The results from our National BYOD in VET survey show that BYOD implementation isn’t always a seamless process. Buyers should beware when selecting an external IT provider to work with to safeguard against potentially expensive disruptions down the track. Irrespective of whether your RTO has an internal or external IT provider, care should be taken to establish a clear brief ahead of time to manage everyone’s expectations.
Before selecting an external IT provider to partner with, it pays to ask these questions:
Find out whether they have sufficient skills and workforce to deliver your BYOD solution in a timely fashion. Also, it’s worth finding out whether they can provide close ongoing support and respond to any ad hoc requests down the track.
Have they had any experience in BYOD implementations before?
Every industry is different. Check that the IT provider has an understanding of the sensitivities relating to VET, your demographic of learners and your duty of care towards your RTO community.
Can the IT provider offer the sort of financial terms you require?
Formalise and document a memorandum of understanding or contractual arrangement between the RTO and the IT company responsible for sub-contracting. Be wary here and clarify exactly which party is responsible for each aspect of the job, both at the time of implementation as well as for ongoing maintenance and support. Try and find any potential gaps that can yield potential for “passing the buck” if things get tricky later on – and address them up front, before any problems actually arise.
- Are all contractors qualified and/or licensed to carry out the work that they’re being hired for?
- Are the contractors are included in the overall project cost?
- Will all labour and parts will be itemised when invoiced?
- What are their hourly rates?
Some other hints for selecting an external IT provider for your BYOD implementation:
Ask yourself this: Does the IT provider feel right for your organisation? They might answer all your questions well, but check your gut feeling too.
Ultimately the IT contractor should remain responsible for all work carried out – they are your “go to” for any problems or questions. They need to be in the loop the entire time. There should be no changes made without direct consultation with the IT provider, regardless of any recommendations made by the contractors. External contractors’ work needs to be tested fully before signing off, and it should be articulated that this is the responsibility of the IT provider.
It’s all in the brief!
Regardless of whether you’re working with your RTO’s internal IT department, or with an external provider, it is important that a clear brief is compiled before the initial engagement.
This is the first step to managing the expectations of both the RTO and the IT provider. The process of compiling the brief doesn’t need to be technical at all. In fact its probably better if it compiled in plain English. This process should be discussed with key members of the RTO. This allows a clear message for all involved, as well as provides opportunity for everyone to ask questions and give input. Every RTO is different and every single location can be different, so past experiences or what other businesses have is usually irrelevant. If your RTO has multiple locations, each location needs to be assessed individually.
But what is a brief?
A brief is simply a detailed description of what needs to be achieved and provides a starting point for discussions between the technical and non-technical team members. Some organisations like to use templates, others write in a narrative style. For BYOD, the IT team are looking for information such as:
- How many users there will be (now and in the future) – including students, staff and guests.
- The type of internet connection you have.
- What you’re intending to do with the BYO devices (Are you looking to video conference? Access the LMS? Email? Browse the internet? Use specific apps? There are lots of ways that you might answer this – and each aspect will impact the plan of attack that the IT dept will devise).
- How much you can spend on the solution. This will define the parameters and help the IT providers give you a clear picture of what is actually possible within your budget. It’ll also help them prioritise their activities to remain within budget.
- Where people will physically be while using their own devices (In the RTO network? Outside the network? In their workplaces? Spread across multiple campuses? Every RTO is different, so give them as much information as possible about this).
- Whether you’ll be placing any restrictions on particular user types, like how long they can be connected to the network for, specific times and days, or restricting the amount of data that individual users can consume. Our research has shown that data use is a particular consideration in states and territories that have less overall connectivity. RTOs in states with more advanced fibre rollout report that downloads are less impacted by introducing BYOD.
- When might be the best time of day or year to undertake these works. Don’t assume that the IT provider is aware of the ebbs and flows of the VET calendar, and when it will be convenient for there to be potential disruptions to RTO life. If all of your learners are away on placement for a fortnight at once, for example, communicate this to your IT provider. If there is an intense assessment period looming, and you anticipate there being a heavy reliance on your network during this period – make sure they are aware of this too. This can head conflict and consternation off well ahead of time and make for a more positive experience for all concerned.
Be prepared for some negotiation. It may be that some activities cannot be achieved within budget, or there may be other limiting factors. However, if you keep communications clear and open, and keep your original purpose for introducing BYOD firmly in mind (you may wish to visit the post about this subject) you’ll be well positioned to minimise any “surprises”.
Still wondering how it’s actually done? For those of you who haven’t created a brief before, we’ll add a sample BYOD brief template for you to consider in the next few days.