We’re that family.
The school year ended several weeks ago, but there it is, in a basket in the living room, under a pile of papers and our family’s stack of laptops (don’t judge): a school computer, issued to a child in my household, unreturned, and unaccounted for.*
It will be returned and accounted for, of course. One young member of our family, sheepish smile on her face, will carry it back into the school building as soon as we find time. Accounts will be settled, all will be right with the
world technology department.
But Overlooked-Laptopgate (as I affectionately refer to this chapter in our life as members of this school community) did get me thinking:
What if we’d never found that laptop? What if it remained unseen in the basket, languishing under old field trip forms, orphaned charging cables, and a battered Steve Jobs-era MacBook Air?
Has the school even noticed the laptop is missing?
Would we receive a sternly worded email, an invoice for the missing equipment, maybe a midnight knock at the door from school tech department repo-men intent on reclaiming school property?
Upon further reflection, it’s clear that I had some misconceptions about how technology is managed at my child’s school. Some colleagues who work to help districts manage assets like this told me that this experience is common — and that there are several myths about asset management that tend to come up each year.
Here are their top 4, and how you can tackle them.
Myth #1: School asset management is only for tracking devices.
Of course laptops, tablets, Chromebooks, and other 1:1 devices spring to mind when thinking about technology assets. Then add in all the other devices: printers, projectors, smartboards, TVs… the list goes on.
But those are just the tip of the iceberg. Anything on which your district spends funds should be tracked for its entire life. As audits happen, these items are often looked at first. Full information on each asset should be easy to find and report on.
What about furniture, like bookshelves, tables, and all those desk/chair combos?
How about kitchen items like refrigerators, mixers, and walk-in coolers? Or maintenance and custodial equipment? It makes sense to track the lifecycle of mowers, vehicles, and floor polishers, for example, so you’re not caught off-guard when something needs to be replaced.
And, of course, special education assistive equipment is also worth tracking: wheelchairs, hearing aids, touchscreens, text-to-speech synthesizers, sip-and-puff systems. All of these are assets for which your district not only needs to track location, but also funding sources and estimated lifespan to inform the budget and ensure you can confidently respond to audits.
Myth #2: Inventory data needs to be perfect before implementing an asset management system.
You might think that until your inventory tracking data is lined up neatly like so many ducks in a row, you can’t start the process of implementing a new system. If you wait until you’ve been able to go through every spreadsheet, every file, until each one is 100% neat and tidy, you may never cross the starting line. (Plus, that sounds like quite a hassle!)
Thankfully, imperfect data doesn’t have to be a roadblock to moving forward. For school districts looking to implement Frontline’s Asset Management, for example, there are three options to help you get moving quickly:
Imagine: a team of specialists who work with you to clean your data. They’ll run it through a validation process, identify errors, and guide you to inventory best practices.
If you’d rather start from scratch, there’s a team that can come on-site to your district to complete a physical inventory. This gives you a good baseline and starts you out with best practices to get started.
Import & Audit
Lastly, you can take your existing data and import it into the system as-is. Then, running an audit on that data will highlight any areas for cleanup and help you identify any gaps in your information that need to be filled.
So if you’re feeling paralyzed by your data, wondering how or if you’ll ever be able to clean it up and dreading the time you may need to spend, don’t let that stand in your way.
Myth #3: An asset management system will take forever to implement.
Thankfully, an asset management system like Frontline’s Asset Management shouldn’t take more than a few weeks to get up and running.
Setting an achievable goal is the first step toward a complete rollout of a new system. Not all implementations will look the same. As mentioned in Myth 2, there are multiple ways to get your data ready for implementation. For some schools, the method is to begin with great data, while others start with newly purchased items and take it in stages.
The technology department at Rock Hill Schools in South Carolina (student enrollment: 16,700) consists of about 37 people. They decided that the first step in launching their new asset management system was to simply get student laptops into the system. Once those devices were tagged and tracked, the technology team could then expand to other kinds of technology.
Now, the team at Rock Hill Schools is managing assets consistently and can make data-driven decisions about whether to purchase new devices or move equipment around. Read the case study
Myth #4: Audits have to be stressful and time consuming.
Let’s be honest: no one likes an audit. Opening up your files to show compliance (or lack thereof) with Title I, the E-rate program, or ESSER funds criteria has historically cost time and in many cases, money. They can require significant staff to perform inventories and compile records often kept by multiple departments. When this is done manually, with legions of staff checking off items with pen and paper, human error rears its ugly head.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
An asset management system can make the entire system so much easier and remove the fear from audits.
Categorize devices and assets.
A good asset management system can help ensure that devices are accounted for, categorized correctly, and classified to the correct funding source. (Be sure to ask about this — not all systems check this box.)
Know where every asset is at all times.
Systems like this also make it simple to track each asset — regardless of value or cost — through its entire lifecycle. Did your district have to suddenly distribute laptops or mobile hotspots at the beginning of the pandemic? An asset management system makes it easy to keep track of each asset from the moment it’s issued to the time it’s collected, when it is sent out for repair, and when it’s powered down for the last time.
Make compliance easy.
Different funding sources often have their own sets of rules attached to them. Is an asset only allowed to be used at a certain site? You will need to be able to govern its movement and use according to the funding source it came from, and a system like Frontline’s Asset Management can help you do that — but be aware that not all systems can.
Need to keep records for 7-10 years? You can archive your assets and keep track of that inventory, even if it’s not in active use. Plus, it’ll be far easier to generate the reports you need to satisfy audit requirements.
An asset management system can also help you lower the risk of fines or lost funding by helping you identify and address problems before an auditor does.
There you have it. Asset management systems can be used to track far more than laptops and other devices. Implementation doesn’t have to be a 6 month long process — and doesn’t require perfect data! And if you’re using one that can help you classify assets according to the correct funding source and can govern their use accordingly, it can help make audits much less painful.
*Correction: We’ve since learned that computers stay with students so long as they remain in the district, so we’re okay. But still.
Join us for a conversation about how to ensure compliance with federal and state restrictions for special funding sources with Lance McConkey, Comptroller for Dekalb County Schools, and Uwe Lord, Inventory Specialist at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.