeeze no more profit out of the education budget.

    When contracts run out on these projects who is left to pick up the pieces?
    We are, the British tax payer, who for so long have been taken for a mug by this and any other government along with the corporate businesses.
    Last edited by bossman; 15th January 2010 at 12:32 PM.

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    localzuk's Avatar
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    I also find it amusing that the report talks of budget cuts, but only briefly covers that the budget cut will be £0.1bn. £100m across 25000 schools... It isn't exactly as if they're halving the budget or something.

    Also, the report did not focus proportionally on schools as they feature in the country - 68% of the schools were secondary in the survey. Only 16% of people surveyed were primary. If these numbers had been proportional to the actual number of schools, those percentages would be significantly different - as most primaries I know of get their ICT support externally.

    I don't mean to simply dislike this study, but it is full of problems.

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    Quote Originally Posted by localzuk View Post
    If these numbers had been proportional to the actual number of schools, those percentages would be significantly different - as most primaries I know of get their ICT support externally.
    Agreed, I work in the primary sector and, based purely on experience, most support is outsourced.
    The reason my schools opted for in-house expertise was because 3rd party support was proving too costly and not delivering solutions at the speed or quality to match their ambition.

    I am highly skeptical of a company that is looking for support contracts that puts out 'research' that backs using them.

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    It was a well recognised fact when I worked in Industry that Govt thinking always lagged a few years behind the private sector... right now the same is true with outsourcing, over the last few years quite a few big players in the private sector have brought services back in-house precisely because they found outsourcing expensive & inflexible.

    Even in the private sector we found the bigger clients were less innovative as their culture was based upon risk avoidance.... Big Banks in particular operated on principles that said "if you don't make a decision you cannot be fired for making the wrong one"

    The Govt has yet to discover this..... although you would think they would have by now when you consider how many large Govt ICT projects have failed to deliver

    Even some UK manufacturing companies are finding that having moved their work 'offshore' they are bringing it back because labour costs are spiralling and quality has suffered.
    Last edited by broc; 15th January 2010 at 01:33 PM.

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    Will be "forgetting" to call Stone next time we have a large order then. I would hate to be accused of funding "research" that supports what is quite obviously a bad idea.

    How can the economics of outsourcing work? If you are a company with a sales force, personnel department, share holders, premises, etc then you need to pay these people out of the money you charge to schools, so not all of the school's money is going on IT services. They are funding all these other people as well. Is that good value?

    Well at least you know that toner will be changed at 4am for you, when you have purchased 24hr support from an outsourcing company.

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    Outsourcing company says outsouring will save money shocker.

    Dont think this home support will be in the county wide SLA, so it'll be an extra cost.... and not save money.



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