YPO expert advice: investing in ICT

Category Manager for ICT, Kate Davies explains how YPO can help ensure that you're getting cost-effective solutions that fully meet the needs of your school.

Our ICT infrastructure needs an overhaul, but we don't have any time or expertise – how should we go about evaluating what we need?

Having a robust long-term strategy in place is key to identifying your requirements 
and setting objectives. Pre-market engagement – contacting potential suppliers to discuss what solutions they have and how this might 
shape the direction you take – 
is a very useful exercise as it involves your suppliers at an 
early stage and could help to 
inform your specification.

You could talk to your local authority to make sure that your long-term plans are aligned and 
are suitable for the local area. You could also talk to one of our experts at YPO to see if we can recommend any schools that have been through a similar process to take advice from and discuss lessons learned.

Most of YPO’s frameworks include a ‘Lot’, or option for audit and consultancy, which is designed 
to allow a thorough and impartial analysis of your current systems 
to help determine the best strategy moving forward.

Would you recommend upgrading all of our ICT products in one hit or doing it incrementally?

This would depend on your budget, levels of cross-departmental support, the state and age of your current assets, and whether there’s a long-term plan in place. If an incremental approach is used, it’s advisable to prioritise which kit and/or systems need replacing first, by setting out a clear and achievable project plan with timeframes.

Be mindful of your spend levels being aggregated, as EU procurement regulations apply to all public sector bodies, so all purchases need to be fair and transparent. If you’re unsure of any aspect of the requirements, or how to conduct a procurement review, YPO is on hand to provide advice and could direct you to a framework that can help meet your needs.

Are we better off buying equipment or exploring lease-hire agreements?

Again, this would depend on your long-term strategy. There are many benefits to both options but the decision can boil down to the expected length of requirement for the equipment, and whether there’s a need for a planned product refresh. This should be considered on a case-by-case basis and reviewed annually to ensure the approach remains fit for purpose. Our team at YPO are more than happy to give advice and guidance on this, especially around the use of operational leases.

What about technical support, serving, software updates and training?

All of YPO’s frameworks cover these aspects so you can be assured that suppliers have already been through an evaluation process to test their suitability. We also work to strict key performance indicators to which suppliers must adhere – for example, training to be delivered on new equipment within a certain number of days.

Can we use technology to save costs around the school in other ways?

Absolutely! YPO has frameworks that cover Electronic Kitchen Management (Ref: 684) – software to replace paper-based ordering, stock and recipe management; Travel Management Services (Ref: RM1034) – for online travel and accommodation bookings; and Energy Bureau Service – a fully-hosted service to allow energy bills to be checked and validated, to name a few.

Case study: 'Our new franking machine will pay for itself!'

Alistair Stewart, Procurement Officer, Titus Salt School, Shipley, Yorkshire (1,468 pupils) told us: 'Despite the school’s drive to use email communications more widely, a staggering amount of information is still sent out by post – rewards certificates, joining packs for Year 6 pupils, exam information, etc. Our old franking machine was nearing the end of its life, and when Royal Mail introduced Mailmark, a new barcode system, we knew it was time for an upgrade.

I contacted YPO, having used their frameworks in the past to purchase iPads and a minibus. Both times the team at YPO were a great help, providing impartial support and advice, whilst also saving us time and delivering value for money. We bought the new franking machine outright for £2,500. This means we can now access the discounted postage rates offered by Royal Mail through the Mailmark service. In fact, we estimate that our cost savings will be such that within 18 months, the new machine will have paid for itself!'

The benefits of using YPO

  • YPO operates across the wider public sector and can, therefore, aggregate spend in order to deliver the best value for money,
  • YPO liaises with experts in each  sector who advise on all aspects of the use of framework contracts,
  • YPO works with approximately 700 suppliers, including market-leading brands, guaranteeing the biggest range of products and services nationwide,
  • Procurement options are available through either Direct Award or Further Competition,
  • YPO’s ICT team have negotiated with suppliers to provide a complete end-to-end service, including site survey, delivery, installation, demonstrations, and product training
  • All frameworks are EU compliant, so there’s no need to run a full tender.

The most popular ICT-related frameworks with schools are:

  • Technology Products (RM1054) provides a full range of ICT products, services and solutions across a range of ‘Lots’ that cover ICT desktop and infrastructure hardware, services and solutions. This includes monitors, servers, PCs, laptops, and tablets.
  • Multifunctional Devices and Services, Managed Print Services and Print Audit Services (RM1599) is a framework to purchase photocopiers and associated print-related services.
  • Electronic Office Supplies (413) is a framework for the provision of toner cartridges (branded/own brand), memory sticks, CDs, and DVDs.

About YPO's procurement services

YPO has over 80 procurement frameworks. To find out more about the procurement service and to get advice on how you can make the most of your school budgets, contact YPO on 01924 664664 or email procurementservices@ypo.co.uk. YPO works with suppliers across the UK to offer the latest products and services to schools at the most competitive prices. Explore over 30,000 products at ypo.co.uk/products.