Sep 29 2023

How to Design a Forward-Thinking Device Management Program

Mobile device management, proactive budgeting, risk mitigation and more are key to sustaining a higher education device program for the long term.

Devices are crucial in higher education for faculty, staff and students. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, higher ed institutions scrambled to purchase devices for students and staff so teaching and learning could continue. Many did not consider what was to come.

Now, as federal funding dries up, on-campus operations resume and remote working and learning opportunities continue to grow, colleges and universities must look at what’s next for their device management programs.

With the current state of the supply chain, being proactive in device purchasing, configuration and security is no longer optional. University IT leaders must think several steps ahead if they’re going to have the devices they need to serve their stakeholders without disruptions in service.

Developing a device management program that considers mobile device management, budget, risk and the full device lifecycle is key to setting a university up for success.

Click the banner below to learn how to optimize your university’s device management program.

What Is Mobile Device Management in Higher Education?

According to TechTarget, mobile device management programs allows university IT administrators to have greater control over laptops, tablets and smartphones on a campus network. Through these tools, admins can enforce security policies, push software updates and manage applications.

This level of control helps university IT administrators ensure the managed devices accessing their network are as secure as possible, reducing the possibility of costly incidents down the line. According to IBM, MDM tools may include device tracking, application security, identity and access management, endpoint security and more. These solutions can protect devices and ensure their longevity.

How Higher Ed Institutions Can Effectively Budget for Devices

Beyond the software enabling MDM, higher education institutions have other items to consider when planning their overall device management programs. For many, budgeting is the biggest concern.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, colleges and universities hurried to purchase as many devices as possible, and for many, these purchases were able to continue thanks to the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. The HEERF is an umbrella fund combining billions of dollars offered to higher education institutions through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act and the American Rescue Plan, according to Curtiss Strietelmeier, business development strategist at CDW.

Device management ToC image


Although the federal government is allowing HEERF purchases to continue through 2024, institutions had to submit their plans for spending their remaining funds by June 30, 2023. And after these funds run out, they won’t be replenished.

Maintaining the new devices purchased over the past three years and planning for replacements can be expensive for universities that are not prepared. Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst at ZK Research, says buying devices in bulk, employing a rolling budget approach and prioritizing security can all help IT departments manage their device programs. Investments now can lead to cost savings down the line.

Managing Risk Can Ensure Device Longevity

In an EdTech online poll, nearly 43 percent of respondents indicated that cybersecurity was their biggest concern when managing devices — and for good reason. According to IBM’s 2023 Cost of a Data Breach report, the average cost of a data breach in the education industry this year was $3.65 million.

Ensuring security software is up to date can go far in extending the life of devices while also protecting the university’s sensitive data. Tanya Candia, an international management expert specializing in information security strategy, also recommends anticipating the university’s device needs for the next year to five years and growing the infrastructure accordingly.

“An important step in securely growing your infrastructure is to assess which security risks are likely to be most important in the future, both to your devices and to the network itself,” she says. “Prioritize risks based on the impact they would have on your infrastructure and the mission of the university.”

She also suggests that IT departments standardize configurations and applications to streamline support, as well as prioritize training and tabletop exercises to ensure response teams are prepared in the event of a security incident.

Third-Party Service Providers Can Help Manage the Device Lifecycle

In planning a successful device management program that accounts for future needs, it’s important to consider the device lifecycle. Accounting for all aspects of device management — procurement, maintenance, retirement and replacement — is vital for ensuring a university has the devices it needs to support student and faculty.

According to an EDUCAUSE QuickPoll, 65 percent of IT leaders have experienced disruption in hardware lifecycle replacement due to IT supply chain issues. Proactively monitoring the supply chain and ordering devices well in advance to ensure they are available when needed is key. Third-party service providers often have greater insight into supply from multiple manufacturers, helping higher education institutions strategically procure the devices they need when they need them.

Service providers can also support device delivery, inventory management, configuration, imaging, asset tagging and more. They can also help universities with budgeting, security strategies, and recycling and replacement when devices reach their end of life.

In higher education, device management is cyclical. Continually reviewing and refreshing device policies and procedures, from security to budgeting, is vital to developing a device management program that is able to stand the test of time.

Darya Gribovskaya/Getty Images

Become an Insider

Unlock white papers, personalized recommendations and other premium content for an in-depth look at evolving IT