How to Remove Fear from Technology Inventory Audits
You might know what it’s like. The letter arrives in the mail: your district is being audited. As you stare down weeks or months of sweat-inducing, tedious work providing all the documentation that’s going to be required, you wonder… What could I have done to prepare for such a time as this?
There’s a lot of opportunity for human error, and depending on how manual your processes are for inventories and audits, you might even have to battle illegible handwriting. Or perhaps your district has a system, but no one understands the full capacity of what the system can do.
So what’s an Inventory Specialist or Comptroller to do? Uwe Lord, Inventory Specialist at Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, and Lance McConkey, Comptroller at DeKalb Public Schools, share how they’ve handled audits at their schools.
While you can’t avoid an audit, you can take a few steps to start removing the fear from audits.
1. Do not piecemeal an audit
When completing an inventory audit, there are so many details to keep track of. You’re responsible for sending inventories out to sites, you’re accountable for getting them back, and trusting that there weren’t any human errors along the way. In addition, each department at your district might be maintaining its own inventory. That means that nutrition and IT could each have their own ways of tracking what they have, often with pen and paper.
Of course, avoiding a piecemeal approach to completing an audit creates requires more work to be completed in less time. With time being your most finite resource, working with a third party can help you ensure that the inventory and the audit will be completed correctly and efficiently.
When you piecemeal an audit, you add another layer of complexity to your process, making an already difficult process even harder. Maintaining a consistent inventory can help, which leads us to our next step.
2. Track every stage of the lifecycle of every device (and funding sources for those devices) along with activity
Audits can be scary for a lot of reasons, one of which might simply be the unknown. “What will auditors find? Did we tag our funding sources correctly for everything?”
Tracking your devices is crucial in building trust with stakeholders, since it gives you a solid understanding of exactly what your district has — and doesn’t have. Doing so means that when you make requests for new Chromebooks, for example, you can be confident that the new devices are truly needed. Plus, when you’re tracking each device’s lifecycle, you can see what you have in real-time so that by the time your district experiences an audit, there are fewer unknowns in the process.
3. Don’t forget the little things
Sometimes, it’s all in the details, and finding the right balance of granularity can be key.
Consider naming conventions: while deciding what naming system you’ll use can be tedious, the importance of a solid naming convention suddenly becomes clear when you’re in the middle of an audit. If you decide to work with a third party, they should be able to provide you with guidance naming conventions and other details that can help you year-round — not only when you’re being audited.
4. Know when to ask for help
Uwe Lord recommends talking to other districts about how they approach audits. He also suggests working with a third party, provided they have experience with K-12 audits. For Uwe and his team, working with Frontline was especially helpful for their initial inventory. They uncovered devices filed under the wrong funding source and were able to classify devices that previously had never been tagged.
Because of the fear of being blamed for missing or damaged assets, audits can result in a fair amount of stress for teachers and other staff. Engaging a third party is also a great way to ease the burden of an inventory audit for those individuals. And less stress for teachers is a win for everyone!
Both Uwe and Lance’s districts chose Frontline to help them with their inventory and audit processes. Learn more about Frontline Inventory Management here.
If you want to work with a third party, but aren’t sure how to get buy-in, DeKalb Public Schools’ Comptroller Lance McConkey shares a couple tips:
- Compare the true cost of doing it on your own. How much time is your team spending on an audit? How much time does reconciliation take? Are there other projects and initiatives that get put on hold while focusing on the audit? It may help to paint a picture for stakeholders of an audit’s ripple effects. Your initial inventory alone, if moving from manual to digital processes, can give you baseline data that will pay off year after year.
- Think about what your school board values most. Lance’s board bought into third party assistance because the district had a recurring finding over Capital Assets since before 2013 and hadn’t been able to get it cleared with internal resources alone. By the time the audit was done and the findings were cleared, Lance had built a foundation of trust with the board in the process.
5. Don’t expect that your ERP system can do it all
ERP systems are phenomenal at what they were built to do, but ERP systems were not built to track your assets, especially those under a certain dollar threshold. You also may find it difficult to get a quick view of which assets have been retired but need to stay in your inventory for security purposes. If you have a system that helps you maintain your inventory, it should be able to integrate with your ERP so that you can understand the financial implications those assets have on the bottom line.
6. Revisit your processes regularly
Data consistency is so important for everything you do at your district, and that is absolutely the case when it comes to inventories and audits. The processes you use can either support or detract from your data consistency, so it’s helpful to revisit your processes regularly to ensure the tasks you complete regularly help — not hurt — when an audit rolls around.
The main takeaway? More clarity = less fear.
While audits may never become your favorite part of work, they don’t have to be a source of fear, either.