Located north of Minneapolis, the St. Francis school district encompasses more than 700 employees and 4000 students from kindergarten to senior high. Situated away from the city center, the district is spread across eight buildings that unite the surrounding suburban communities and takes pride in being the heart of community life. Its relentless focus is on streamlining operations and leveraging the right technology for an excellent learning experience.
AssetSonar helps St. Francis school district with a full spectrum of IT asset management features—while simplifying asset tracking, saving money and time, and empowering IT staff with clear visibility and control over their IT assets.
Ditching the spreadsheets for AssetSonar
In the past, St. Francis’s IT team relied completely on Excel spreadsheets for IT asset management processes. This manual asset tracking system was creating a lot of holes: details were getting missed, and the data was far from accurate. Elizabeth Koering, Lead Technician at St. Francis’ IT department, said that using multiple spreadsheets for different locations, devices, and processes inevitably led to unnecessary and costly problems: duplicated work, compliance problems, and uncertainty about hardware assignment.
Although they had an Access database for their IT inventory, the lack of a single, cohesive IT asset management system made it difficult to maintain a consistent, consolidated database.
Andy Charrier, Director of Technology at St. Francis, pointed out that apart from data inaccuracy, providing access to different team members for different spreadsheets was also a major challenge. They had created separate spreadsheets for assets for each location but keeping these up to date was a whole other challenge, and so the IT team wasn’t always on the same page. Andy also shared that the asset management practices were sometimes disregarded; devices’ serial numbers might be entered without their significant leading zeros, for instance, creating major inaccuracies.
The IT team at St. Francis knew that an IT asset management system was needed. And after an exhaustive search, they found AssetSonar to be the most suitable. AssetSonar’s affordability, ease of use, user-friendly interface, custom field options and network discovery capabilities all hit the right notes, and helped them forge workflows that keep down the IT department’s expenses and workloads.
Accurate asset tracking with real-time data
Early on, if a Chromebook was checked out, someone from the IT team had to update the spreadsheet-based records with the student’s name, their ID number, the device number, and the school location—manually. Due to frequent device check-ins and checkouts, the team wasn’t able to consistently track the devices they managed.
Now, St. Francis’ team uses AssetSonar to track approximately 4000 devices that include Chromebooks, MacBooks, Windows laptops, iPads, wireless hotspots, and peripherals. The team can now import device data from spreadsheets with a few clicks and keep track of every IT asset by deploying AssetSonar Network Discovery Agent. Monitoring the location, utilization, and ownership of every device also helps the team in recovering these devices from students at the end of the academic year, and the same is true for other devices. While the IT team previously had to scan several manually created lists to see how many hotspots were checked out and to whom, now this information is centrally located, making it easier and quicker for IT teams to check devices out or back in..
St. Francis’ IT team also makes use of AssetSonar’s mobile app, so they can have access to accurate data anytime and from anywhere.
Faster ticket resolution with Zendesk
Previously, device repair tracking was also spreadsheet-based, which meant that whenever a device needed repair, IT team members had to enter its serial number, generate a ticket repair number, and note other details manually in the sheet. Later, they also had to track when the device came back, log it back in, and reassign it to the student. With AssetSonar and Zendesk integration, they are able to perform all these actions through a single interface, for time and efficiency savings.
St. Francis has been using Zendesk for quite some time so AssetSonar’s native integration has been a natural fit. That integration comes in handy whenever a ticket is generated for a device replacement, servicing, or repair. While stepping through the updated workflow, Elizabeth explained that whenever a teacher creates a ticket for a laptop repair, they can easily update the device’s status to maintenance mode on AssetSonar. When the device is repaired, they can quickly pull up the ticket and complete the service process by updating its status. According to Elizabeth:
“AssetSonar and Zendesk have been a huge help for tracking these device repairs.”
The IT team at St. Francis is also leveraging historical device maintenance data to make crucial decisions. Elizabeth mentioned that it is a great advantage for them to be able to view how many times a particular device has been sent for repair so she can decide on whether to retire it completely.
Increased productivity with AssetSonar core capabilities
Adopting a holistic approach to IT asset management, AssetSonar offers features that automate processes, reduce overhead costs, and help make the school district’s IT team more efficient. Here are a few AssetSonar features that St. Francis team is using extensively:
Bundles and packages:
The IT team is looking for ways to group together devices that are usually checked out together. This way, they can check out multiple devices in one go by assigning the bundle to the relevant teacher, then keeping track of which bundle was checked out to which teacher, saving teachers and IT staffers time and manual effort. Elizabeth remarks:
“I think AssetSonar has made our department much more efficient and cohesive so now we are not duplicating efforts.”
They have created Custom Fields for their hotspots so they can use unique identifiers (such as IMEI numbers) to help them pick and check out a particular hotspot. They plan on experimenting a bit more with the feature to see how they can create an even more accurate inventory database.
Labels and QR codes:
They also use the software’s Labels feature to identify their devices and use color coding dots depending on which vendor a device was purchased from. They find it helpful to print location-specific labels, so if someone finds a rogue device, they can check the label and return it to the right place.
The IT team has set up their access permissions in a way that the login users are their own team members and a few other selected staff members who are able to check-in and checkout devices at other locations. The IT team has assigned them with just these limited permissions. The students on the other hand, are all non-login users. AssetSonar’s permissions make it easier and safer for the IT team to safeguard their data and valuable assets.
Since implementing AssetSonar, the St. Francis IT team no longer has to worry about manual errors, multiple data entries, or losing crucial data. According to Elizabeth, some tedious tasks that previously used to take an hour or more of her time can now be accomplished within 15 minutes.
“I would say that our efficiency has increased by 75% because now I can just go into AssetSonar, find the device, click ‘checkout,’ type in who it is going to and their location, and I’m done. It is just so much easier.”
A drastic drop in asset loss
Previously, because so much data was trapped in silos, it was almost impossible for the team to stay on top of the district’s IT assets. They lacked a clear idea of how many devices, and of what kind, were in circulation throughout the system. Andy mentioned that last year a number of students were using iPads—but not quite as many devices were actually returned. He remarked that there have been instances where a staff member left without turning in their device, and the IT team couldn’t follow up due to the lack of accurate information on hardware assignments. Last year, Andy noted, they were short on a hundred Chromebooks because they had no accurate way of tracking them down.
Since then, though, he reports a drastic improvement: “Since implementing AssetSonar, the number of lost Chromebooks has dropped [from approximately one hundred] down to the twenties.” This adds up to a 4x reduction in losses.
Further, an estimate of cost savings from reduction in Chromebook losses alone adds up to approximately $28,000 per school year. This huge margin is due to AssetSonar’s advanced tracking features and streamlined offboarding workflows,making it straightforward for the team to collect iPads and Chromebooks at the end of every school year, which simply was not possible previously.
Staying compliant and audit-ready
St. Francis lays great emphasis on optimally utilizing the community resources for the school district. As the district applies for and implements grants for its schools, staffers focus on making sure that the grants’ compliance requirements are scrupulously observed. Of the grants the district obtained, for instance, required that no student can have more than one iPad. AssetSonar helps the district stay compliant with these clauses, so admins can produce device checkout records to avoid penalties.
Getting a 360-degree view with Custom Reports
St. Francis leverages AssetSonar’s custom reports to gain valuable insights about the devices they own. For example, Elizabeth noted that she was able to generate a custom report to get a detailed understanding of the number of students using Chromebooks provided by the school versus the number of students using their own devices. The team also uses the feature to get data on Chromebooks checked out each year from individual school buildings, so they can make future procurement decisions based on that data.
“I like that AssetSonar offers you the ability to be quite granular with, and allows you to nail things down. I am very much of a data person—so for me, being able to pull all the records and view the numbers is exciting,” remarks Elizabeth.
The future with AssetSonar
St. Francis’s IT department is confident that their future aligns with the future of AssetSonar. Andy shared with us that AssetSonar implementation has already made everyone on the team happy about the possibilities it offers. The team was excited that everything is finally going to be in one place. Once staffers finish streamlining their hardware asset-management processes, they look forward to exploring AssetSonar’s software-focused modules and leveraging them for even greater gains.