I recently purchased a new cell phone and the experience made me think about K-12 software. For two years I made monthly payments to my cell phone service provider (whose 4G speed is faster than the others, but that is a blog for someone else). These payments, in my opinion, were not insignificant. I paid for: texting, data, cell service, support, “additional monthly fees,” and a myriad of other charges. One would think that two years of loyal monthly payments would warrant a phone upgrade in the future. Ok, I realize my service provider did offer a free phone with a commitment from me to submit another two years of monthly payments, but the “free” phone is not the latest phone. In fact, the 90’s called and they want their free phone back. I think two years of monthly payments is a sufficient amount to justify the latest and greatest phone technology available. Am I off base here? Is this an unreasonable request? Should the same apply to K-12 software?

K-12 software purchases typically involve two charges: a one-time license fee to acquire the software and a monthly/annual support fee. The support fee should include the following:

√ Unlimited access to help desk professionals
√ State and Federal updates to the software
√ All future product releases including BOTH functional and technical updates

COBOL was “state of the art” software when I first starting working with K-12 applications. The screens were black and white, there was no mouse, and the Internet had yet to be invented by a certain Vice President. We have seen major advancements in technology since the COBOL days: relational databases, graphical user interfaces, applications delivered and running via the Web, and custom applications designed for tablets. We have also witnessed two different approaches to licensing new releases of K-12 software.

To illustrate, let’s assume two districts purchased K-12 software in 1988 and both paid annual maintenance. District A’s vendor required a re-licensing fee with each release involving a new generation of technology, i.e. District A had to pay for the latest and greatest version of the software they already owned. District B received all releases as part of their annual maintenance fee. Both districts are running on current technology today, however, district A received the cell phone treatment while district B saved significant dollars in relicensing fees.

This concept is not a cell phone fantasy. Districts are taking advantage of this today. When you purchase a license for K-12 software and subsequently make annual support payments, you should receive future software updates at no additional license expense. These updates should include: changes to state and federal mandates, general application enhancements, and technology updates to take advantage of the latest industry trends, such as tablets.

Look for my next blog which will continue the cell phone theme by explaining how configuring a new cell phone should be more difficult than configuring your latest K-12 software purchase.

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