The Schools Network—formerly known as the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust—is in the business of transforming education around the world. Over the past 25 years, this London-based, not-for-profit organization has built a world-class network of innovative, high-performing schools and academies in partnership with business and the wider community. It works with a long list of academies in the United Kingdom and nearly 80 percent of state-funded schools. It also works with international schools in China and Abu Dhabi. The outcome? Better teachers, better student achievement scores, and students better prepared to make a difference in the future.
There was a point, though, where it seemed unclear how The Schools Network was going to continue on the trajectory that its previous successes had laid out. Changes to government policy meant less income was generated from grant-funded projects and The Schools Network needed to be more commercially focused. It needed to find new ways to work effectively, streamline processes, and cut costs—all without cutting into the programs that were leading to better outcomes for so many schools and students.
As they looked for ways to reduce costs and operate more efficiently, leaders at The Schools Network had to confront the challenge posed by the organization's technology infrastructure. Over the course of its 25-year existence, the organization's entire infrastructure had grown and expanded in a manner that was more spontaneous and organic than planned and cultivated.
The email infrastructure in particular was a challenge to maintain. The organization relied on email servers that were several years old. Virtual private network (VPN) technology enabled travelling employees to access email securely, but often only after a call to the service desk for help.
Add to this a propensity for the infrastructure to break, leaving some 500 users around the world with no way to communicate easily, and it becomes clear why leaders at The Schools Network began to realize that a cloud-based messaging solution, managed and maintained by an external partner, might offer a compelling and cost-effective alternative to the solution they had.
The key question was which online messaging solution would be best for The Schools Network.
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