Q&A | April 10, 2014

Common Mistakes Solutions Providers Make In The Education Vertical

Bernadette Wilson

By Bernadette Wilson

Education IT Solution Mistakes

Along with their responses to questions for the Business Solutions 2014 Partner Program Insider industry experts listed what they believe are the most common mistakes VARs, MSPs, integrators, and software developers make in the education vertical.

Some mistakes are related to sales and doing business with schools.

  • Eddie Franklin, Vice President, Sales, Public Sector and Vertical Markets, SYNNEX Corporation: A common mistake VARs make is waiting for the RFP to address the needs of a district. Once the RFP is out, a solution provider’s ability to differentiate themselves or advance an innovative solution is limited. Most responses include the minimum components — adding in extra content such as professional development and paths for teacher education on how to maximize the technology can be a difference maker. It’s also important for VARs to look past the acquisition of the IT goods and determine what the goods are actually going to achieve. This will help solution providers stay connected and become a partner beyond the procurement of goods.
  • Gadi Piran, President, OnSSI: Solutions providers base their proposals on price and not performance. This is counterintuitive as today’s education market needs innovative solutions that also deliver performance integrity.
  • Mike Garofola, Senior Marketing Manager, Channel and Education, OKI Data Americas: For resellers, it will be important to educate existing and potential clients in the education market about exactly what the printing solution or service will include the benefits, and cost savings. One critical challenge for the education market is over-promising on cost savings and not delivering. With that said, it’s important to validate cost-savings with the schools ahead of time so they fully understand their ROI. This will help establish trust with the school and could lead to increasing their overall spend.
  • Wade Norman, Sr. Director Business Development, IQinVision: The biggest mistakes we have seen are solutions providers making assumptions, setting up the prospect with leading questions, and trying to change a prospect’s mind instead of their perspective. They fail to give the prospects a buying experience — and give them presentation boredom.
  • Peter Martini, Chief Operating Officer, iboss Network Security: The biggest mistake we see are VARs , MSPs, and integrators not fully understanding the unique needs of the education market. Channel entities sell products across many industries, yet there cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach to the sales process. Education organizations have similar issues and challenges but their specific needs as it relates to security are unique due to compliance, privacy issues and the group that it serves. It’s critical that VARs, MSPs and integrators do their due diligence and address this industry’s unique needs.

Other mistakes deal with the vertical’s unique needs from solutions.

  • Ajay Jain, President and CEO, Quantum Secure: Old school solutions simply won’t fulfill the needs and demands of educational facilities today. Analog video and access control systems and sign-in sheets need to be replaced with intelligent integrated networked systems. New software and hardware innovations make this possible with high levels of cost-efficiency, providing resellers with the knowledge they need to design and implement these solutions. It is imperative for the various providers on both software and hardware side to work together for a truly cohesive solution that will help keep our students safe —  from the perimeter to the software monitoring. There is no single solution, but together, we can offer an incredibly powerful solution to mitigate threats.
  • Jonathan Horvath, Director of Enterprise Product Management, Mobility Management Solutions, Smith Micro Software:
    • Offering a “base model” of a closed or proprietary solution. Evolving educational programs and the unwavering determination of students to circumvent security settings is a constant challenge for IT. For schools to be truly effective, they need to be able to customize solutions and IT policy to fit unique program needs and react quickly to inevitable “bumps along the way” when rolling out digital education programs. 
    • Forgetting about the connection. Device connectivity is often an afterthought to educators but it doesn’t take long for students to figure out that a good way to circumvent content filters is to use a different Wi-Fi or mobile broadband connection — which in many cases already resides in their pockets. Students with smartphones can connect school devices to their unsecure mobile hotspots in seconds. When a student leaves campus, how protected is that student’s data? School IT administrators need to be equipped and empowered to manage mobile devices over any network a student may access. 
    • Building requirements on fad vs. function. Choosing a digital education program and expanding a school’s technology infrastructure is a costly and time-consuming decision that is difficult to change once implemented. Many schools and their IT partners get into dizzying conversations around features, spending too much time talking about bells and whistles that are just “nice to have.” Limited funds require schools to be efficient, requiring more discussion around how these devices will be managed by small IT departments that are often understaffed. Mobile devices in schools need to be, at the forefront, easy to enroll, manage, and replace.
  • Dylan Schafer, Channel Sales Manager, Wasp Barcode Technologies: A common mistake is not offering training and implementation services to support the solutions they sell.
  • John Grabowski, National Sales and Marketing Manager, JVC: Although K-12 schools are primarily active during weekday hours, they are also a hub of activity after classes with sporting and arts events. School grounds are also sites where kids congregate after hours, which can lead to mischief and sometimes vandalism. As a result, video surveillance systems need to be implemented that provide high imaging quality in color even at night along with recording and control systems capable of capturing full motion for extended periods of time. The key to successful design is selecting the right combination of video products that deliver the highest quality at the best price.
  • Robert Laughlin, President, Galaxy Control Systems: There is a delicate balance of security and privacy that needs to be maintained in schools to ensure that the environment is safe and conducive to learning. This requires technologies to be readily present but not intrusive.
  • Steve Surfaro, Security Industry Liaison, Axis Communications: By deploying lower cost proprietary non IP-based systems, the education institution bears a larger cost in the long term as system replacement may be required.
  • Scott Schafer, Executive Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Service, Arecont Vision: A common mistake is for the reseller to assume the customer wants to replace their analog or standard definition IP VGA camera system with similar technology. These “trusted advisor” partners of the end user need to make sure they are introducing enabling technology like IP megapixel cameras that can improve the security team’s performance. Another issue is when the reseller does not provide a proper migration plan for the customer. In addition to the technology change with the new system, process and policy changes need to be identified and thought through. Training becomes one of the key elements of a successful migration plan and often times it is a secondary thought.

Video surveillance resellers continue to make the mistake of specifying pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) cameras for sites that are generally unmanned. This presents threeadverse scenarios:

  1. the overall solution is more expensive than its value
  2. the PTZ camera is set to auto patrol mode where it is likely be pointed in the wrong direction when an event occurs
  3. because PTZ cameras are mechanical, they fail more often than fixed cameras