DAILY INSIGHT: Getting the Most from Your Tech Dollar: Standardization

By Doug Johnson, CIO Advisor

Over the next few days, I'll be addressing some strategies school districts use to get the most from their technology dollars. See the full list here. Any budget stretching strategies you're willing to share?

7. Enforce standardization through single point purchasing

As a rule, I am against educational monocultures. I've yet to see one activity, one teaching style or even one type of schooling work for everyone. Having a variety of resources and a variety of ways they can be used insures that the widest possible range of learning styles will be addressed.

But technology standardization has some definite advantages, including cost-savings. Standardizing on technology equipment, software and services:

  • Increases bulk purchase discounts. (You'll get a better cost if everyone buys the same database instead of each school buying different databases.)
  • Decreases inventory of supplies and parts. (Stocking only one lamp for LCD projectors is more efficient than stocking 20 different lamps.)
  • Increases the amount of time devoted to training. (If training can be done on a single wiki instead of half a dozen, more time can be spent on workshops and support materials for that single product.)
  • Decreases the need for technical support. (Teaching staff how to empty the cache on one web browser is possible; teaching staff how to empty the cache on a dozen browsers is impossible.)
  • Increases the likelihood of compatibility with legacy systems. (Oh, the games that come with our math series don't run on our operating system? The salesman said they would run on anything!)

I've found that having an enforced policy that all technology purchases need to be made through a single department, hopefully the technology department, is the only way to create such standardization. As the department in charge of training and support for everything that beeps, buzzes, blinks or takes batteries, we are already spread very, very thin supporting a limited set of technologies.

Yes, sometimes individual preferences can't be honored. You may like Pages, but the district supports Word. You've got a PC at home and the district asks you to use a Mac. You like your Kodak digital camera but the only camera available for checkout is a Canon. I'm sorry.

Actually we don't stop anyone from buying anything they want. A principal wants a document camera from Bob's Pretty Good Discount Electronic Store and Bait Shop, we say "Go for it. Just know that you are on your own for training, support and repair."

This is cross posted at The Blue Skunk Blog