Many multi-academy trusts (MATs) are seeing the benefit of streamlining their website infrastructure by using a single website provider. Not only can it help to save time and money, it can also help the trust to maintain a consistent look and feel across all the schools and makes maintaining centralised policies much easier.
Having worked with a number of MATs, we’ve put together this guide to help trusts make their next trust-wide website project a success.
Common challenges multi-academy trusts face when working with multiple providers
Schools within a trust will often have a wide variety of website designs and work with a range of providers as well as having personal preferences on how their site works and who they choose to work with.
However, long-term, especially as a trust grows, managing multiple contracts from multiple providers can be costly and confusing.
Some of the challenges we've seen trusts face over the past few years when they have used different providers for their school and trust websites:
- Out of date information
- Different systems
- Lack of consistency
- Varying levels of support
- Multiple contract lengths and terms
- Differing costs and pricing structures
- Inability to share content across sites
- No key contact for all websites
Out of date information
When schools use different school website providers, it can be hard to get information updated on the websites in a timely fashion, especially in an emergency. Some providers may give schools full access to their content management system whereas others may need the school to raise a ticket and wait a few days in order to add news stories or amend content.
Using different content management systems and back-end software across multiple schools, means a trust administrator may need to learn several different systems to do their job effectively. Managing a variety of systems can also mean different levels of maintenance, conflicts relating to required integrations and the sites may not work in the way you expect across the board.
Lack of consistency
When school websites have a different look and feel it may make it hard for users to identify them as part of your trust. Some trusts do not mind this, but others may wish to have a more cohesive approach to the design – to make the schools feel part of the MAT and to fit with their branding and ethos.
Varying level of support & issue management
Different providers will offer different levels of support. This may mean that for one school you can get an issue resolved over the phone in minutes, but for another school, you send an email and wait 5 days for an effective resolution.
Multiple contract lengths and differing pricing structures
In line with the above, different providers will also have varying lengths of contracts, terms of business, payment schedules and invoicing terms. This will take time and organisation to manage effectively, to ensure contracts are maintained, paid and offering value to the trust. It can also potentially mean contracts expire on different dates which could mean you are often undertaking redesign projects on an ad-hoc basis for each school.
Inability to share content across websites
With multiple websites working across different systems, an administrator may have to log into multiple different locations and systems to add a news story or update a centralised policy. This repetitive task can take additional time and means that, if an update is urgent, it cannot be rolled out to all organisations at the same time.
No key contact for all websites
You may end up with a different account manager for each website you have with a different provider. This means you could get multiple calls across a term about different systems and solutions - taking up time that could be spent elsewhere. When you want to make changes or discuss a new project, you will need to reach out to multiple individuals - especially if you want to make the same change across all websites.
The benefits of working with one provider for a trust-wide project
There are many positives to working with one school website provider for all of your trust and school website designs. You may also find a provider who can assist you with branding, photography, prospectus design, payments and more - which again, can offer massive economies of scale and bring everything under one roof.
The main benefits that our trust customers have highlighted over the years, when working with us on all of their websites, are:
- One relationship
- One design (or two or three!)
- One agreement
- One system
- One source of information
- One pricing structure
To make things simple and easy, working with one provider means you will benefit from one single point of contact that you can talk to whenever you need help. At e4education, you will have a dedicated multi-academy trust relationship specialist who can assist should you have any problems, need a new website for a newly joined school or require advice on best practice to get the most out of your investment.
One design (or two, or three!)
Some trusts decide to have a common look and feel, where others give each school autonomy to create their own individual website design. Whatever you decide can be accommodated, whether it’s lots of bespoke designs or one that is used across the board. To keep costs down, once one school has had their bespoke website design created, then this can be cloned to the other schools in your trust. Each school will then have the flexibility to add their own logo, brand colours and content so the website reflects the school’s individual identity.
Having one contract with one provider means less administration for your teams as well as a defined payment schedule and a single invoice for the annual fee each year. One system - using one content management system for your websites means that resources can be shared, knowledge can be passed on and, if someone is off, the websites can still be updated if required. It can also mean, with Single Sign On, that users only have to remember one username and password, which is ideal for administrators who need access to every site in the trust.
One source of information
Working with one provider means you can make use of content-sharing functionalities whereby content is updated on one site (for example the trust) and then that content is shared to all of the schools. Should that information ever need to be updated – such as a new policy updated – it's added to the master version on the trust site and automatically updated on the school websites. Simple and effective!
One pricing structure
Finally, working with one provider allows them to create a transparent pricing structure that is unique to the trust. It will help you to plan budgets and ensures that, when new schools join the trust, you know exactly how much their school website will cost. This gives you peace of mind and allows you to benefit from a long-term, trusted relationship that gives you the very best from your investment.
Our 3 top tips for a successful transition to a new provider
These are just a few of the many long-term benefits to embarking on a trust-wide website project. Depending on the size of the trust, it may feel overwhelming to move all schools over to a new provider at the same time so here are three of our top tips for a successful transition:
Audit the current providers
Make a list of the schools and their current providers including when their contracts are due to renew. It may be more cost effective to move each school over at the end of their current agreement.
Get buy-in from key stakeholders
There may be some resistance from schools if they’ve had full control over their website in the past. Include one or two representatives from schools in the project team. Also share useful information such as CMS demo videos and design concepts so they are excited for the change.
Centralise policies and information
We’ve already highlighted the benefits of using one system and sharing information across the trust and school websites. As well as sharing policies, other content such as vacancies and news can also be shared. Sharing this content can save a considerable amount of time and help to maintain consistency across all the sites. At the start of the project consider the information that could be shared and update it ready to be published.
Are you ready to explore the possibility of a trust-wide website project?
- Top Tips
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