IT outsourcing: Does it make sense for your schools?

• Outsourcing is flexible and scalable. Schools tend to overbuy and underuse software and equipment in order to deal with the “unknown,” Tritsch said. By outsourcing the provision of these services, school technology leaders purportedly can avoid this problem.

• People are expensive and can be hard to find—and keep.

• Outsourcing offers improved business continuity and disaster preparedness.

• Web-accessed, location-agnostic services appeal to an increasingly mobile population.

• Technology transitions are easier, and technology is kept up to date.

• Outsourcing is perceived as “greener.”

• Space, power, and capacity planning for university data centers are all reduced.

But outsourcing your IT functions also carries with it several risks, Tritsch said—including the long-term viability of the service provider; the privacy and security of information; the performance of mission-critical applications; and the potential loss of flexibility that comes with vendor lock-in.

The key question to ask, he said, is whether these risks are greater, less, or the same with outsourcing?

One conundrum for school technology leaders is that “people will accept [application failures] from an outsourcing provider that they won’t accept from you,” Tritsch said, pointing to recent Google Gmail outages as an example. “That’s just a reality, however unfair.”

Although companies often claim that outsourcing will save schools money, that isn’t necessarily true, he said. Outsourcing can lead to “predictable, flatter costs,” and the economies of scale that a service provider can offer might result in some savings—but outsourcers “need to make a profit,” he noted.

Changes to prepare for

When technology is outsourced, numerous changes will take place, Tritsch said. But one thing should remain constant: Outsourcing doesn’t eliminate your need to ensure the timely delivery of ed-tech services.

“You must do this with the same fervor you manage the solutions on site,” he said, explaining that it’s the service provider who now must be managed.

Dennis Pierce

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