Note: In the continuing series on Technology Planning Insights, please find another contribution.
Patti Holub, a beloved supervisor from my past, wrote in 2007 something that remains true today:
The average school district loses more than $80,000 per year because of lost or damaged IT assets, according to a QED survey cosponsored by Follett Software Company. And many districts still use manual systems to track assets. Enter asset management systems.
As executive director for technology in a large urban district, I can attest that software for managing assets, when implemented properly, can save time, money, and human effort. The following are suggestions to help you realize the promise of automated asset management in your district. Read the rest of Ms. Holub’s article.
Without a system for tracking technology assets in your district, you truly are adrift in a sea of equipment. You don’t know what’s current, what’s obsolete and needs replacement, what’s almost obsolete, or broken. There is no easy way in a manual system to do “live” tracking of equipment as it moves in the system.
If you imagine your school district as a black box, asset management can provide the only way to track the flow of equipment. Without asset management and regular inventory checks, you will find yourself guessing or worse, having to do frequent walkthroughs to do manual counts that are destined to be obsolete within a few days of the review. When I walked into a large urban school district, my boss at the time wanted Instructional Technology team members to walk campuses and count computers. Instead, I devised an online tracking system that enabled campus staff to input their own data and then, in that way, we could run reports. Alas, you don’t sail on yesterday’s wind.
Another popular way–aside from walking campuses, which we’ll agree is unpopular–of conducting an asset search is to track assets as they come into the District, and as they leave. The former is fairly easy. You simply create a spreadsheet (GoogleDoc) and every new purchase is tracked by location. But, as you can imagine, this also grows obsolete as equipment “flows” from one location to another.
The best approach is to implement a digital asset management system. These systems can be expensive and implementation, problematic because the initial hurdle is to load all past inventory into the system. What solutions are available?
For small schools and districts, Spiceworks offers one possible option:
spiceworks rocks! we installed it for the helpdesk (an absolutely awesome tool), but it has other great features. it’s inventory application constantly scans the network. it picks up all of the workstations, servers, printers, switches, ap’s, etc. it gives info on mac, serial number, and even picks up error messages from the hardware. it also has a monitoring feature that lets you set up spiceworks to watch for specific network occurrences. Find out more
Other solutions in use in various districts include Eduphoria, Hayes and Follett Destiny. Each has their pros and cons. At minimum, I would require an asset management system to have at least the following:
- bar code support,
- wireless support for scanners,
- web-based interface,
- a way to “age” equipment so you know when to replace it,
- a place to record its history (or have it keep an easy to display log of where it’s been)
As Patti Holub points out in her article, selecting a solution can be a bit of a problem:
Having comprehensive asset management across platforms is the only way to accurately track items like software licenses and lease expirations, so verify that the systems you are considering manage computer assets across multiple platforms (Windows, Macintosh, Unix, Linux, Novell). A system that supports only one platform will ultimately frustrate your asset management efforts.
You’ll also want a system that can be accessed by all the people that need to use this information, from technicians to senior IT staff who need usage data to develop long-range technology plans.
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