By Morgane Le Marchand
The use of technology in K-12 education brings unique challenges to school districts who must protect their investments and ensure that technology remains operational. Due to the significant investment in technology and the long-term budgeting cycle, it’s crucial that school districts plan for future technology refreshes; your asset management system is a powerful tool to help you do so.
We’ve asked Jason Genovese, Director of IT Operations, Assets and Budget at Garland ISD, to share three key tactics he uses to plan for tech refreshes using the TIPWeb-IT asset management system. With 57,000 students across 72 campuses in the Dallas/Fort Worth Area, Garland ISD is the 70th largest district in the US. Jason tracks over 140,000 assets and is constantly planning and budgeting for their life cycle and replacement.
In 2014, our district received a bond package that included $75 million in technology funding to replace both network infrastructure and classroom technology and to implement a 1:1 program. Knowing that our asset portfolio would double and we would be tasked with tracking special funding sources, we implemented the TIPWeb-IT asset management system. We had tried using spreadsheets and a custom-built inventory software, but neither had the comprehensive functionality we needed to track, manage and report on our IT assets. Having an asset management system built for the needs of K-12 is saving our district time and money and simplifies the planning and execution of our technology refreshes. Here are the three key strategies I use in planning for our tech refreshes using TIPWeb-IT:
1) Develop your long-term technology refresh plan
The ideal time to begin planning for the replacement of an asset is at the time of its purchase. Use the data in your asset management system to plan strategically and intentionally. Generally, IT purchases are not a “one and done”. That is, they are a part of sustainable operations and must be replaced at the end of their useful life. As such, those assets should be incorporated into your long-term (2-10 year) replacement plan. At a minimum, this plan documents details of the original purchase, including quantities, expected useful life, and planned replacement/refresh year. The ability to use reporting features from a single, centralized system for asset visibility provides you greater transparency and insight about the actual lifespan of various assets on your long-term plan. This allows you to forecast your tech refreshes, both more often and accurately.
2) Manage the entire life cycle of the assets on your long-term plan, and audit them consistently.
Our district uses TIPWeb-IT to track the entire life cycle of an asset. Internal policies and processes were developed surrounding management of assets as they traverse the life cycle. Key areas addressed include planning and budgeting, acquisition, deployment, management, and retirement/disposal. While this governance framework goes a long way for setting expectations on how you track and manage your assets, you must also have a controls component that ensures policies are followed. Your audits are your enforcer.
Audits are a critical component if you want to ensure your asset management program (and long-term plan) is on track. Audits will highlight policy/process gaps (improvement opportunities), identify leakage, and ensure your overall inventory is both accurate and reliable.
It is important that you document your audit requirements. Identifying minimum requirements for audit cycles allows the organization to plan and allocate critical resources for performing audits. We audit twice per year, once in the fall before annual budget season, and once in the spring before summer construction/maintenance.
3) Budget for your long-term plan
Now that you’ve established your long-term plan, you’re ready to turn your attention to budgeting for it. For most, the budgeting activity occurs annually, in preparation for the upcoming fiscal year. For replacement initiatives that are multiple years out, the objective is to maintain an estimated budget based upon known factors, refining the detail each year until you have the proposed/actual budget. This type of approach allows for proper vetting with key stakeholders and planning/solidifying your funding sources. It is critical to vet both the business requirements (business case) and funding requirements (budget) on a regular basis with the appropriate stakeholders as you navigate each year of your long-term plan.
As technologists, we are tasked with providing sustainable learning and working environments that empower our teachers and students. We must steer clear from the one-and-done mentality and develop strategies for sustainable student outcomes utilizing long-term replacement plans that begin at the time of purchase.
Use your asset management system to help develop and execute your long-term plan, and you’ll be ready to confidently budget for your next replacement cycle. And remember, proper long-term planning will ensure you can successfully execute your long-term plan, with no surprises!
Do you have a strong technology refresh plan in place at your district? What tips do you have for using your asset management system to plan for tech refreshes?