With an increase in educational learning techniques, including online and hybrid learning, the trend toward advanced device management has drastically increased in K-12 institutions. During COVID-19, the federal government allocated considerably high budgets to procuring new devices to avoid disruptions in school operations. To ensure the sustained use of these devices, it is crucial to employ a dedicated ITAM tool so that their deployment, maintenance, and disposal can be streamlined.
The increasingly widespread adoption of technology in K-12 districts has also given rise to IT challenges that can hamper sustainable operations. While many districts suffer from ad hoc IT asset management practices in place, the availability of ITAM tools has simplified processes and helps districts ensure that they achieve their operational goals while remaining within allocated budgets. Let’s have a look at the potential IT challenges that come along with more technologically-advanced educational methods in K-12 districts.
1. Lack of robust software management
These days, K-12 curriculum and assessments are hugely dependent on educational software and applications. Managing several different software systems with varying numbers of seats and licenses can present a major challenge. Without a dedicated software management tool, you might find yourself at a crossroad as you can quickly lose sight of software upgrades, expired software licenses, and payment schedules. These can have a substantial impact on daily learning workflows, hampering faculty and students’ ability to execute important educational tasks on time, such as assignments and quizzes. There is also risk involved, because lack of software management can increase exposure of your school’s systems to serious security threats. For example, if you are unaware of a security software tool becoming outdated, your risk to malware, such as ransomware, phishing, and other data breaches, increases. Microsoft’s online threat analysis reports the education sector as being ranked number one in terms of malware encounters. For example, students can mistakenly click on harmful links on school servers that might go unaccounted for if data logs are not maintained — these links can put your school’s online security at serious risk.
In addition, staff cannot sift through manual data logs or check each laptop individually to see what software is nearing expiration or needs updating. If one of the applications does not work due to this lack of visibility, such as an academic application expiring, then faculty and students both can experience serious interruptions in processing or receiving important course-related information. K-12 schools also have limited budgets, so the inability to track your school’s usage history can delay critical software procurement, adding a serious potential impact on overall productivity.
Automate software tracking through ITAM
Many challenges in maintaining software can be eliminated by automating the software management processes. Having a centralized platform is critical as this allows seamless software tracking and provides a holistic view across all of your school’s applications. ITAM serves as a management tool as it makes it easier for your IT team to ensure seamless software procurement, deployment, update and maintenance. K-12 schools deploy a wide variety of software, and by tracking their history, you can stay updated with their procurement details and how they are to be maintained. You can help avoid security breaches and prevent usage of individual software products in the schools by blacklisting them in the system. This way, access to these undesirable applications can be denied to either a subset or all users, ensuring your system remains secure.
Likewise, you can always stay up-to-date with your software licenses. An ITAM system will send notifications automatically if a particular application is nearing the end of its license. Using software without licenses is illegal, and ITAM software saves you from the threat of legal action by notifying you to renew your licenses in advance. Also, it is important to maintain an updated database of software information, including vendor, purchase date, software features, and more. ITAM software provides access to this information anytime, helping you avoid buying redundant packages and ensuring your school always has the latest version installed in all the deployed machines.
2. High costs and spending:
Your school district’s growth over time will likely lead to the need to acquire new IT assets. Unfortunately, IT departments for school districts are often allocated insufficient budgets for actively managing IT assets and keeping them well-maintained. Likewise, your K-12 district has high costs owing to increased expenses. For example, in a survey, 62% of participants reported that K-12 schools spending on new software and curriculum increased drastically, while 12% reported a major increase in IT spending during and following the pandemic. To cover these increased costs, adequate IT budgets are a necessity to invest in new, high-end technologies, acquire the latest versions of software and upgrade and maintain the existing technology.
Without an asset database, it is difficult to keep track of your school costs and spending on IT assets, both direct expenditures and less obvious, related costs. For example, you might end up losing track of your overall investment in the assets which includes their maintenance, as well as license and warranty renewals. Additionally, since the trend of hybrid learning has increased, K-12 institutions need to bear the expenses associated with the provision of 4G/5G devices, laptops, and IT peripherals to support online classes, and faculty might require expensive technology to effectively record online lectures. This all increases costs for school, along with the pressing need to keep track of the issued devices.
Minimize costs through data consolidation and cloud-based tech
ITAM makes it easier for you to consolidate all data into a single database and make it readily accessible to all relevant users. You can store asset information, their details — such as date of procurement, vendor information, make and model, depreciation, and renewals — to keep your total costs in check. In this way, you can always be informed about how much your school has invested in the devices, track their custodianship, and retrieve them when needed. This also helps prevent misuse of high-value IT assets, and ensures that they are always available when required. Likewise, procurement costs can be more easily accounted for and planned since you can easily track purchase orders with well-appointed and properly set up IT asset management software.
Having a cloud-based platform is also beneficial for reducing the cost of setting up expensive, in-house hardware systems. A cloud based ITAM tool allows you to store large volumes of device data that is accessible from various locations, so multiple team members in your school can manage the data. Since the ITAM servers are maintained and managed by the provider, you will not have to incur the additional cost of maintaining the IT assets.
3. In-effective data management:
Staying up-to-date with your school’s IT needs is foundational to ensuring smooth operations. Comprehensive data plays a primary role in this, as it allows you to take actions on your important IT assets, ensure that they are well-maintained and your costs are controlled. Providing access to educational software such as Google or Microsoft Office 365 Education is a common practice, but keeping track of subscriptions provided to thousands of students can be a tough job. Important information, such as subscription payments, vendor information, renewal dates, and upgrades might be lost without consolidated records, whereas finding this information without a centralized system can be time-intensive and wasteful.
Generate detailed reports for better device management
One of the most efficient ways to gather valuable data about your devices is using a single platform for information consolidation and analysis, such as an IT asset management tool. It allows you to know at all times who is using a particular device and they are running which software. An IT asset register is linked to reports which derives data from the information entered in the system. With an ITAM tool you can create custom reports to gain insights and use them to better inform your operational decisions. You can apply different filters while generating the reports to help categorize information for more effective analysis. For example, it might be helpful to generate a report specifically to track software licenses, adding columns for custody to see who is using a particular application, or members to see who is responsible for its renewal. This helps develop transparency and accountability among your team, while increasing efficiency.
You can also easily track costs of your assets through reports — applying functions like SUM, AVG or Total to develop greater insights about your total investment in assets and their associated expenses. If your institution has multiple branches, then you might want to create location-based reports to make comparisons between branches, reduce asset duplication, and allocate assets more effectively. Reports are an extremely efficient tool to perform useful data analysis and take corrective measures.
4. Manual handling of device management requests:
K-12 IT teams are often faced with the critical challenge of managing vast volumes of tickets and service requests. Sometimes, schools do not have a proper channel for managing and responding to these requests on time. For example, a faculty member may initiate a request for a broken printer by reaching out to staff directly, resulting in lost productivity on both ends. Also, handling a huge influx of requests manually slows down all related processes –the IT team may find it difficult to specify the correct maintenance checklist for the technician for each individual request.
With hybrid learning models, email and telephonic communication you can increase issue resolution times because of the additional time required for your IT team to filter requests. These inefficiencies can hamper the educational experience, disrupting operations and increasing overall costs for your school.
Enhanced issue resolution with ITSM software
Some IT asset management software offers integrations with ITSM systems, providing greater visibility into your IT environment along with service requests. Responding quickly to faculty or students’ issues is a top priority for K-12 IT to help ensure that academic operations are not impacted by technology problems. Some ITAM tools will offer integration with platforms like Jira to speed up ticket resolution. Using Jira with integrated ITAM, whenever your IT team receives a repair or maintenance request, you can leverage the Jira app to assess the request and devise a solution, and also get all the relevant information about the IT asset in the same interface. There is no need to switch tabs to extract details, like item location and AIN, of the IT asset, saving you considerable time and costs. The issues related to a particular asset can be tracked directly from the service management tool, making it easier for you to keep a check of requests and resolve them on time.
Likewise, you can streamline your operational workflows through ITAM integrated with Zendesk. Zendesk-ITAM integration not only enables you to resolve service tickets, but provides complete information about the ticket, including the requester’s ticketing history and issue resolution time. It also ensures that the person handling the request is meeting Service Level Agreement (SLA) requirements for response time. Multiple team members can use the platform to assign tickets to the relevant person or department, ensuring that the issue is processed and resolved on time. For example, when a student sends a request regarding maintenance on a broken laptop, the associate handling the ticket can both respond to the student and also send the device out for maintenance in the ITAM tool — this saves time and streamlines the process.
Why is there a need for ITAM software?
Reducing downtime and keeping assets in the best condition are essential to maintaining your school’s performance. By gaining visibility into all of your K-12 IT devices, you can help prevent security mishaps and unexpected disruptions to the educational experience. These devices are critical to providing quality education in all K-12 institutions. Therefore, it is in the school’s best interest to explore the use of a modern system for their better management. Also, as educational technology continues to evolve, the use of an IT asset management system will keep your school prepared to smoothly adapt to the changing landscape.
Lastly, an advanced ITAM tool facilitates your school’s compliance with regulations like FERPA and CIPA, helping you avoid penalties or fines from non-compliance. It also saves your IT team considerable time in ensuring that your school devices are always up-to-date and working at their full capacity. In short, IT challenges continue to impact K-12 institutions, but dealing with them in an efficient manner is much easier and scalable with a modern IT asset management software system.