Does your IT support company think that they are there to support IT or teaching and learning?
Here is how you can tell and what to do about it.
I receive at least one email a day from a school or business asking for advice about how to handle their IT support company.
Generally the issue relates to the support company not giving schools access to one of three areas:
- Access to data
- Access to account dashboards (Google Apps or O365 admin settings)
- Insisting on hardware that is no longer needed with cloud based services.
Regardless of the issue, generally the underlying motivation of the IT company is that they are simply trying to tie you into their services.
If the IT company can do this, it will make it harder for you to control the direction of future expenditure (moving away from services that generate the company revenue), and harder for you to take your business somewhere else.
How to protect yourself
You should always have at least one representative in your school or business that has full access to all your accounts.
1. You own the deployment, data, and software. If something goes wrong, the you will be held responsible by the community, parents, employees etc not the I.T company. Sure, you can point the finger and try and hold the I.T company accountable, but ultimately the public accountability lies with you.
If you are in a school, you want to make sure that your cloud services meets the policies of the school and relevant Education Department. However this shouldn’t be a rigid framework that is inflexible and able to adapt as technology progresses.
Too often schools are locked into old frameworks that empower the I.T company to make decisions on behalf of the school.
The upside of this is that a second layer of protection is provided, the downside is that creativity and innovation is inhibited. You need to decide which one you value more.
2. In a school, Google Apps and O365 deployments are incredibly flexible and can be adapted to support teaching and learning that takes place within your school culture. The IT company needs to understand that they are there to support learning outcomes, not control how the school functions and how learning can take place. (Replace the words school with business and you have the same result).
3. You want to be able to make changes quickly. One of the biggest frustrations of teachers at staff development days is that I will be demonstrating a tool and they are denied access to this tool. To gain access they have to pass their request down a long chain of command which ultimately lands on the desk of the I.T manager who then asks the teacher to justify their request.
By now the opportunity is lost and the teacher soon learns not to ask for permission from the IT company to teach in innovative ways.
4. You want to have access to real time reports on data use, document creation etc. Accessing these reports can help you better understand how technology is being embedded into your pedagogy, target your Professional Development on tools that are not being utilised as well as update policies and procedures according to hard data.
When you have at least one representative from your school or company who has full access to your accounts you are empowered to make decisions and negotiate better outcomes.
The purpose of having access to the account is not to manage those accounts, rather it is to manage your negotiating power with the support company.
If your IT support company forgets that they have the word support in their name, you can lock them out of the accounts while you negotiate a resolution or transfer your business to a company that truly does act in a supportive role.
There are some fantastic I.T Support Companies around. They work with you, not control you. They have no need to lock you into ridiculous contracts. If they did their job you would never leave. They get the fact that they are there to support you, not control you.
If you would like me to recommend some companies I have dealt with just let me know in the comment section below.
So, is it time to sack your IT support company?