5 Ways Collaboration Between Tech and Finance Departments Can Create an Impact

5 min. read

Friction between tech and finance offices has historically stemmed from the business office’s need to maximize the use of any funds available to the greatest educational gain to support learning and teaching, while technology departments often found it difficult to prove the return on investment — to show explicitly that the purchase of a laptop or tablet will increase or grow learning by a certain percentage.

As technology continues to permeate all aspects of the business of a school district and with the influx of federal dollars supporting the switch to a 1:1 distribution model as a result of COVID-19, there are even more opportunities for technology and finance departments to work closely to achieve desired learning objectives.

Beyond the rewards that often follow a positive working relationship, below are five ways your district could benefit from a close working relationship between the two offices.

1.Improving tracking and reporting

With greater funding at a local, state, and federal level, it is important now more than ever that the business and technology departments collaborate to ensure that assets purchased with funds such as CARES, ESSER, E-Rate and ECF are being used as intended.

It is vital that districts have the ability to track the entire lifecycle of an asset from purchase to disposal, and can easily report on this data when audited.

While the CTO or technology department may decide how best to collect and distribute technology assets to students, teachers, and staff, the finance department is accountable for compliance with funding laws, making it essential for the finance department to identify the information they need and communicate that to the technology department.

If your district uses an asset management system, tech and finance can make reporting easier for everyone by tracking district assets beyond technology. For example, tagging items purchased with special education funding will ease the burden of reporting. In order for this practice to work, you need to ensure a close working relationship between a CFO and the technology office to make sure everyone across a district is using the same processes and procedures for tracking all assets in a district.

Did you know? An asset management system could make financial reporting easier for your district.

2. Advancing strategic initiatives

Understanding current and future district needs is critical to making progress on strategic initiatives, and a close working relationship between a CFO and a CTO or CIO can help everyone at your district articulate those needs. Of course, your district’s needs are likely driven by school, district, or even state goals. If your business and technology departments have a solid mutual understanding of each department’s goals — especially where they overlap — everyone’s needs and priorities become clearer.

If your technology department is tasked with identifying available technology that would increase interoperability between systems, automate workflows, and reduce manual processes, their understanding of the business office’s needs will allow them to better advise their finance department on the purchase. For example, one-time federal funds may best be used to modernize or replace older systems, which may improve long-term savings, and have an impact far beyond their immediate departments.

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3. Creating equitable home and school access to tech and internet

The pandemic highlighted the glaring difference in access to technology from one home to the next. But neither finance nor the business office can solve that problem in a silo. Working together, the technology and finance department can identify and invest in technology that will best meet the needs for all students to ensure an optimal learning environment.

For example, if the school needs to purchase hotspots for students that do not have internet at home, the CTO can identify the devices that best meet the technical requirements of the devices and programs students will be using at home while a CFO would be able to identify the funds best used to make the purchase. Together, they can make a difference in student learning in a very real way.

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4. Increasing cyber security

An increase in communication among CFOs and CIOs is essential in preventing cyberattacks. As technology across all departments in a district continues to grow, operating in a vacuum could potentially make a district a desirable target.

For example, should a district change a core function within the office — such as outsourcing rather than doing in-house — this changes an organization’s IT functionality. Working with the IT department ensures that no vulnerabilities are created. Additionally, working with technology to provide security programs and ensure devices are regularly updated will reduce the risk of an attack. Frequent communication between these departments is vital in ensuring the safety of district-wide data.

5. Enhancing instruction

Working together to consider how the district will continue to support, maintain, train, and service the number of devices, systems, and applications that a district will need going forward is absolutely necessary.

At any given time, a district needs to ensure that there is a sufficient reserve of working devices and staff available to perform repairs or provide support to minimize the impact on instruction. Additionally, a close alliance ensure that technology asset reserves and technician staff is the right size for the future.

As funds provided to school districts for the use of technology continue to grow, it will become even more important that the business office and technology departments work together to ensure funds are used wisely and in a way that will create the biggest impact.

Megan Wilburn

Megan is a writer and member of the award-winning content team at Frontline Education. Megan is passionate about impacting the lives of students by supporting teachers and staff.