I’ve just finished reading a story in Computing about the Co-op saving money on IT, when they cut their Microsoft licensing bills by at least £1.5 million, by changing the way that they implemented technology. Having written so much about cost-saving recently (including the “Stop buying so much software” post) it grabbed me straight away. Although it is a commercial organisation (and therefore they don’t get the same kind of discounts that education does – typically our Academic licences get discounted by 80% from the full commercial licences), I immediately saw parallels to the education system.
In the case of the Co-op, they have 800 individual pharmacy stores, with individual IT systems. And in each store, an SQL server running their back-end systems. And they have made their saving by centralising the whole thing – having a mega SQL Server 2008 running at head office. The £1.5m saving quoted is actually only the starting point, as they’ve also cut half a million already off hardware upgrade and maintenance costs, and there’s also savings in other Microsoft licence costs too.
Although at a school level it’s not possible to get a similar economy of scale, the article might give you some ideas (especially if you’re thinking about school federations). At a national or local authority level there’s definitely some ideas that would be relevant to education.
The immediate parallel for education is the way that many schools in authorities have their own individual MIS databases, which is an almost exact parallel of the Co-op story. Although the parallel obviously breaks down when you compare the independence that individual schools are given, compared to the centralisation possible in a distributed business.