By Keith Fowlkes, former Vice President, Technology, E&I Cooperative Services
With today’s tight educational budgets and the ever-increasing needs for technology, support operations professionals are caught between a rock and a hard place. How can support staff keep up with the demands of their campus while controlling costs? Fewer original equipment manufacturer (OEM) options and the struggle to meet customer demands in a high turnover environment means education continues to be squeezed for higher revenues. So, the question is: why should campuses take a closer look at moving to a reseller model for technology procurement?
Moving to a reseller helps operations implement a better standards-based model for computer and peripheral purchasing. While many institutions still allow their individual campus users to “build-to-order” their office desktop and laptop computers, support professionals will most likely tell you that this model is frustrating. Differences in drivers, chipsets, and system configurations make support difficult. They may know what equipment is in the office, but remote software and OS updates are a gamble, since pre-testing for these updates is virtually impossible.
Resellers can minimize these problems by staging and pre-testing configurations and images before they hit the campus. This saves hours of time in staging and imaging computers (and network hardware) on-campus while streamlining the computer refresh process. Additionally, resellers can pre-stock and store replacement units for campuses, significantly reducing the time between hardware failure and replacement. This also solves the growing problem of on-campus staging, storage space, and associated costs.
One of the biggest advantages in working with a reseller is the standardization of equipment choices. Campus support professionals can standardize individual office choices, narrowing the number of desktop and laptop options, including component-level configurations. This standardization in buying a select number of professionally pre-configured units also lowers prices and support costs in the field.
Unlike in the past, procurement and support professionals can now offer their campus community a cleaner, easier, and more efficient buying interface either through their eProcurement systems or customized reseller portals, highlighting the pre-selected “campus standard” computers and peripherals. This gives campuses a streamlined and cost-effective process for procurement, fulfillment, and asset tracking.
What resellers truly do best is pre-configuration and other special services. Resellers have great resources to provide easy and efficient services to help technology support and procurement professionals pre-configure, track, and inventory equipment throughout the supply chain. Software, firmware, and registry configuration have become a “just-in-time” operation, using online tools to upload and manage pre-configuration images and files easily and effectively. By using these off-campus resources, support professionals can cut the time between the reception of computers to installation in half.
Asset tagging, tracking, and management has become an easy process through resellers, allowing these services to be managed through the reseller’s website or by downloading assets into helpdesk and/or capital assets systems. This is crucial to procurement professionals in tracking assets in the depreciation cycle as well as helping technology professionals track support problems, refresh cycles, budget needs, and update software/OS in their support tracking systems. Resellers also have resources to help test and validate software imaging and versioning for the best compatibility standards.
With the increasing need to do more with less, computer and networking resellers have become a very valid and cost-effective option. Buying and using these services allows support and procurement teams to spend more face-time with their users, more time thinking through strategic operations, and less time with functional minutia.
To make this work, staff professionals must be organized and plan ahead, but the savings and advantages can be substantial. As budgets continue to shrink and staff resources are stretched, using technology resellers with these special services can be extremely beneficial to your technology operation and your institution overall. Times have changed and, with some foresight and operational planning, using these and other services can save your institution time, money, and peace-of-mind.
Keith Fowlkes is the former Vice President, Technology at E&I Cooperative Services. He is a veteran Chief Information Officer and is a co-founder and board member of the Higher Education Systems & Services Consortium.
Keith is a frequent speaker and contributing writer on technology topics in education.