From education to employment

Top Tips to Improve Your IT ROI

Peter Miller, Head of Sales at ETB Technologies.

While remote learning brought on by Covid-19 likely increased technology costs for many UK universities they, like their global counterparts, were already seeing year on year increases in IT spend for several years despite needing to decrease their overall spend without negatively impacting students.

Given the high reliance on technology, and correspondingly the high proportion of budget allocated to it, colleges and universities must now consider not just the technology they need, but also how to improve their return on investment (ROI). Here are some tips for doing so.

  1. Plan for the future

It is easy to identify your current IT needs – but to ensure a good ROI you must consider your future needs too. While you won’t know your future needs for certain, there are some truths you should keep in mind: for example, it’s almost a guarantee that your storage requirements will increase over time especially as you need to keep records of the increasing number of students who pass through your doors. Leave yourself plenty of room to grow, to avoid the need to buy more products, sooner.

Planning for the future can also help you beat wait times: current lead times for new networking equipment can be up to a year. You can avoid this by going off-the-shelf with a refurbished supplier who already has it in stock (see tip #4), or by buying in advance

2. Be flexible

While you will have some specific requirements, try being flexible where you can – this allows your provider to give you a range of options that meet your needs without breaking the bank. Most IT suppliers will also give you the option of configuring your products to order, where you can see exactly what each component costs and determine whether you really need it.

It’s similar to buying a car: if you approach a salesperson with the exact make, model, and colour of car you want, they can only offer you that. If you instead supply a list of your needs, the salesperson can suggest a few cars that meet your needs at a number of different budget points. You get what you need in both scenarios, but the latter example is likely to give you more value for money.

3. Watch for unnecessary extras

The law of diminishing returns applies to the technology sector. There is a false economy in paying for top-of-the-line technologies; education providers rarely need the newest and most high-end products to meet their technology needs. Consider the idea that “good enough” may truly be good enough.

This also applies to added extras, such as if a provider offers more storage if you buy double the RAM. This sounds good in theory, but if you don’t need the added RAM and it’s cheaper to buy the storage outright – or you don’t need it at all – it’s a waste of money

4. Consider refurbished

As a society, we’ve already embraced buying second-hand cars and houses which have already been lived in. Yet many of us hesitate to add IT equipment to that list. Buying refurbished doesn’t necessarily mean buying old or nearly obsolete products; many refurbished providers have equipment that is as little as six months old and offer a warranty equivalent to buying new.

Refurbished IT equipment is a great way to increase your ROI with little effort. For example, if you are considering buying a new server that costs £10,000, you may be able to get a refurbished one with the same specs for half that – or one with far more capacity for the same price than its newer equivalent.

5. Look at the bigger picture

Think about what else you’re getting from your supplier. Do they offer credit to education providers, to help make the payment process quicker and easier? Will they provide support beyond delivery? How long is the warranty, and what are the exclusions? Do they offer onsite warranties?

Buying IT equipment, especially when you’re considering ROI, isn’t just about the equipment. It’s about the whole package. By taking a broader perspective on your IT spend, you can get more for your money and help improve its place in your budget.

Higher education providers everywhere are facing budget cuts and looking at different ways to reduce their spend; even something as simple as centralising hardware and software purchasing rather than having different silos per department can help cut costs. By taking into consideration some of these ideas, the sector will be able to get more out of their IT budget with little, if any, impact on students.

By Peter Miller, Head of Sales at ETB Technologies.

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