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back to article Not so fast with the bubbly, RM: IT biz faces £40m schools-sized hole

Just when education supplier RM is getting itself back on track, it has revealed that a £40m black hole will emerge in its accounts when Blighty's Building Schools for the Future programme is finally shuttered. The UK firm stumbled in fiscal 2011 as it posted steep losses, managed to recover somewhat in fiscal 2012 and is back …

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Bad news for RM - but is it bad news overall?

Was BSF ever a good idea? (IMHO no, but...)

If not then building a business model based on it is building a business model based on political whim.

Can that ever be a good idea?

And does this represent an opportunity for other IT suppliers? Ones that build relationships with local customers?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bad news for RM - but is it bad news overall?

BSF's biggest failing was that it meant that schools own in-house IT staff and networks would be thrown out and replaced by managed services contracts from the likes of RM. This meant overpriced kit, no flexibility and real talent being lost.

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WTF?

Re: Bad news for RM - but is it bad news overall?

"schools own In-house it staff"..."real talent being lost"

You're having a fucking laugh aren't you???

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bad news for RM - but is it bad news overall?

No I'm not. Not every in house school IT Admin is a bonehead (granted there were a few when I was doing the job a while back) and most will put together solid, dependable networks that do what staff and kids need them to do. They're also there on site as support when needed. School IT is usually hamstrung by lack of funding so you need extra ingenuity to keep things going.

The BSF scheme basically threw out the in-house staff and handed the whole network over to RM/Crapita/CSC or whoever was contracting. There goes your flexibility and in-house knowledge replaced by cookie-cutter setups which probably don't do half the things you used to rely on.

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Anonymous Coward

RM...they still around?

I'm talking about 20 years ago here but from what I remember the RM kit was boody awful, the only useful thing it gave our fledgling IT set up was proper centralised network control. Personally preferred to go down to the technology lab/metalwork dept as the teachers down there had real 386 PCs running proper PC software. They were real geeks who enjoyed making electronic gadgets from bits junk they had lying around, plus one of them ( who shall forever remain nameless ) taught me how to hack basic disc copy-protection on games with just a hex editor!

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Anonymous Coward

Why do they buy from RM

I just don't get it? Overpriced, underspeced kit.

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Silver badge

Re: Why do they buy from RM

Government projects were never competently run.

I wouldn't bother with RM kit either (currently work at a school), it's hideously overpriced.

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RM?

Used to support their kit in a Special School and it was a bloody nightmare. everything had been clamped down to run what they said, and I spent hours devising workarounds to get specialised software to run.

Wouldn't spec them if they were the last company!

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Anonymous Coward

RM = Revoltingly Menacing

Unfortunately RM are seen as the "go to" firm when large education contracts come up. Therefore they charge an absolute fortune for crap hardware that's made even more unusable by their terrible bloatware.

Last time I looked them up they were selling re-badged ASUS eePCs for a huge markup over ASUS prices. The hardware was identical, there was no real software added, but the markup was something like 30%

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Gold badge
Unhappy

"Oh, but *no one* understands our *special" educational needs like RM"

And if you believe that you probably do have special educational needs.*

You can also bet they play the "We're British" routine for all it's worth.

*Yes I am aware that this refers to kids at both ends of the spectrum. You can guess which end I'm referring to.

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Anonymous Coward

RM Suck!

RM has to be the WORST company I have ever come across!

I speak to schools on a daily basis and those that have them complain non stop about how they are stuck with it and can't change machines as they have to be certain spec's etc.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: RM Suck!

Sounds like BSF schools.

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Anonymous Coward

RM not so bad

I support a number of schools and I personally don't think their network management software is too bad, if you stand it up against the solutions offered by other suppliers then it wins hands down.

Yes a Vanilla Windows domain environment will run faster, but without a proper, full time support staff onsite then the average primary school school wouldn't have the first clue on how to build a new WDS deployment... that and no two vanilla group policy networks are the same....

Ease of deploying cloned machines, deploying MSi's, virtual CD images, printer deployment, etc... without any fear of breaking a policy - CC4 cant be topped...

Hardware - yes, it isn't cheap, their own branded stuff does have so so reliability issues, but hardware support is pretty good at replacing duff parts. not sure where the previous poster came from with the eepc quote - rm sold those under the asus brand, and like the Acer W510 - its the best pricing currently available.

I don't work for RM and I have a raft of Microsoft and apple certificates to fall back on, so not a complete simpleton! but for one moment, imagine your mum trying to manage a domain with 60 workstations and 400 users all on 2 hours a week... bloat and cost is needed to achieve this aim!

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Anonymous Coward

I briefly worked in this area when I was first starting out, and despaired at the level of incompetence shown by the SMT's signing off on the deals.

Often it would go something along the line of the school board requesting something something inappropriate because they didn't understand the first thing about IT procurement and service contracts, with the suppliers then trying to steer them to something saner in order to try and start a relationship that wouldn't fail inevitably and acrimoniously.

Of course, the less well managed schools would inevitably refuse to budge, the system would go in, then they'd happily blame the supplier for giving them what was specified despite the suppliers best advice to the contrary.

Then there were the in school techs. A lot of them were great, but there were also some of the worst hacks I've ever seen in IT - the lazy and incompetent weren't actually so bad, it was the ones that had a little knowledge, but nothing like as much as they thought who were the real trouble. I still shudder at the thought of the freelance support guy doing his rounds of the local schools wreaking havoc at every stop.

I always thought RM's software offerings were a bit half-baked, but the hardware side of things was fine and the support was on a totally different level to most hardware suppliers, so always suspected those who complained had just never worked in the real world.

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Anonymous Coward

I work in a school that had the misfortune to have had our network built by RM. They were utterly appalling and I wouldn't recommend them to my worst enemy. On a project costing well into 7 figures (for the ICT alone) they left us with 14 A4 sides of documentation.

We went for a vanilla Windows network and it is blazingly obvious that they made a real hash of the install. Unfortunately I enherited the mess after the event (the previous ICT manager had left) so have been attempting to rectify the many problems ever since.

Oh, and some people here have a very odd idea of what school ICT is like. To run a big secondary like ours requires all the skills you would need in the enterprise (VMWare, SCCM, etc). The days of BBC Micros stuck in the bag of the classroom are long gone.

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