Schools Are Still Playing Catchup in IT Lifecycle Management

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Schools Are Still Playing Catchup in IT Lifecycle Management

How much do you think it costs the average school district annually in lost, stolen, or damaged assets?

About $250,000? That’s right—$250,000.

At least that’s what the research firm Quality Education Data (QED) found in a recent study it completed. Included in that figure is nearly $80,000 a year for lost, stolen, or damaged technology equipment.

Large districts tend to lose even more, says the study. Some as much as $1.4 million. And these figures don’t take into account the human costs associated with the issue.

Playing Catchup in IT Lifecycle Management

Below are more findings from this study about school districts’ IT inventory management programs you might find interesting. They indicate that school districts are still playing catchup when it comes to both IT lifecycle management and IT inventory management:

  •   Districts using annual tracking for computers reported a 41% greater annual cost of loss and damage than those using a commercial asset tracking program
  •   Districts using annual tracking also experienced a 32% greater loss than those that used a spreadsheet/database program

  •   Districts often have no single technique for managing assets but use multiple systems depending on the asset
  •   More than 60% percent of the districts surveyed used two or more different kinds of manual IT inventory management systems.
  • About 59% of districts are still using manual systems or simple spreadsheets or databases (51%) as IT inventory management tools to track assets

“Asset management is a critical district business function,” says Jeanne Hayes, president of the Hayes Connections, one of the study’s co-sponsors. “The picture that emerges is one of frustration and confusion. Districts say they’re having to do more asset reporting than ever before, but they’re having more and more difficulty keeping up with the task.”

Asset Management Issue Not Going Away

One key reason why school districts are still playing catch up with IT lifecycle management is because they’re struggling with several related problems simultaneously including finding the time, money, people, and tools to do.  But one thing is certain: IT lifecycle management and IT inventory management issues are not going away anytime soon.  Eventually, schools will have to deal with them.

Dealing with IT inventory management issues is even more imperative in larger school systems.  A recent audit of computer inventory done by the Los Angeles Unified School District, says radio station 89.3 KPCC in a recent report, showed 230 devices, worth nearly $200,000, had been stolen or were missing. What’s more, school officials weren’t able to account for another 3,105 laptops, desktops, and IPads.  

One reason for so much chaos within school districts is their approach to purchasing and supporting IT equipment. Many school districts have developed their approach over time. Thus, heterogeneous systems are the norm at many schools, making for a cumbersome support and IT inventory management situation. Plus, technology refreshes when they occur are inefficient. As a result, school districts aren’t entirely sure what its schools have or need.

Adopting an IT Lifecycle Management Strategy

Savvy school districts these days are creating order out of chaos by adopting a lifecycle management strategy (LMS) that includes an asset and IT Inventory management solution. The benefits of adopting this approach are numerous. They include improved asset tracking, better planning, and aligning a tech plan with a financial plan. Implementing an LMS with an asset management solution also boosts oversight and lessens risk.

Districts implementing IT lifecycle management strategies often use ITIL best practices as a foundation. Combining an IT lifecycle management strategy and ITIL creates numerous efficiencies. It also frees IT people from doing a host of mundane IT chores, and it lets them take on more mission critical tasks, boosting productivity and efficiencies. In other words, the approach makes an impact.

“By adopting ITIL best practices and improving your lifecycle management strategies, you have better control over your assets and more insights into spending patterns,” says Erickson-Harris, a research director for Enterprise Research Associates in Technology Lifecycle Management, a CDW-G reference guide. “This is even more important in higher education, where budgets and staff are typically more constrained.”

While you can benefit from adopting IT lifecycle management whenever you implement it, the timing of the implementation is critical to success. In other words, certain times are better to implement an LMS than others. Some organizations, for example, leverage an already scheduled technology refresh to kick off the effort. Others wait until equipment is near its end to kick-off the strategy, which reduces barriers to adoption, which can slow an LMS implementation.

Two Phases to Implementing an LMS

Implementing a IT lifecycle management strategy (LMS) with an IT inventory management solution is no different than implementing any other IT strategy. Like other IT projects, it includes two phases: planning and deploying. Below are some steps you’ll need to undertake when implementing an LMS:

  •         Take Stock — Few school districts have extensive knowledge of what assets they’re using, what applications they’re running, who is using them, and for what purposes, which is why they need an IT inventory management solution. Many districts break down assets into major categories, like workstations, laptops, mobile devices, and so on. They then break these categories down further by including operating systems, existing applications, the device’s age, and its component configuration.  
  •         Review infrastructure — This activity includes both wired and wireless devices. A security assessment is perhaps the most critical undertaking in this phase. A best practice is to check all your applications and your appliances, resolve any measures found to be insufficient, and then do a gap analysis to see if your existing infrastructure supports the needs uncovered during inventory.
  •         Set Key Policies — Use the data you’ve gathered previously to help create and set lifecycle policies, including asset lifespan, desktop lifespan, refresh cycles, and standardization. Standardizing around a set of specific devices boosts efficiency, reduces complexity, and maintains user flexibility.
  •         Disk Imaging — This activity applies the same base installation of operating systems and applications to many computers. Disk imaging offers numerous benefits. They include speeding the initial computer deployment in the field, reducing setup times for individual machines, and streamlining maintenance.  
  •         Grouping users — Grouping users into categories is a common best practice when implementing an LMS. Usually, standard users need low-end computing devices, mobile users need portables, and power users need high-performance devices that can handle graphics or processor intensive applications.

These are just some of the steps you’ll need to take when implementing IT lifecycle management and an IT inventory management solution. If the effort seems daunting, using consultants experienced in IT lifecycle management is a realistic option. They can not only simplify and speed up the process but also save you time and money.

At Trace, we’ve helped dozens of organizations implement IT lifecycle management strategies and IT inventory management solutions. Working together, we’ll help you implement an IT lifecycle management and/or an IT inventory management program that meets your specific needs and minimizes costs, confusion, a

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