IT harmonisation – what does this mean for a Multi-Academy Trust?

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Category: Education

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Harmonisation; the act of making systems or laws the same or similar in different entities so that they can work together more easily.

So how does this apply to IT in a Multi-Academy Trust?

Picture a trust on-boarding new schools on a regular basis, all with varying backend IT infrastructure components such as wireless, servers, storage and networks along with numerous IT providers and procurement channels.

Combining these all together can cause a headache for the trust’s IT department in terms of co-ordinating the IT service and managing separate contracts with providers. This can also affect the ability of schools in the trust to collaborate effectively.

IT is not always the top priority for a trust as they establish and therefore IT harmonisation is not always at the forefront of their growth strategy. However IT harmonisation can provide the vehicle for supporting the ease of growth and the seamless on-boarding of new schools.

Often IT is perceived as a huge investment however, this is not always the case. A cost-effective behind the scenes IT infrastructure can drive cost efficiencies and change the classroom experience, without disrupting teaching and learning as it takes place.

There are steps a trust can take to harmonise their IT infrastructure that will drive the achievement of improved performance and cost savings across the trust. However, it’s not possible for this to occur overnight, the first step for a trust is to understand what their current situation is.

Understanding who the various IT providers’ schools procure via can provide a clear picture of consistency and where new agreements can be negotiated.

What is the wireless capacity in each school? How is student data monitored? What technology is being used in the classroom? All will provide a basis to understand what exactly a trust needs to harmonise and lead to their ‘how to’ plan.

To achieve IT harmonisation, a trust must begin by discussing the following questions;  

1.            Do we have an effective IT strategy and a refresh programme for on-boarding new schools?

2.            Do we have a view of the IT environment in all our schools?

3.            Do we have a clear view of all IT suppliers schools procure via & is this offering value for money?

4.            Are we receiving a cohesive IT service delivery?

5.            Is the existing IT provision supporting the achievement of improved student performance?  

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Once the IT infrastructure has been harmonised, how IT impacts upon teaching and learning methods becomes apparent. Trialling new teaching technology and software becomes far simpler – and it becomes significantly easier to collaborate across trust schools and share best practice.

It opens a whole new world for students and teachers – and because a reliable back-end infrastructure is in place, there will be very little risk of projects failing or classrooms experiencing connection problems due the IT infrastructure. Technology that is being delivered in one school will work in another without issue.

As a new school joins a trust they will experience huge change. It’s important a trust can support the new school and ensure their transformation is as seamless as possible. On-boarding a new school with an IT infrastructure that works reduces the impact. Therefore IT harmonisation means a trust is prepared for the future with lower risk, whether that’s increasing numbers of devices and users in existing schools or significant growth of  new schools joining the trust.

In the same instance, not every school in a trust is the same and IT harmonisation is not about applying a standard IT provision, it’s about applying the same back end solution to provide schools with the flexibility to deliver learning and teaching methods, and at a trust level, easily scale IT so new schools that join have the same opportunity.

Clearly consolidating spend and suppliers can save a trust money across all areas of expenditure, but the main benefit of IT harmonisation for a trust is that it will drive that all important goal of education; performance improvement, by re-investing in ways that directly impact on improving outcomes, whether this be teacher training, additional staff or new classroom devices.

Therefore IT harmonisation means a Multi-Academy Trust can:

  1. Harmonise IT suppliers and procurement channels to one signal provider, achieving reduced administration and management of suppliers as well as gaining economies of scale to re-invest in teaching and learning.

  2. Harmonise the behind the scenes IT infrastructure, so when new schools join the trust they become part of a reliable and future proofed IT infrastructure network that enables them to apply new teaching methods.

  3. Harmonise the IT infrastructure with a service that offers every school in the trust the same back end infrastructure to collaborate and deliver a more positive student experience

Capita work as an IT partner to support you in your IT harmonisation plans, standardising IT services across your trust while achieving cost efficiencies and safeguarding students. 

Author: Steve Smith, Education Director, Capita Managed IT Solutions

 

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