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The channel is consistently told about the importance of being trusted advisers, and what that role looks like in education is going beyond simply selling hardware and delivering software. Firms with a solid reputation selling into schools are recognising the need to add value beyond the specifics of the tender process.
Jason Tomlinson, managing director of RM Technology, is keen to use its tech ability to help schools support future learners and deliver more compelling content in the classroom.
It needs to be done safely and to the standards of the national curriculum, but there is room for innovation that will provide the next generation of schoolchildren with a chance to exploit the benefits of collaboration, robotics and fresh approaches to well-worn subjects.
Tomlinson said that some of the work the company had done generating expert content around space and engineering were recent examples of where it was trying to make a difference.
“We’re starting to get our momentum and our mojo back effectively, asking: ‘What do we do for the sector? What how do we push things forward? How do we take what we’re getting from our 25% of the market, and share that in a way that is constructive?’. [The answer is] constructive disruption,” he said.
“RM is such a big brand with a big name and wide reach that we have this platform – and we need to do good with it,” he added. “We want to push the boundaries, because where we push, the market will follow.”
RM has been on a journey, originally being a hardware player before exiting that market to concentrate on software and services to then refine that approach further with some more rationalisation in the portfiolio to target assessments and educational resources.
“We’ve made some tough decisions over the period to make sure that the business does the right thing and continues to go in the right direction,” said Tomlinson. “The business is constantly evolving. Our strategy is to continue to enrich the lives of learners,” he added.
Tomlinson said the firm was in a stronger position because it was agnostic and able to work with a wide range of third-party products. “We want to be the agnostic player in the market. We want to be the advisers, to be able to say, ‘You could use this for this reason or that reason’,” he said.
He added that RM still generated intellectual property and helped education customer improve productivity and safety, but it recognised a strength in acting as an aggregator of services to solve user problems.
Acting as an aggregator would help to solve more school problems. The current tender system also encourages point product sales that solve specific problems, but fail to get into deeper issues customers are trying to deal with.
“What happens is the school comes in with a problem, but it’s not really technical or strategic and doesn’t know what’s going on? It walks into the tender process and the school...tells them, ‘This is wrong’, but never [asks], ‘How do you teach? How do kids learn? What’s the future of your organisation going to look like? What operating model do you run?’. None of that,” said Tomlinson.
That’s when the trusted relationship comes into play and the need for the supplier to be able to ask and help answer those questions.