IT leasing as a solution to universities’ IT challenges
THE BIGGER PICTURE – CURRENT ISSUES
UK universities are in the midst of an on-going funding crisis. As Professor Eric Thomas, Universities UK (UUK) president and vice-chancellor of Bristol University, speaking of UUK’s 2013 report ‘The Funding Environment for Universities’ said:
“… this report finds that institutions face a number of challenges in the short to medium term in funding capital expenditure.
“There is also evidence to suggest that the sector is significantly constrained in terms of its ability to expand in a sustainable manner in the medium term.”
Against this backdrop, universities are increasingly expected to provide technology that will deliver not only a good learning experience, but a good technology experience too. This is challenging from a cost, management and logistical point of view.
In an environment where competition is rife at the same time as budgets are stretched, having the right tools and resources to ensure you can deliver high quality technology is key to attracting and retaining high calibre students and lecturers. With fees now the students’ responsibility, poor quality IT at universities won’t be accepted, and without cutting-edge IT, universities will likely lose out to competing institutions.
IT managers are expected to ensure their universities’ IT estates are operating at optimum efficiency and effectiveness, and good asset management is key. It is important to know what assets are working well, where additions are required and which should be rationalised, in order to stay on top of the game.
ADVANCING TECHNOLOGY IS CHANGING THE EDUCATION LANDSCAPE
Technology is changing the education landscape, an example being so-called MOOCs –‘Massive Open Online Courses’, which will break down the borders both nationally and internationally for students to choose where and how they want to study.
Universities will need to ensure their IT estates can cope with the demands placed on them by MOOCs if they are going to be able to compete in a global market.
What is more, with the proliferation of hand-held devices on the market, and with students now likely to incorporate mobile platforms like smartphones and tablets into their studying, universities need to be able to support a bring your own devices (BYOD) approach for students – so that their use of technology in learning is seamless.
It is not widely known that IT leasing can be the most cost effective and efficient way to procure IT. Common misconceptions often result in leasing being seen as purely a funding option, and as more expensive than using cash to fund a capital purchase, which means it is not always fully explored as a way to fund and manage IT in universities.
Contrary to popular belief, leasing can be cheaper than using cash if you are able to realise the high residual values of IT equipment at the end of the lease. What’s more, the fixed term associated with leasing drives the IT refresh cycle. Procuring IT through a lease can mitigate risks associated with owning equipment that is past its ‘useful’ life. These risks include:
- Equipment ‘falling over’ or running slowly
- Financial consequences – cost of maintenance
- Lost teaching time due to down-time of IT equipment, and;
- Negative impact on students’ learning
HOW IT LEASING CAN HELP
A holistic approach to leasing, which includes acquisition management – invoice management and lease financing – saves time and mitigates risk of financial penalties applied for late payment. It can also include online asset management, real-time inventory and comprehensive reporting of both technical and financial data. This gives IT managers full visibility of their IT estates to enable additions, replacements or rationalisation to keep the estate operating at optimum efficiency.
A good lease will also incorporate end-of-life management – Including transportation, data deletion and WEEE compliant disposal, which helps universities meet regulatory and legal requirements.
IT LEASING AS A SOLUTION TO CAPITAL EXPENDITURE ISSUES
Leasing as part of a wider asset management approach enables institutions to pay for assets over their life spans, which helps overcome funding issues associated with capital expenditure.
With increased expectations on universities to deliver excellent IT against a backdrop of reduced funding, lack of investment is simply not an option, and IT leasing could provide the solution.