Deploy 2014, Part 7: Financing and Roll-Out

This week on the Deploy 2014 podcast series, we tackle the thorny questions of financing and roll-out strategy. This is one of the hardest areas to get right.

We tackle the two issues together because financing and roll-out go hand-in-hand. Your finances might dictate a certain style of roll-out but the roll-out style could impact your finances for years to come.

Fraser and Bradley open the show with a discussion of the Microsoft Office release for iPad and how it relates to Google Apps For Education schools (along with iPads). At $99 per year, is it that much better than iWork and Google Drive? Fraser compiled some interesting statistics that he shared on Twitter:

I identified 75 word processing features and compared Word, Pages and GDrive on iOS. Pages has 61, Word 57, Google Drive….18.

Of 54 high-level spreadsheet features: Excel: 39; Numbers: 42; Google Drive: 23.

Fraser points out that the ability to view Office documents on iOS and have them render perfectly will be a big win for a lot of folks. The lack of printing does seem like a huge oversight and will likely be added soon.

Next, we talk about some JAMF Software news: Casper 9.3 shipped this week, bringing support for VPP Managed Distribution. Fraser talks about some corner cases he’s found in testing but is overall quite enthusiastic about the technology.

They then move onto the actual deployment topic and discuss financing and roll out. Financing is always a tricky thing to discuss. In the private school sector, a lot of parents feel like their tuition should cover any technology. In the public school sector, you may not be legally allowed to ask. Fraser brings up the point that “technology fees” seem to be going away and jokes that you should charge a “bathroom fee” as well. By making something an “add on”, some parents feel like its optional. Bradley brings up the point that many schools use fees to keep their tuition low on their website for parents who are shopping around. The overall point is that you have to get it funded and you have to get it re-funded in 3-4 years. There are many routes to funding. It can either be a budget decision, grants, or private donations. Bradley mentions that if you do get a grant, that you need to begin planning budget wise for your next refresh as you may not get another grant.

They then move onto the topic of rollouts. There are basically 4 types.

BYOD

In this model, there is little consistency. You’ll probably see 80% iOS, but we speculate that, in the future, just “iOS” might be all you need to mandate. As the platform matures, hardware may be different year to year. The biggest thing we see right now is there is no AirDrop on the iPad 2. The bottom line is that teachers want a predictable and stable foundation to plan against and BYOD doesn’t allow for that. Fraser notes that, in the UK, the leading argument for a mandatory school uniform was that you don’t want pupils to be visibly distinguished by their parents’ inability to buy the “best kit”. BYOD seems to accept that this is OK in technology. Some parents will provide iPads but what of those children whose parents either don’t understand or can’t afford the best technology?

Year at a time

In this model, a grade gets deployed each year. It looks low risk, but in reality it is very difficult in practice. You end up on a treadmill of “new devices every year” and it’s really hard to get off it. Also, if you start at the bottom year group and work up, what of those children who were in year two at the start and have 5-6 years of education without tech while the years below move on with technology? Great way to factionalise your school.

Pilots

As Fraser mentioned, pilots are often as simple as: Let’s order 30 iPads and see what happens. This teaches you essentially nothing about being a 1:1 school unless you use that kit to build a small 1:1 enclave in your school. Spreading the kit around means you have to solve problems that you don't when you're 1:1. You’d be better off spending that money in traveling to other schools or bringing in deployment personnel to help you navigate the waters.

All In (The Cedars Model)

This model is easier than ever with DEP and VVP-MD. iOS is at a place where it doesn’t matter if its 100 or 50,000. Other than the unboxing, Apple has built the tools to scale these deployments

iOS deployments are at a place where it’s not as simple as knowing how to sync an iPad to iTunes 200 times over. Deployments are like the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books from the 1990s. There are decisions you make that you can’t go back on. It’s not longer about brute forcing solutions, but about thinking through piecing the puzzle together (WiFi, MDM, DEP, VPP-MD, etc).

I hope you're enjoying the series so far. You can subscribe in iTunes, directly on our site or in the search feature of your mobile podcast client.