Why is Frog so Expensive?

 It isn’t…

When we quote a price for Frog, it includes hardware, and a significant amount of bespoke work, consultancy and training. You are also buying Frog and not renting it, so you own the data, you don’t lose it or access to Frog at any point if you choose to stop paying for support.

This “whole price” includes:

Server

A 2 x quad core server, with redundant power supplies and duplexed 1 TB drives. A UPS is also included. Unlike hosted systems, if you need more storage space we just add in more drives, there is no monthly charge per GB. This is YOUR server, you OWN it. To see why we provide a server rather than a hosted service, please see my earlier post https://garethdavies.wordpress.com/2008/08/10/saas-in-education/ There are many reports now of people experiencing difficulties trying to upload large video files to hosted systems, or problems when 300 students try to access the system at the same time. None of this is ever a problem with Frog.

Services

In a typical Frog implementation, the price quoted will include:

  • 0.5 days server installation and basic administration training.
  • 1 days architect training for VLE co-ordinators and ICT technicians at one of our training centres
  • On-site Design Meeting to discuss how your school currently operates and what you want from your system. Our consultant will also discuss how you want your system to look and how Frog can help you achieve your short, medium and long term goals (remember Frog is a lot more than just a learning platform).
  • Typically more than a week of design and build work by our team of designers – please see http://www.frogtrade.com/designportfolio to see the kind of things they come up with 1 day going through the design and build with the customer and fully testing the platform to make sure it meets their requirements. This also includes a road mapping session on how the school would like to roll out frog with guidance and ‘real life’ suggestions from one of our consultants.
  • 1 day on-site “Introductory” training for key staff within the school
  • 1 day on-site “Intermediate” training for key staff within the school
  • 1 dedicated consultant to work with throughout the process who will project manage the implementation

Frog

Frog is not just a learning platform. It includes Internet room control and content filtering, e-mail servers, proxy servers, SSL VPN access to your existing network resources, an e-commerce engine, a wicked content management system, a portal system, a social networking engine…and so on…

Annual Costs

This price also includes the first years annual costs:

  • Upgrades: There are significant annual upgrades (this release includes, for example, social networking, a full programming and database environment, an iGoogle style interface, the ability to build your own Frog Widgets, dynamic workgroups, a sensible single sign-on capability, and loads more)
  • Support: Our support team is based in our Head office in the UK. They are available on the telephone 5 days a week from 8.30am – 5pm (you can use e-mail, of course, but most of our customers prefer to talk to a human being and get an immediate answer) We DO NOT have a first line support desk – all our staff are trained to a standard typically associated with second line – you will never be speaking to a ‘phone monkey’.
  • Managed Service: While the server is situated in your premises for performance and availability reasons, it is still a fully managed service. We look after the server remotely just as if it was in our own hosting facility, you never need mess with it at all.

I’d also urge you to look at the 5 year costings. If you add the up front price and then the next 4 years annual costs, we typically find that we are cheaper than companies that are charging an annual rental for their products (especially after you’ve checked out small print for things like additional storage).

So we’re not expensive, in fact far from it.  It can just feel that way because you are buying a system rather than renting one, but over a short period it actually becomes cheaper.  Finance options are also available with Frog if you want them.

Schools are Starting to “Get” Learning Platforms!

I was just looking through a presentation I did back in summer 2007 for a Local Authority rolling Frog out – it even has our old Frog logo on it….very nostalgic!

triumvirate

We used to have to put a lot of effort into convincing our customers that they needed to take their investment more seriously, and the purchase of a learning platform wasn’t the end game.  We suggested (and still do) a triumvirate of people:

The first is a senior member of staff, probably a deputy head or assistant head, that is excited by this project, has a genuine desire to try and improve the education of their children and the motivation of the staff – ideally someone that could benefit personally from making a big success of this somehow.  It’s this person’s job to provide the direction, the vision, and the drive.

Second, we suggest a teacher – it doesn’t matter what subject they’re from as long as they are enthusiastic about the possibilities, and technically competent enough to understand what’s possible (they come from everywhere, but for some reason P.E. and History come out a lot).  That said, there are obvious advantages to it not being the ICT teacher in many cases, but it depends on the people of course.  It is this person’s role to deal with the staff, to think of cunning ways of getting people engaged, to train everyone, to help get the children involved.  This is the person that works to embed the system into the school at the ground level.

Third, and by no means last, is the Frog man, or Frog woman.  This is someone that has a lot of time off timetable, good graphic design skills and good problem solving skills.  Not a programmer (although some are, too) this person will build things in Frog or for upload into Frog.  It’s not reasonable to expect teachers to suddenly become experts in Photoshop, or to build engaging digital resources over night.  The job of this person is to help the teaching staff come up with innovative and exciting ideas and then to go away and make them happen.  It could be something simple like making photo’s from a recent field trip pop-up when the mouse is dragged over a map, it could be something more sophisticated like an adventure game based around a history project.  Whatever it is, once the teachers get a taste of “invention” and seeing their ideas come to life, they soon want to start learning how to do this themselves.  Without this your learning platform is no more than just another document repository for your existing PowerPoints, or maybe a few newly bought SCORM packages…..

As little as three years ago (although we’ve been banging this drum for a lot longer) we had a difficult time persuading our schools that they needed any of the members of this triumvirate, especially difficult was the Frog man/woman.  It occurred to me today that schools have moved on immeasurably with regard to how seriously they take this now.  Most schools already have an e-learning manager in place, and they readily accept that someone more technical will need to have their schedule cleared to get stuck into the technology and building resources.  In fact, some have moved ahead of our thinking, there are quite a few schools that are using their students very heavily for every aspect of the roll-out and ongoing use, which is working exceptionally well (and something we’re looking to learn more about and pass on).  If your interested in this, take a look at Halifax High and Crossley Heath White Papers at http://www.frogtrade.com/whitepapers

Things have moved on….

Frog Shortlisted for BESA Supplier of the Year Award

The Education Resources Awards

After narrowly missing a Supplier of the Year Award at the Bett Awards 2009 (swindle! ;) Frog have now been shortlisted for the BESA Supplier of the Year award 2009.

We’ll be at the awards ceremony on 27th March at the National Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham.

A chance for me to break out the black tie twice in one year!!

“The Education Resources Awards highlight the quality and diversity of educational products and resources, excellent educational establishments and the most dedicated members of the teaching profession and supplies industry, all working together to encourage the very best in education.

Now in their eleventh successful year, what makes ERA different from other Awards is that they focus on the resources, services and people that create a practical impact”

Culture is Everything!

We’ve developed the view at Frog that every single individual must share the company’s values, ambitions and passions. Experience has taught us that anything other than this is actually destructive. Nonetheless, it occurred to me today that we ask what seems like a lot of people to leave the company within a matter of months, sometimes even weeks of them joining – so we had a look at the numbers. It turns out that as many as 30% to 40% of people that join Frog are only there for a few months (and incidentally, only one person has ever left Frog willingly in 10 years – two others did leave for a month or two, but came right back, and were welcomed with open arms).

Hire better, I hear you say! We’ve found this very difficult to determine during an interview, but we are a lot better at it than we used to be! Over the last few months we have refused to take on perfectly good, well qualified people because we were sure that they wouldn’t fit into the “family”, we’ve even let some good people go for the same reason.

Culture comes from the top, of course. We have created a very open, passionate and transparent environment. There are nearly 50 of us, yet there are little to no politics, people are honest when they don’t understand. If people are nervous about something, or feel that something is a bit too big for them at the moment, they say so – there’s very little ego in the company, we’re all pretty much focussed on the bigger picture rather than typical individual drivers. We have a tremendously supportive environment for those that are “in the family” and I know that everyone feels proud to be a part of it.

People that don’t fit our culture stick out like a sore thumb and always have a detrimental effect on the whole group. We’ve found particular issues with people that have come from very large organisations. They bring the sense that authority is a function of position rather than expertise (which is fair enough in big companies, but doesn’t work at Frog). We have a very flat, agile and dynamic management structure. Short term teams are built and broken at a moment’s notice, entire departments are built and broken regularly. People that have joined us from a more typical “role based” culture find this almost impossible to deal with. Respect is earned at Frog, not assigned – only the strongest survive. Every time we’ve added someone that doesn’t fit it has stifled our creativity, demotivated teams and eaten away at the group dynamic of “everyone pulling together as a team – no rules, no real hierarchy, just a focus on getting what we want to achieve done”

Frog has been likened to a cult by our employees and friends – many of our friends and families don’t understand the passion within the company – it can seem unhealthy and obsessive! I’ve certainly never worked anywhere that enjoys this kind of dynamic before. Interestingly, many of our customers feel like they are part of this cult. Sure, the fact that the product is awesome and the service is outstanding aren’t doing us any harm at all, nor does the phenomenal growth that we’re experiencing, everyone wants to be part of a winning team – but if we were a distant, faceless company, we wouldn’t be enjoying the kind of relationships that we have with most of our customers. We’re part of something special. (I know this sounds arrogant but it is generally accepted, even by our competitors nowadays, that Frog is a wicked product)

Over the years we’ve learned that Culture is Everything. It would be silly to say that nothing else matters, but it definitely comes a distant second…

Frog at Bett 2009

I just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone that contributed to our success at the Bett 2009 show at the Olympia, both Frog staff and the many Frog customers that helped us man a manic stand.  We zapped over 1,000 folks during the four days, which is very busy by anyone’s standards – there are unconfirmed rumours that we were the busiest stand at the show – we had 12 demonstration pods and there were still people waiting in the aisle for one to become available for the best part of each day. 

Apologies to all those that got fed up of waiting and moved on, I promise to get more pods put in next year!

Bett v-zine video below for anyone that’s interested (I think this gets sent out by Emap to everyone that attended the show):