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6 Challenges of Homegrown Inventory Management (and Why Your District’s Is Likely To Fail)

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“Fine, I’ll just do it myself.”

If you work in IT, this thought has likely crossed your mind at some point. It can be incredibly frustrating when it seems like you’re the only person who knows how something needs to be done, but you don’t have the resources or support you need.

As K-12 schools continue to rely on physical assets and technology to support teaching and learning, someone has to be responsible for keeping track of increasing inventory levels. That someone is probably you.

Without the proper tools to track and manage school assets, IT departments are forced to develop their own homegrown solutions to manage asset inventories—usually in the form of a cluttered spreadsheet.

This can be a great temporary solution, but it will only cause problems over time. Here are the six reasons why using a DIY inventory management solution creates more work for your K-12 IT department.

How Inventory Management Affects the School District

DIY inventory management tools aren’t just an internal problem for your department. They could have severe consequences for the teachers, students, and staff in your district as well.

If your department cannot accurately conduct an inventory audit, your asset and student device forecasting is going to be off. This directly affects your district’s ability to draft an appropriate school technology budget.

As school curriculums continue to depend on new educational software and technology, having both the funds and the physical assets available to support them is vital for teaching and learning.

The 6 Ways That Homegrown Inventory Systems Fail

1. Inconsistent Tracking

The Problem:

A homegrown solution built in Excel or a Google Sheet requires frequent attention. After all, they were never designed for data warehousing in the first place.

As the demands on your IT department grow, you’ll have less time to dedicate to inventory control and spreadsheet maintenance, resulting in inventory losses caused by human error.

The Solution:

Calendar reminders in your DIY solution for scheduled inventory tracking are helpful, but not by much. Good inventory management software includes features that make tracking much more manageable.

With a dedicated inventory management tool, you can use filters to sort and display assets by dozens of different data points. It also makes it easier to hold students accountable for their assigned devices because you can automatically track changes to ownership, location, hardware internals, and more.

2. Inaccurate Data

The Problem:

Inconsistent tracking leads to inaccurate data. There’s not much more to it than that. Mistaking inaccurate data for real-life numbers can cause system admins to over-order or under-order inventory for the upcoming school year.

The Solution:

Using a dedicated inventory manager, K-12 IT departments can easily access real-time data on their district assets.

Not only does this make it easier to report on inventory levels, but these reports can be used to justify the purchase of new assets like student laptops. For example, suppose your report shows that most of the Chromebooks in your district are reaching their auto-update policy expiration date. In that case, you can make a case for an increase in your school’s technology budget for the upcoming year.

Doing so could have a considerable impact on your district’s bottom line in the long run.

3. Limited Visibility

The Problem:

Another problem with spreadsheets and DIY inventory management tools is that they give IT departments limited visibility over their asset inventory. It doesn’t matter how many color-coordinated columns you have.

Limited data visibility directly impacts your IT team’s ability to ensure equipment is receiving regular maintenance, that replacements are being ordered, or that deployment and collection plans stay accurate as student enrollment changes.

The Solution:

Inventory tracking software is the only way to get a 360-degree view of your district assets.

Using software designed to manage school inventories allows IT departments to get quick insights on the status of all their assets, including:

  • How many student devices and assets are in storage
  • The location of missing assets via automatic verification
  • Damaged devices that need to be replaced or deprovisioned

4. Inadequate Software Capabilities

The Problem:

It’s not your fault that spreadsheets don’t have the out-of-box features you need to manage school inventories. Unfortunately, if you’re using a homemade tool, you’ll have to build them yourself.

Spreadsheets are great tools for manipulating numbers and digital data, but that effectiveness doesn’t apply to physical assets that exist in the real world.

The Solution:

Inventory management software for schools gives IT teams the ability to track inventory via barcodes and asset labels. Not only does this make it easier to streamline the inventory management process, but IT teams can empower teachers to audit devices in the classroom using their webcams or mobile phones.

For IT departments who need a solution that scales, inventory management software is a no brainer.

5. Not built to scale

The Problem:

Spreadsheets and small applications were never designed to support the needs of an entire school district. Storing inventory data into them is like trying to wear a shoe that’s two sizes too small. It’s not going to work.

The manual processes your team has to perform to keep your inventory in check are time-consuming and will create data errors over time.

The Solution:

School inventory management software doesn’t just boast more features and school-specific app integrations—it also comes with a backend that’s designed to store huge data sets.

As your district continues to grow, so will your student enrollment and your asset counts. Investing in a dedicated inventory manager allows districts to easily track and manage tens of thousands of school assets.

6. Poor documentation and user onboarding

The Problem:

Not everyone is a born inventory management expert. WIthout lengthy experience or the right software to guide you, you’re bound to have hiccups that disrupt teacher timelines and student learning.

If your IT department is constantly in the weeds handling support requests, you likely don’t have the time to prepare detailed documentation for your DIY inventory tool. This can spell disaster for new IT hires who need to quickly grasp the ins and outs of your department’s inventory management process.

The Solution:

Homemade tools don’t come with a user manual. However, school inventory management software does.

For IT departments who need to quickly and reliably onboard new IT hires, an inventory management tool provides an intuitive UI, detailed documentation, and helpful customer support to answer technical questions.

Taking control of your school inventory management

Homegrown inventory management tools leave K-12 IT departments in a hamster wheel—constantly trying to improve a solution that wasn’t purpose-built for their needs.

Without the functionality needed to get the job done, spreadsheets become a liability for your team. They can take up hours that would otherwise be spent resolving help requests, improving internal processes, or taking a well-deserved break.

At Incident IQ, we created a platform that helps busy IT departments tackle common inventory management challenges through intelligent automation and features designed specifically for the needs of K-12 schools.

Schedule a demo with our team to see how Incident IQ can help you ditch the spreadsheets for good.