One year into my international journey: insight from our International Manager

Untitled design 32 | One year into my international journey: insight from our International Manager
By Toby Lester | 23rd September 2019 | 9 min read

Despite my (self-proclaimed) youthful appearance, I’m now entering my 11th year working in EdTech. The majority of that has been with school administrative and financial software.

With that body of experience, some would suggest that makes me an ‘expert’.

I’m not 100% sure that it does.

For me, whilst experience counts for plenty, staying relevant is much more important. When I first started my EdTech journey, I would regularly come across people with a few decades of experience on mine. I remember being a little overwhelmed, but thought to myself, “I bet there are people here that barely know what the internet is”.

I was proved right. Fast-forward to delivering one of my first training sessions. “Ok, if everyone can just click on the Internet Explorer icon and load a webpage for me.”

“What’s a webpage?!”

“Is this the internet?!”

It was 2009, and that is the gospel truth. Hard to comprehend in this day and age, isn’t it?

Fast-forward even further to a little over a year ago. I joined IRIS Financials, who were now part of IRIS Education Group. They’d had great success in the UK and I was asked to start an international strategy from scratch.

The big question was, ‘How are we going to translate to the international schools market?’ Was it going to be relevant?

Of course, working internationally always presents some differences. In an era saturated by social media, GDPR, Brexit, academisation, funding cuts, and government firewalls to name but a few, the need to stay up to date and relevant is as important as ever.

Consider the academies movement across the UK. It happened very quickly. Schools have been forced to become as financially efficient as possible to make the most of the reduced funding they receive.

The growth in school numbers, the addition of multi-academy groups, and the size and scale of the movement outweighed the structure and capacity of the education sector; there was little that could be done to manage this explosive growth. Due to the enormity, the speed and scale of that growth, it forced a reactive change.

Because of its relevance, thousands of schools in the UK bought IRIS Financials for education as a result. The previous systems schools had in place were losing their usefulness, becoming less relevant and no longer fit for purpose. Schools needed to be self-sufficient and build new structures to survive. UK schools needed to drive efficiency and continue to improve education despite government cuts. That was where IRIS Financials was able to step in to help.

Now consider international schools. They grew from roughly 8,000 international schools in 2016, to an expected 12,000 by the end of 2020. International schools and groups continue to grow in popularity and numbers, becoming more and more competitive as a result.

The number of international school groups continues to grow too – enormous growth on a size and scale much larger and faster-moving than the structure and perhaps understanding of how to do it efficiently allowed.

Whilst UK and international schools are asked to be efficient for different reasons, the need to be financially efficient remains the same. Whether it’s reduced budgets, increased ownership or squeezing more out of each penny, cent, or dirham (insert your currency as needed!), systems that drive financial efficiency are relevant to any school or group.

In this way, IRIS Financials helps to drive schools forward – in the UK and now internationally – by providing financial efficiency and enabling schools to be specific in terms of business or curriculum budget planning.

10 years ago, someone said to me, “Remember, it’s called EdTech, Danny. It’s education first, then technology. If the technology doesn’t improve education, it’s not doing its job.”

With that in mind, despite the natural complications working internationally brings, it’s been an exciting year of growth for IRIS Financials internationally. For example, we’ve recently signed a five-year agreement to provide the full IRIS Financials suite to ESOL Education’s entire international school group.

Add in the rest of IRIS Software Group’s education management software – the now aligned systems like PS People for HR and Payroll, IRIS Assets for asset management and compliance, and IRIS Analytics for bringing clear data insight of these workings to life.

The next 12 months looks very bright for the international team here at IRIS Education Group.