Selling software into an unfamiliar marketplace is a challenge for any reseller. When the market is the education sector with its reputation for a tight grip on budgets that challenge increases by an order of magnitude.
Clear those hurdles, however, and the challenges turn into major opportunities for resellers. Education continues whatever happens elsewhere in the economy, and that means a constant demand from 30,000 schools with an ICT budget of around £1bn.
Key to success in education is understanding the decision-making processes and the sector’s demand for value. Establishments demand solutions which support teaching and administration while having the smallest impact on budgets.
For resellers exploring the education market, the advice must be to offer quality software, sensibly priced and supported, direct to local schools and local education authorities.
The education sector is acutely conscious of obsolescence. Schools have to maximise the longevity – and therefore the cost-effectiveness – of their hardware.
They must not be forced into upgrading that hardware by choosing resource-heavy operating systems and software applications.
Resellers must be able to supply word processing, spreadsheet, graphics and presentation software that can match the functionality of the market leaders, feature by feature but at a fraction of the price and demanding far fewer computing resources.
The introduction of the Intel Atom chip expands the opportunity for reselling software meeting those specifications.
The recently launched Classmate PC laptop based on the Intel Atom was seen by Intel as a cost-effective way of rolling out ICT as a teaching aid in developing countries.
But this resource-light laptop has been welcomed by the teaching establishment in many other countries. A good illustration is the Magellan Initiative in Portugal which will see an initial 500,000 Classmate PCs built in that country and supplied to the nation’s schoolchildren.
Many laptop manufacturers are following their own sub-notebook route in launching machines based on the Atom. The low price points will ensure that they are high on schools’ agenda for investment.
The key to all of these machines is that they either ship with Linux or Microsoft Windows XP because they were designed for a marketplace that requires cost-effectiveness and has no need for many of the features found in Microsoft Vista.
The same software that helps protect schools against obsolescence of their hardware runs comfortably in Windows XP environments, giving purchasers a consistent software application across their existing hardware and whatever Atom implementation they choose to adopt.
Educationalists are open to new ideas, but resellers need to make a case to these purchasers on their own terms.
Explain the educational benefits of their solutions, demonstrate the low life-time cost of ownership, but above all be prepared to go the extra mile in supporting customers in the field.
Education may be a new marketplace for many resellers, but the investment in time and understanding will be worth every penny.
Lyndon Chapman is chief executive officer at Ability Software International
Highlander MD Steve Brown tells CRN about the skills he learned on the pitch and brought to the boardroom
Reports suggest Dell is pursuing a straightforward IPO, contradicting existing plans to buy out tracking stock holders
Analysts predict upturn in PC market next year, but 2018 to remain plagued by components shortages
Neil Sawyer claims he has 'never seen so many conversations about a new method of investing in workplace technology'