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Ditch the Spreadsheets: 5 Ways To Improve School Inventory Control

School IT asset inventory spreadsheet on laptop screen

How many times have spreadsheets let you down? If you’re in charge of managing your school district’s asset inventory, you probably don’t have enough fingers to count on. It’s not that spreadsheets are inherently bad—after all, they help organizations manage large data sets, perform statistical analyses, and make it easy to print out reports.

But when it comes to inventory management, they’re ineffective.

Managing and tracking large school inventories require tools that are built for the scale and rapid pace of modern-day school districts. While average spreadsheet tools involve manual data entry and regular maintenance, school inventory management software helps K-12 IT teams automate these processes and get more done.

It’s time to ditch the spreadsheets. Here’s a list of common issues schools have with school inventory management, and how to solve them.

Top 5 frustrations districts have with school inventory management:

This is where spreadsheets are failing to meet the inventory management needs of K-12 IT teams.

Inaccurate school inventory reporting

1. Manual data entry

No fancy spreadsheet automation or Excel shortcut is going to help you here.

When inventory is tracked manually, instances of device theft, inaccurate data entry, or device reassignments can fly under the radar. Errors in formulas and data entry can go uncorrected for weeks or months at a time, rendering your high-maintenance spreadsheet completely useless.

There is currently no way to track and update inventory data in real-time using spreadsheets. This means that whenever a device is broken, reassigned to a new owner, deprovisioned, or goes missing, It’s up to your IT team to manually update its status.

This workload can quickly become unwieldy and cause IT teams to fall behind on other critical tasks, such as resolving help requests, conducting audits, or planning device deployments and collections.

2. Inevitable data errors

Your K-12 IT personnel aren’t machines. While they may be highly capable in their jobs, spreadsheets are subject to inevitable data-entry mistakes that could severely impact the accuracy of your asset reports and device audits.

F1F9 estimated that 88 percent of all shared spreadsheets have errors in them, while 50 percent of spreadsheets used by large companies have material defects.

What risks does this create for school districts? Without accurate data records, school districts can fall prey to statutory risks, permanently damage the accuracy of their asset inventory, and, as a result, jeopardize federal Title funding.

Basically, one small typo in a spreadsheet can create a costly snowball effect for your school district.

3. Poor data integrity

The point of managing school inventory is to help your IT department understand the status and availability of your district’s assets at any given time. With a spreadsheet, this is virtually impossible.

Even with the implementation of barcode scanning technologies, spreadsheets can’t keep up with the rapidly changing pace of asset statuses in most school districts. As school classrooms continue to rely on student technology, spreadsheets will leave K-12 IT teams falling behind.

4. Limited user accessibility across your IT department

Traditionally, spreadsheets like Excel or Google Sheets are built so only one user has complete ownership or permissions at any given time. With multiple IT staff working on school inventory management, error-prone or duplicative data entry is inevitable.

Spreadsheets also limit your team to a singular view of your school inventory data set, so while one person in your department may know where everything is at, the rest of your IT team is stuck in the dark.

This creates a huge roadblock for collaborative IT teams who need easy access to their school’s asset inventory, and it can quickly cause problems if their dedicated inventory manager is unavailable.

5. Inability to scale

Spreadsheets aren’t built for the increasing inventory demands of the modern-day school district. With student devices being deployed across multiple campuses, re-assigned over and over, and being used in and out of the classroom, there are simply too many variables to keep track of.

​5 ways to solve these frustrations and improve school inventory control

Just because spreadsheets are causing other schools to fall behind in their inventory management efforts, doesn’t mean your district needs to suffer the same fate. The first step towards solving these frustrations is to ditch the spreadsheets altogether and transition to a dedicated inventory management solution.

With tools designed to manage large school inventories, IT teams can stop spending countless hours on spreadsheet maintenance and inventory tracking. Here’s what your K-12 IT department should be doing instead:

Improving school inventory control

1. Automate data entry and leverage real-time data syncs

If a device is incorrectly assigned to the wrong student via manual data entry, real-time data syncs make this easy to spot. Schools can use MDM tools to catch any mismatches between assigned device owners and recent users, however, these tools often require integrations that aren’t possible when using Excel or a Google spreadsheet.

With a school inventory management solution, asset data is updated in real-time. Whenever a help ticket is submitted, a device is deprovisioned, or a spare device is issued, all of that detailed asset and inventory data is captured within a larger asset management system.

What does this mean for your school IT department?

By automating the data entry process, IT teams can stop spending time trying to enter constantly changing data and double-checking their work. Instead, data can be viewed in real-time, and reports can be generated at the click of a button. This is crucial when your team needs to conduct device audits, generate reports for district leadership, or track down specific student devices.

2. Plan ahead with inventory lifecycle management

Spreadsheets leave K-12 IT teams constantly playing catch up with the whereabouts of their school district’s assets. With so much of their time spent on data entry and upkeep, it’s almost impossible to generate an accurate report of the status of your district devices.

School inventory management software allows IT teams to track the lifecycle of their district assets and update their inventory as needed, whenever a device is damaged, deprovisioned, or simply stops working.

This is essential for teams who need to access to clean, updated asset data. Without it, ghost assets, deprovisioned devices, or even stolen devices can creep their way into your IT team’s inventory reports.

3. Keep your inventory updated with automatic verifications

Conducting regular IT asset management audits is essential to keeping your school inventory up to date.

Traditionally, audits are conducted by school IT teams, however, barcode technology has made it possible to conduct audits right from the classroom by scanning asset labels and device serial numbers. Schools have successfully implemented barcode scanners for years—but it isn’t a perfect solution.

With so many students taking their district-assigned laptops home with them, additional tools are required.

With school inventory management software, IT teams can automatically verify (or “audit”) devices via user login. So, whenever a student logs into their assigned laptop, that device is automatically verified and updated in your school’s inventory.

Not only does this help IT teams accomplish audits without the demands of a traditional physical audit, automatic verifications are a great way to catch devices that aren’t being used by their originally assigned owner.

4. Allow inventory data visibility across your school IT department

Updating your school district’s asset inventory requires team-wide access and collaboration. It’s not enough to assign a single staff member to get the job done.

With an inventory management solution, K-12 IT teams can all get access to their district’s inventory data and even create individual data filters to customize their viewing experience. With team-wide visibility, there’s no need to put your district inventory in the hands of a single staff member. Instead, school IT teams can distribute inventory maintenance tasks throughout their team and ensure that their records are always up-to-date.

5. Combine inventory management with your school help desk

Inventory management and help desk ticketing go hand in hand—and so should your tools. Integrating your inventory management solution with your school help desk is the key to maintaining accurate device records.

Whenever a ticket is submitted and the affected asset is deprovisioned or put in storage, that data is automatically captured in your school’s inventory records. So, when you’re searching for a spreadsheet alternative, make sure your inventory management solution can seamlessly integrate with the rest of the support tools in your district.

Inventory management software built for K-12 schools

Implementing a dedicated inventory management solution is the first step towards ditching spreadsheets for good. However, it may not be the end of all your problems. Even when school IT teams take advantage of inventory management technology, those systems tend to be out-of-date and aren’t designed for the specific needs of K-12 school districts.

At Incident IQ, we’ve built a service management system that combines help ticketing with asset management, so IT teams can stay on top of their inventories and leave the spreadsheets behind. Schedule a demo with us to learn more about our inventory management tools built specifically for K-12.