Sep 27 2023

Managing Devices in Higher Education Requires the Right IT Staff

Third-party asset management can be a game changer for university IT departments if they have the right staff in place to take full advantage of the solutions.

Managing the thousands of university-owned devices on a college campus is a major challenge for IT departments across the country.

Tracking, asset tagging, imaging, repairing, replacing and maintaining the laptops, desktops and more that allow university employees to do their jobs requires teams of dedicated IT staff members working countless hours to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible.

There are other ways, of course, including through third-party IT asset management software. Offered by an array of vendors, ITAM takes some or all of those responsibilities off the plate of university staff and turns them over to a complex automation tool. Just like its human counterpart, the tool ensures that devices are being updated, tracked and maintained in an orderly fashion.

But just purchasing an ITAM solution and leaving it to take care of devices by itself is setting up higher education institutions for a different kind of disaster. Even with major advances in automation and artificial intelligence, ITAM tools work best when they operate under the watchful eye of a well-trained engineer who can monitor for irregularities and spring into action if anything goes awry.

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Why People Matter, Even in Managed Environments

 No matter what vendor platform your university chooses for IT asset management, you’re only going to get out of it what you put into it. Because ITAM platforms must be tied into other tools, they become deeply entwined with the IT plumbing.

Asset management platforms connect to the broader campus network and touch everything from budgeting and procurement to human resources, and some institutions have found creative ways to integrate them even further. Whether or not you go down that road, ITAM tools still collect loads of data that can be extremely useful in a number of ways. But as with any data, that information’s only valuable if someone is able to interpret it and communicate it to others.

If not, it’s the equivalent of installing security cameras without a surveillance platform to receive the footage; you’re collecting a lot of information but then letting it collect dust.

What’s more, that data is being transmitted through your campus network, and while not using that data is a missed opportunity, not monitoring what’s happening on your network could be a far more costly mistake. If there’s anything higher education institutions have learned while warding off cyberattacks, it’s that those attacks can come from anywhere, through any connected device or tool.

Beyond security and data analysis, human monitoring can also identify and monitor bandwidth consumption, track what software is being deployed and where, and help with business decision-making by analyzing patterns of asset purchasing and requests for repairs. ITAM platforms do a great job of collecting helpful data but, again, using that data productively is a job that requires people.

READ MORE: How a higher ed IT succession plan can keep employees from leaving.

The Importance of Vendor-Specific Engineers in Asset Management

That being said, not just anyone can handle ITAM supervision.

One of the great things about ITAM is that it provides a singular view on the university’s assets, helping IT make decisions about tech refreshes and tracking where assets are on campus. But monitoring ITAM requires someone who not only has high-level engineering or application development skills but also knows the specific platform inside and out.

Because of their sophistication, ITAM platforms can handle many routine tasks, but it wouldn’t be wise to hand responsibility for managing them to someone who doesn’t have significant, specific experience with those tools.

There’s a reason demand is so high for engineers and app developers trained in platforms offered by vendors such as ServiceNow and Microsoft — and because of that demand, such employees are becoming difficult for colleges and universities to retain.

One way around that challenge is through staff augmentation, a service CDW provides that allows us to fill in your staffing gaps. We can even help train some of your existing staff to set them on the path to earning vendor-specific certifications.

This article is part of EdTech: Focus on Higher Education’s UniversITy blog series.

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