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Finding the right supplier

When looking to outsource digital services, you might find yourself considering the best way to begin the journey to find the right supplier. Dave Kenworthy, Director of Digital Services at CoSector - University of London discusses how to find the perfect partnership.

When looking to outsource digital services, you might find yourself considering the best way to begin the journey to find the right supplier. In our opinion, you should always start with this question; will the provider help contribute towards my institution’s ongoing goals? If you’re unsure, you should revaluate if they’re the right provider for you. 

To find that perfect partnership between institution and provider, the conversation must be a two-way street. This is because both provider and institution need to have a clear view on what the institution stands for, along with its key ambitions and goals for the future, in order to find the best long-term solution.

We have found that our partners are always looking to develop their Digital Learning Environments (DLEs), so our relationships with them are constantly evolving and growing. Our HE partners consistently tell us that the overall development of the DLE must tie in with the strategic priorities set out by the institution. So, when it comes to finding the right supplier, it’s important to lay all your cards on the table. 

Research carried out in a 2018 report on Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) led by UCISA, revealed that two-thirds of institutions were planning to conduct TEL reviews over the next
two years. The survey concluded that DLE reviews and lecture capture were the most widely discussed TEL systems. These have risen above e-assessment and learning analytics which came out on top in the 2016 survey. This demonstrates the importance of making sure that suppliers are fully aware of your priority for TEL systems. Ensuring direct clarity from the get go, and observing what the market has to offer, will increase your chances of engaging with the right supplier – and ultimately, delivering your desired results. 
 


 

Experience and track record

So, what should you look for in a supplier? It’s imperative that they have a wealth of experience in effectively managing, supporting and consulting on DLEs. Universities should select a partner that can implement and host the platform flexibly, supporting new integrations, and improve on the static service already being provided. 

Forming a trusted partnership

Through the on-going technical support and advice that is offered throughout the working relationship with your chosen supplier, building trust is the key to forming a longstanding and successful partnership. If a product needs alterations or amends, an institution should be able to quickly inform the project team, at all times. All this helps both parties to bring their own unique experiences to the table and convey a sense of shared journey throughout the working relationship.

This is where the element of trust comes into play, which greatly speeds up the process allowing a better workflow between the two organisations. Through developing trust, it also has an influence on building reliability as the service provider can be embedded into the DLE service delivery, helping to push the digital boundaries together for many years to come. 

In managing a DLE review project, you are likely to be very focused on managing the stakeholder relationships within your institution. But it is also important to work at managing relationships with DLE suppliers, if you are to achieve the best results.

The better the supplier understands your needs, the easier the selection process will be, and you will improve your chances of getting the right outcome.


 

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