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K-12 Workflow Management Blog

The Ultimate Guide to School District IT Equipment Tracking

Cartoon image of a person scanning in school devices

What would happen if one day you stopped keeping track of things? No more grocery lists, no more Google calendars, and no more scratching down quick reminders on a sticky note. Let that sink in. Technically, the average person can only keep track of four things at once, and our short-term memory isn’t exactly great at remembering important details.

Without any outside help to stay organized, our lives would quickly fall apart.

That’s why we were shocked to find school districts who were still managing their assets manually. On the bright side, many of them had created spreadsheets to keep track of the thousands upon thousands of assets in their district—but there was still one major problem.

These spreadsheets were out of date, messy, and generally inefficient. Through no fault of their own, K-12 IT admins have been putting their assets and school technology budgets at risk by using spreadsheets for asset tracking.

Building a process around school asset management doesn’t have to be this difficult. Here’s everything you need to know to keep track of all the assets in your school district.

What is School Asset Management Software?

School asset management software is the technological platform that houses and tracks all assets owned by the school district.

That seems simple enough, but think about what that boils down to: a tracking system for every student Chromebook, every staff laptop, every printer across your schools, every desktop within each school.

The amount, status, and distribution of your district’s educational assets can quickly become overwhelming in today’s tech-driven age. School asset management and Chromebook Management Software are critical for managing thousands of district assets and connecting students to their educational tools.

Why Do School Districts Need Their Own Asset Tracking Software?

K-12 school districts have unique needs that industry-neutral asset management software doesn’t support.

Wake County, which has over 161,000 students in North Carolina, was one of the districts that had to exponentially grow their student assets in the past year. At the end of the day, Wake County ended up spending $48 million on new student devices so learning could continue in remote environments—that’s a huge amount of money and devices that need to be tracked and monitored.

Budgeting and staffing challenges for school districts mean that smaller IT support teams are inundated by the issues from student devices. Acero Schools in Chicago exemplified that, as their team manually managed most of the IT assets for 15 schools and 7,500 students.

Districts need smarter tools to work with the unique demands of K-12 student device support. Each moment that a student’s Chromebook is broken or lost means missing a moment to learn or participate in the classroom, and that is the last thing any school district wants. Adaptable, reliable asset management software lets IT teams optimize their workflows, providing technicians with immediate access to relevant device and ownership data.

Manual vs. Digital Asset Tracking

Keep this in mind before we get started: using Excel or a spreadsheet for education asset tracking isn’t a terrible idea. After all, they help organizations manage large data sets, perform statistical analyses, and make it easy to print out reports.

However, manual asset tracking has some glaring issues.

Manual asset tracking

  1. Manual data entry: There is currently no way to track and update inventory data in real-time without time-consuming manual integrations. This means that whenever a device is broken, reassigned to a new owner, deprovisioned, or goes missing, It’s usually up to your IT team to update its status manually.
  2. Data errors: 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. Schools are no exception here. Unless you have an IT team member solely focused on keeping your data clean, data errors are inevitable.
  3. Poor data integrity: Your school assets are dynamic; your spreadsheets are not. Maintaining accurate asset statuses across all the laptops, appliances, and school equipment located on a school campus is virtually impossible with a spreadsheet.
  4. Limited user accessibility across your IT department: Spreadsheets limit your team to a singular view of your school inventory data. While one person in your department may know where everything is, the rest of your IT team is stuck in the dark.
  5. Inability to scale: Spreadsheets aren’t built for the increasing inventory demands of modern-day school districts. With student devices being deployed across multiple campuses, reassigned over and over, and being used in and out of the classroom, there are simply too many variables to keep track of.

Digital asset tracking

Maybe manual asset tracking isn’t all it’s cracked up to be—but is a full blown digital method any better?

The short answer is yes. Schools use school asset tracking software to streamline their existing workflows, automate asset data in real-time, and connect their asset management system to their school help desk. Here’s what it looks like in practice:

  1. Automate data entry: With school asset tracking software, asset data is updated in real-time. Whenever a help ticket is submitted, a work order is created, a device is deprovisioned, or a spare device is issued, all of that data is captured within a larger asset management system.
  2. Keep track of asset statuses: You can easily track the lifecycle of hardware and IT assets and update your inventory as needed whenever an asset is damaged, deprovisioned, or stops working.
  3. Automate device audits: This is especially helpful for tracking student devices. 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. If a student device goes missing, you’ll know soon after.
  4. Total data visibility across your department: Everyone on your K-12 IT team will have access to your district’s asset data, and IT specialists can create individual data filters to customize their viewing experience. Permissions settings can help administrators control access district-wide, providing appropriate visibility settings to agents at different schools.
  5. Combined asset management and help ticketing: What’s the point of tracking assets if you can’t service them? At Incident IQ, we combined our asset tracking software with a school-specific help desk to streamline K-12 IT workflows.

Purpose, Benefits, and Goals

Tracking school assets is critical to the daily operations of your K-12 district—plain and simple. Here’s a few quick reminders for “why” you should be tracking district assets in the first place.

Purpose of asset tracking

There are two main reasons to track education assets—to save your school technology budget and support tech-driven learning in the classroom.

With 24/7 intel on the status and whereabouts of your school assets, you can perform maintenance, resolve help requests, and conduct regular audits to ensure they stay in proper working condition. Scheduling preventive maintenance is also an effective way to decrease asset depreciation over time. By tracking the status of district assets and creating regular maintenance schedules, you can increase their lifespan and put more money back into your school technology budget.

Supporting technology in the classroom is another important reason to track school assets. As the outside world becomes tech-driven, so do our schools, and teachers are becoming increasingly dependent on technology to engage students in the classroom. This is largely due to the shift to 1:1 technology. Asset tracking enables K-12 IT teams to ensure students have easy and equitable access to a laptop at all times.

Benefits of asset tracking

In no particular order, some benefits of asset tracking are:

  • Less time spent locating school assets
  • Increased asset visibility
  • More accurate device forecasting
  • Ability to plan audits, deployments, and maintenance in advance
  • Lower risk of losing district assets

Not only does asset tracking reduce your IT workload, but it allows K-12 IT teams to quickly assist students, teachers, and staff in a fast-paced school environment.

Goals of asset tracking

If you want to achieve something, setting actionable goals is a must. Here are some goals, KPIs, and benchmarks of effective asset tracking:

  • Reduced reports of asset loss or theft
  • Lower help ticket resolution times for school assets
  • Longer life expectancy of assets via regular maintenance
  • Overall greater asset data integrity

What Assets Should Be Tracked

Several different types of assets can (and should) be tracked in K-12 schools. These assets can be categorized into separate groups, such as:

Technology: This includes any physical hardware located on school campuses and can be separated into fixed technology assets and mobile technology assets.

  • Fixed Assets: Intercom systems, built-in projectors, and wall-mounted TVs are all common examples of fixed technology assets found on school campuses. Because they aren’t taken off school grounds, there is a decreased likelihood that they will become stolen or go missing. Fixed assets such as these can still be tracked in your asset management system, but don’t need to be audited as thoroughly as mobile assets.
  • Mobile Assets: PCs, tablets, and student laptops are all common examples of mobile technology assets in schools. These are assets that can easily be moved from one location to another, or—in the case of student laptops—even taken home by K-12 students. These assets require regular audits and scheduled maintenance due to heavy use and increased risks of theft.

School Infrastructure: HVAC systems, water heaters, AC units, and lighting fixtures all fall under this category.

Appliances: School appliances are commonly located in K-12 cafeterias. You may even consider creating a separate asset filter for the school cafeteria entirely. These assets include refrigerators, stoves, ovens, and other mobile appliances.

Miscellaneous: Not all school assets are easy to categorize. Band instruments, textbooks, gym equipment, and other valuable, non-fixed assets should all be organized separately.

Best Practices for Asset Tracking

Once you’ve set your goals, created a plan, and picked the right tools, tracking district assets becomes pretty straightforward. However, there are a few best practices you can follow to execute a seamless asset tracking initiative in your school.

Use asset tagging labels and barcode scanners

This is the most tried-and-true method of tracking school assets. Asset labels are relatively inexpensive, easy to distribute, and can be placed on any asset with a smooth surface. Then, using a barcode scanner, your IT team can scan these labels and view asset statuses within your asset tracking system.

However, the true value of this system is that it streamlines device audits, deployments, and collections. IT teams can equip K-12 faculty with barcode scanning capability to distribute the workload of these common IT tasks.

Organize your asset data

The benefits of your asset tracking efforts will be short-lived if you can’t access the data behind them. Once your assets are imported into your asset tracking tool, be sure to include additional insights, such as:

  1. Asset cost or purchase price
  2. Purchase date
  3. Funding source
  4. Complete ownership and service history
  5. Current asset owner (if the asset is owned or assigned to an individual—e.g. a student laptop)
  6. Current location—classroom number, campus location, storage, etc.
  7. Planned maintenance dates

At Incident IQ, we attach all of the above data points to assets registered within our asset tracking system. With these data points available, IT teams can easily file asset reports to school leadership and stay compliant with state and federal regulations.

Schedule regular device and asset audits

Once you’ve pinned down the location of all your district assets, scheduling audits is no problem at all. Meet with your IT department to schedule regular asset audits throughout the school year. This ensures that your assets are tracked and in proper working condition as well.

If you want to create a foolproof asset auditing plan, checkout out our comprehensive guide: Mastering Inventory Audit Procedures for K-12 School Districts.

Use a school-specific asset manager

There are several asset tracking alternatives to spreadsheets—that’s no secret. However, most asset management software doesn’t meet the specific needs of K-12 schools. Using school asset management software, K-12 IT teams can:

  • Pull in detailed asset data through MDM and SIS integrations
  • Easily assign device ownership to users across school campuses
  • Provide teachers and K-12 staff with a secure, trusted portal to submit help requests
  • Streamline deployments to get learning devices into student hands quickly
  • Track asset ownership, storage location, and access a complete service history of district assets
  • Create and share asset status reports with school leadership

K-12 Asset Management Software in Action

Let’s take a closer look at this case study showing how K-12 asset management software is used to manage student devices.

Jessica Ax, Technology Innovation and Assessment Coordinator for Moreno Valley Unified School District, was looking to upgrade her asset management software solution. Her previous asset management methods were not keeping up with the demand to get student devices out the door and working properly for remote-only classrooms.

“Originally, we were doing a swap system with broken devices using a Google sheet,” she recalled, “It made me tear my hair out. I had to go into the existing management system and move the student’s assigned Chromebook away from them and give them a different Chromebook—and this was done one-by-one.”

Jessica’s asset management process was completely transformed with Incident IQ. Instead of updating student devices one at a time, Incident IQ combined their help ticketing and asset management system into one platform, as well as integrated with their SIS and MDM—providing valuable device information to their IT team and saving a huge amount of time in the process.

Jessica customized their asset tracking software in Incident IQ for their “COVID swap.” Jessica then put in all the possible issues that could result in a student asset being returned to the district—cracked screens, missing keys, and more.

When students came in with their malfunctioning devices, they walked up through a COVID-protocol window, where a staff member would check-in the device with a barcode scanner. The device would then pop up on the staff member’s screen, and they could easily put in the reason for the swap, assign, and distribute a new device within seconds.

Not only did this eliminate the need for manual, time-consuming data entry, but this new “COVID swap” technique provided Jessica’s IT team with data-rich help tickets in a user-friendly manner.

“Incident IQ saved the day for us,” said Jessica.

Asset Tracking Tools—Built for Schools

It doesn’t matter if they’re big, small, cheap, or brand new—school assets need to be tracked. As you reevaluate your asset tracking procedures, you should consider the tools you’re using as well.

At Incident IQ, we wanted to build a tool that made asset tracking easy for school districts. That’s why we designed a cloud-based asset and inventory management solution built specifically for K-12. To learn more, schedule a demo with our team and see how we’re helping K-12 IT teams streamline their everyday workflows.