5 things to consider before signing off any ICT expansion projects this summer

With the summer holidays approaching us fast, we decided to write an article that will make it easier for schools to make informed decisions about their ICT project plans over the summer.

Below we’ve put together a brief list of things to consider before committing any of your school’s precious resources. We hope that our many years of experience in deploying expansion projects in schools will help you to avoid some common pains and mistakes – enjoy!

1) Make sure suppliers have identified and planned for each project’s risks

It’s not always possible to predict every eventuality of a school expansion project, but it’s advisable to select an ICT supplier that shows a high level of awareness of the project’s risks before the project begins. Miscommunications, unforeseen technical issues and supply chain partner delays are just a few examples of how a project environment in schools can suddenly change for the worse.

Ensure that suppliers have done their due diligence and have identified and shared each project’s unique risks. In addition, risks should be accompanied by recommended mitigation actions in order to minimise any impact on the project.

Lastly, make sure you’re comfortable with how much contingency time has been built into the project plan that you’re presented with. This will ensure that the project will remain on schedule and within budget even if things don’t go 100% to plan.

2) Carefully review the Project Manager’s credentials and experience

An effective Project Manager (PM) should have the right combination of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills and the foresight to ensure the right engineers are assigned to specific tasks at the right time. In our experience, PMs for ICT expansions should be either Prince2 Practitioner or ITIL certified at a minimum and should have the necessary real-world experience in education to be prepared for most eventualities.

Even if you’re evaluating a trusted supplier, make sure you’re up to speed with who your Project Manager will be, their credentials and their school expansion experience.

3) Make sure the different teams are talking to each other

For new-builds and expansion projects in schools, it’s vital that the lines of communication are kept open between the architects, builders and ICT suppliers. Ask the Project Managers of the various teams to share their project plans with each other and have everyone agree on the logical order in which each team should carry out their work.

Poor communication is one of the greatest risks to the efficient completion of a project. Classic examples include an engineer drilling into a wall that’s holding plumbing pipes or electrical wiring because accurate plans haven’t been provided, or ICT equipment arriving on site before building work has been completed.

The timescales for expansion projects are often tight and such mistakes can be costly and disruptive to the school. As part of the project proposal, ask your ICT supplier to include case studies or references from past projects where high levels of architect and builder engagement were needed.

4) Leverage your ICT supplier’s partnerships

High-level partnerships between ICT providers and manufacturers are usually reached through a combination of consistent spending over a long period, training and personal relationships that have been nurtured over time.

Such partnerships often result in lower procurement costs for the schools, higher levels of overall support and better warranty conditions. In addition, schools can also gain access to ‘try before you buy’ schemes where the school can loan ‘demo’ equipment for extended periods in order to properly evaluate equipment before making a buying decision.

When reviewing expansion proposals, be sure to review the partnership statuses of your potential ICT suppliers. Key high-level partnerships that can be particularly favourable include Microsoft, Google, Dell, Ruckus and Toshiba.

5) Start expansion projects with the school’s long-term goals in mind

The overriding aim for any ICT expansion project should be a positive impact on teaching and learning in the long-term. In order to get the most out your school’s ICT budget, it’s important to have a clearly defined ‘roadmap’ of how new technologies in the school will be used and how they may evolve with changing conditions at the school.

For example, having the latest interactive display boards installed across the school can unlock great potential for how lessons are delivered, but the learning outcomes of having this technology will always be dependant how effectively teachers use them.

In this specific case, the project proposal should include a clear strategy for delivering training to both existing and new teachers coming to the school.

We hope that you found these tips useful?

For more information, please speak to one of our Educational Technology Specialists. Call 0845 37 000 38.


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