Experts identify the hottest IT trends and topics facing the education market.
The education vertical is a challenging one for resellers but can be quite rewarding. I recently reached out to a handful of industry experts to get their take on where solutions providers should be focusing to increase sales in this vertical. Their responses can be boiled down into two main categories: keeping an eye on people and assets and getting computers into the hands of students. Interestingly, there’s a lot of technology — and therefore opportunity — required to pull all this off.
“An opportunity lies in the pressure to deliver one-to-one computing,” says Eddie Franklin, VP, sales, public sector and vertical markets, SYNNEX Corp. “The deployment of this system does not guarantee improved educational outcomes, but parents, school board members, politicians, and the community at large still consider one-to-one to be a top priority. Putting a device in every student’s hands means learning does not stop when the bell rings, and students can continue to study and invest in their education beyond the classroom.”
Wade Norman, senior director, business development for IQinVision, adds that a one-to-one learning environment increases the efficiency of teachers, as content can be tailored to specific student needs, thus making smart use of the teacher’s time. “Students are able to learn at their own pace,” he says. “Plus, it gives all students access to the best possible education regardless of geography.” The punchline is that to pull this off, students need computers. With computers, particularly if they’re mobile, come challenges and opportunities you might expect.
“Cyber threats are more sophisticated than ever before, and mobile devices are particularly high-risk, as they can be compromised when brought outside a school’s network,” cautions Peter Martini, COO for iboss Network Security. “School districts can mitigate these risks by deploying technologies such as behavioral data loss and intrusion protection systems, which focus on securing against advanced persistent malware as well as known and unknown threats.” He goes on to say that, while the education sector typically lacks the funding to implement and manage the latest DLP technologies, they sit on an expansive list of personal information that dwarfs many Fortune 1000 corporations. “Hackers are increasingly aware of this, as evident in the recent University of Maryland data breach,” he says. The takeaway here is to make sure you’re bringing security to any conversations you’re having with your education customers.
However, network security isn’t the only security you should be selling to educational institutions. You need to be keeping an eye on people and assets. “The education market continues to wrestle with challenges related to visitor management and access control, which are as much identity management issues as they are a physical security issue,” says Ajay Jain, president/CEO of Quantum Secure. “Many colleges and universities are also moving towards one-card solutions for ID, meal plans, access, parking, debit card charges, etc., in an effort to consolidate systems. Moving forward, more advanced identity and access management solutions will employ mobile apps to report lost credentials, open doors on request, and more.”
Dylan Schafer, channel sales manager for Wasp Barcode Technologies, says that school administrators face the never-ending challenge of always knowing the whereabouts of assets that are issued to students for use outside of the classroom. “Checkout and return procedures can be time-consuming, and it’s easy for some equipment to fall through the cracks,” he says. “Students may also claim to have returned units that they still possess. The federal government requires any item purchased with grant money to be tracked, maintained, and disposed of appropriately. An asset management solution gives schools the necessary tool for recording each step of the tracking process and ensures detailed documentation for compliance auditing.”
Unfortunately, one of the biggest challenges a solutions provider will face in this market is budgetary. “State and local revenues account for almost 90 percent of K-12 funding,” says Franklin. “As state revenues improve and deficits continue to shrink, all indications are that K-12 will see solid funding streams. The market will see modest increase in tech funding, with the bulk of budget increase pointed at instruction and services. The time to sell is now, as the most significant K-12 technology implementations occur over the summer months.”
John Grabowski, national sales and marketing manager for JVC, adds that the intense national focus on the need to improve security in schools has helped to increase budget allocations for IT and/or legacy infrastructure and system enhancements. “Many of these efforts are being driven by the need to implement better video surveillance and security systems,” he says. “Although the overall budget climate may not be good, it continues to grow in potential for professional security systems.” Steve Surfaro, security industry liaison for Axis Communications, adds that global market for network video in the education sector is expected to increase by 120 percent through 2017. “As the deployment of IP-based devices continues to gain market share, securing the sale of these systems is better sooner than later.”