Business Solutions magazine interviewed industry experts for the Business Solutions 2014 Partner Program Insider article on the top opportunities for solutions providers in the education vertical. In addition, BSM asked their opinions on the current health of the education market from a potential IT spend perspective.Their responses show that to answer this question, you have to define which part of the market and which time of year you’re referring to — unless you’re talking about security.
- Ajay Jain, President, CEO of Quantum Secure: The education market can be broken down into several categories based on grade level, and whether they are public systems or privately held. The financial health of these various market segments can vary greatly based on budget and grant availability, but the need for intelligent Physical Identity Access Management (PIAM) solutions clearly exist across all segments to better protect people, property and assets.
- Robert Laughlin, President, Galaxy Control Systems: The education market is very diverse and budgets vary from one level to the next based on size, age grouping, region, and whether they are public or private institutions. Overall, school systems are generally struggling with budget issues but recognize the immediate need for improved security which has become a mission critical concern with administrators, municipalities, school boards, faculty, unions, and parents alike. The best selling periods are typically in Q1 and Q2 so that work can be performed while schools are not in session during the summer months.
- Wade Norman, Sr. Director Business Development, IQinVision: Healthy IT budgets are not in tune just yet. Due to budget shortfalls because of economic conditions over the last few years — rainy day funds are depleted with the exception of Texas and Alaska. This continues but is improving with spending surpluses forecast for 2015 after years of deficits. Stimulus money is running out and budget funding falls on state and local level. This continues to be challenging for administrators and superintendents to procure IT resources. The best time to sell is January through May, with summer implementation schedules, followed by August through October with holiday implementation schedules.
- Eddie Franklin, Vice President, Sales, Public Sector and Vertical Markets, SYNNEX Corporation: State and local revenues account for almost 90 percent of K-12 funding. 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.
- Mike Garofola, Senior Marketing Manager, Channel and Education, OKI Data Americas: It’s important to understand the delicate balance of providing an excellent education within the constraints of a budget. IT decision makers within schools are likely to invest in printing solutions that allow educators and administrators more time with student-focused tasks rather than administrative functions. The optimal time to reach out to the education market is during the second half of the school year. During this time, educators and administrators will begin planning for the new school year and evaluate technology investments. Additionally, procurement will occur during the summer months when school is not in session, typically July and August.
- Scott Schafer Executive Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Service Arecont Vision: The education market is one of the fastest growing markets for multi-megapixel camera systems. Universities and schools were among the first vertical markets to deploy IP camera systems over the past 10 years. For this reason it is a great time to sell to the education market. In the USA, upgrades and new systems installations can happen at any time but the best time for selling is in the winter and spring so the sites can be prepared for installation in June, July, and early August.
These industry experts agree physical security and network security are priorities — and they represent opportunities for solutions providers.
- Gadi Piran, President, OnSSI: Public and private schools at every level recognize the importance of IT infrastructure for educational purposes as well as operations such as video surveillance and security. But budgets continue to be an issue and are driving the demand for higher cost-efficiencies. This has escalated the development of innovative video management and control solutions that fulfill users’ performance and budget requirements. We have found the best time to sell into the education space is all the time, as video surveillance and security solutions are not quick sales that can be lumped into seasonal buying patterns. It may take weeks or months to provide test results, and then design and spec a system to specific site requirements.
- Jonathan Horvath, Director of Enterprise Product Management, Mobility Management Solutions, Smith Micro Software: Traditionally, the public sector has been slow to adopt new technology, but BYOD (bring your own device) has forced IT administrators to implement solutions that protect students, teachers, and sensitive data. Technology that filters mobile content in accordance with the Children’s Information and Protection Act, which aims to address concerns about children's access to harmful content over the Internet, is an essential component of any responsible school district's mobile learning program.
In addition to security, budgetary concerns are also a top priority for schools. Solutions that automatically connect mobile devices to the school's preferred networks, notify students when they are close to their 3G/4G data limit and force the device to use Wi-Fi only if data limits are reach offer valuable budget protection, and can save school districts thousands of dollars. So yes, the education market is ripe for selling not only because IT needs solutions to maintain compliance and security across technologies but they've got to adopt solutions that help them cut costs as well.
- John Grabowski, National Sales and Marketing Manager, JVC: The education market realizes the need for state-of-the-art IT infrastructure but economies often prevent the implementation of these systems. 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. Although the overall budget climate may not be good, it continues to grow in potential for professional security systems.
- Peter Martini, Chief Operating Officer, iboss Network Security: Budgetary concerns are always top of mind in the education sector, however privacy and security concerns fueled by BYOD are driving investment in security solutions. Technology that can help a school district remain compliant with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) will always be a top priority. Moreover, the threat of advanced malware and data breaches on popular social media sites and apps makes it critical that the education sector allocate funds towards robust security technologies.
- Steve Surfaro, Security Industry Liaison, Axis Communications: Since infrastructure is a capital expense, most of the post construction opportunities are individual IP-based system improvements to security, safety, digital content management, voice, emergency communications, and a unified access control, ID and meal card/credential. According to a popular market analysis firm, the 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.
For more news and insights, visit BSMinfo’s Education IT Resource Center.