Is Increased IT Interoperability the Answer to Teacher Burnout in Michigan?

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There is a word that’s commonly used in IT support circles—interoperability. Interoperability refers to the ability for IT systems and software to intelligently exchange and use information, which is the goal for today’s budget-strained K-12 IT support teams.

Nowadays, it’s costly to have inefficient IT systems. The Consortium of School Networking found that districts using systems with greater interoperability spend less time and money connecting the systems that need to work together. In layman’s terms, it means that an efficient support solution that connects with district systems actually saves district costs, even if it seems time-consuming to implement at first glance.

Moreover, increased efficiency helps districts tackle tech fatigue, an unfortunate fallout of the pandemic which is one of the factors pushing more than 50% of educators to leave the teaching field earlier than originally planned. This reality does not bode well for Michigan students.

Even so, getting K-12 districts to change their support systems can be an uphill battle. Leadership worries about the cost of rolling out brand-new deployment strategies, managers worry how much time this is going to take to properly onboard their teams, technicians consider how long it will take to master the new system—and all of these concerns matter and should be addressed. But if K-12 districts don’t focus on streamlining critical infrastructure, they’re facing a far greater cost in the long run.

Wade Grant, Director of Educational Technology at Vicksburg Warren School District, provides this analogy, “[Technology spending] is like a big salami, and we’re always looking to shave off another slice. With strategic investments to improve efficiency and reduce operational expenses, those little slices add up to something much bigger over time.”

Let’s examine some key ways inefficient K-12 support systems are costing your Michigan district valuable time and money.

The Cost of Slower Access

Many districts work with outdated means of getting IT help requests submitted (ahem, Google Forms, we’re looking at you). That process may have worked fine in the past with fewer assets in play, but IT support is more involved within today’s classroom environment.

Legacy support systems tend to not be as interoperable as newer IT support solutions. Many systems are industry-neutral, which means they aren’t designed to integrate with the constellation of SIS, MDM, and SSO solutions that K-12 districts rely on. With K-12 IT teams handling more devices in more campuses than ever before, they don’t have time to waste with processes that don’t get the job done. Districts need an interoperable help ticketing solution with integrated asset management and API-driven integrations to comprehensively tackle help tickets.

The first step for this interoperability is to integrate asset data into your help ticketing system. The information districts hold in their MDM and SIS platforms are a huge help to IT teams working on tickets, as these systems provide essential information IT technicians need—who the owner of the device is, what issues the device has faced in the past, where the user is located, et cetera. Integrating asset data can dramatically reduce the time spent in that back-and-forth process with the requestor, and empowers technicians to start tackling issues from the moment the ticket hits their inbox.

Daniel Domain, Technology Director for Venus ISD, found that Venus’ previous help desk solution wasn’t “changing with the times.”

“Incident IQ ties into Google so well, and it writes back that [device] information, which saves us time with enrollment of devices. Incident IQ integrates so well with just about everything that we have, so we’re able to pull in information from SCCM, our Active Directory, Google, Skyward—just about anything. Being able to pull all that information in is invaluable.”

For industry-neutral solutions, technicians face common challenges such as requestors not including essential information like the location of the asset, the specific issue the device is experiencing, or when the two parties could meet to work on the issue. That back-and-forth costs teachers, technicians, and students precious time. But Incident IQ offers interoperable tools tailor-made for K-12 support workflows.

“One of the things that was most attractive to me about Incident IQ was that they are specifically for schools. They understand what schools need, what schools want, and what our pain points are,” said Domain.

With fewer bottlenecks in the support process, K-12 districts can save technician and staff time by investing in platforms that make it simple for relevant information to be provided in every step of a tech support issue.

The Cost of Slower Resolution

Now we’ve come to the meat of IT issues—actually closing help tickets. This is another area where outdated legacy tools impede help requests being solved quickly and easily.

Common obstacles for ticket resolution include inaccurate sorting methods (did your IT issue go to the subject matter expert, or did it go to a general inbox?), switching between MDM and SIS platforms to find important data, and miscommunication between requestors and agents.

The lost time between submitting and resolving requests can quickly add up. The overall goal of K-12 IT support is to ensure students and teachers always have access to working technology—without taking too much time away from teaching and learning. Upgrading district support platforms for maximum interoperability is a way districts can recapture this time, while delivering huge savings to the district’s budget.

If K-12 districts want to focus on interoperability, API-driven integrations with MDM and SIS platforms are a crucial part of the process.

“We’ve noticed how getting better information [from initial help ticket submission] enables us to respond more efficiently and get the problem fixed,” said Maggie Siedel, K-12 Director of IT at Simsbury Public School.

Combining MDM and SIS data into Incident IQ gives technicians relevant asset information at their fingertips.

“I can’t say how much easier and better it is to just have everything in one spot,” said Jeremy Marin, the Software and Computer Support Technician at Simsbury.

“Before [Incident IQ] it was like, ‘Oh, well I know that’s in a spreadsheet for this, but what’s the name of that spreadsheet, and is it shared with this person…’ And then next thing you know, somebody has six different spreadsheets for different categories. It was a tracking mess. Having automations for help tickets eliminates some of that spreadsheet stuff that you don’t necessarily need to have.”

Automations help IT teams achieve greater interoperability. Incident IQ’s Rules Engine has the power to automatically route tickets based on location, requestor, asset, and more, making sure that each help ticket is going to the right technician for the job. Additionally, Rules Engine can elevate tickets based on priority, sending email alerts to stakeholders and drawing attention to critical device issues. Automations can save substantial amounts of time for IT teams by taking over manual, time-consuming tasks, so technicians can focus on issues that truly matter.

“We’re able to set rules for different needs,” said Siedel. “We’re able to use those rules and so that we can efficiently get whatever the issue is to the right person.”

For instance, Siedel’s team now has a set procedure for when a new student enrolls at Simsbury. Her IT team established rules that automatically fire so the new student has access to technology on their first day of school.

“We have someone who does our student information system with PowerSchool—that person gets that [help ticket]. They’re able to create the PowerSchool accounts. It then goes to our Google person. Then from there it goes to the hardware to get the device. It’s all automated, whereas that used to live in emails, and we had to make sure that we had spreadsheets that were shared with people and completed.”

Interoperable workflows work together to get the right information to the right person. Automations and integrations cut through the red tape and get help tickets resolved faster and more accurately than before.

Use the Savings Calculator to See the Results for Your District

Interoperability and proactivity are the goalposts for today’s K-12 IT support. If your district’s current systems are creating more problems than they’re worth, it’s time to upgrade to a solution that was designed for the needs of your classroom.

Incident IQ offers combined help ticketing and asset management to streamline IT support workflows. We’ve walked you through some of the issues with siloed support systems, and you can also use our savings calculator to see how investing in Incident IQ can reduce support bottlenecks while saving your district money.

Click to learn how we support Michigan K-12 school districts.

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