Why school technology projects fail

Cloud computing in schoolsLook around you – it sure seems that everything technology in school districts is a big, expensive & lengthy project. The rest of the world has pretty much moved in the opposite direction. Try a cloud-based, inexpensive pay-as-you-go service for maybe 50 bucks (heck, almost every one has a free trial anyway). Put something in production quickly and see what works.

Except in our schools. They’re stuck in the world of annual/multi-year contracts, lengthy bureaucratic purchasing procedures, technology ROI assessment etc. There’s no way to just try something out and see if it works even for $50. Yes, school districts have annual budgets and they’re getting tighter all the time. All the more reason for pay-as-you-go.

Large Technology projects mostly fail
Depending on who you ask, more than half of all large tech projects fail with the LAUSD iPad project serving [probably unfairly] as the current poster child. But, truly assessing the ROI of technology in advance is pretty much “fiction” and not just in schools. There are too many variables from training to process re-engineering to adoption. In practice, it turns into a vendor finding an internal champion who will “market” the vendor’s ROI to executives. And, in many large companies executives sign off on multi-year projects knowing they’ll be gone before the project is ever deployed. Companies, however, have wised up to the benefits of trial and error.

Trial and Error (or Think BIG but start small) works
Einstein may have been the master of thought experiments. But, for most of us, we try stuff out. From medical research to car repairs to diets, it’s part of our life. We adopt what works and discard what doesn’t. Software’s the same. Instead of the above-mentioned lengthy studies, just sign up online and try it out. Get a few people to use it – teachers, staff, or parents. Cloud-based software + monthly contracts make it easy.

Cloud and PAYG have huge benefits
The benefits are obvious and extensively detailed elsewhere from no upfront fees or lengthy contracts to zero installation to on-demand scaling to quick trial-and-error. The rest of the world is signing on at an unprecedented pace. Except schools – it’s 1:1 digital learning programs and flipped classrooms (translation: buy 10,000 iPads and change the way 1000s of teachers work). What about small-scale, quick and easy solutions?

We see this all the time – our customers in industry love cloud software, pay-as-you-go and pay only for what you use. Now, if only we could get our schools to do the same.

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