Acting in Advance to Address Unexpected Tech Shortages
Even with available funds, like many organizations, LAS faced difficulties securing equipment after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the university transitioned to relying on videoconference-based services such as Microsoft Teams for meetings and remote instruction, faculty and staff laptop needs “just exploded,” Wood says.
LAS was able to meet some of them because it had acquired roughly 100 devices months beforehand for future use in the ATLAS Share program, which lends computers to undergraduate students in need.
“That was just luck,” Wood says. “Because shortly after the pandemic hit, there was no availability of laptops. We had a big pool of them that we had purchased for our loaner program available to distribute to faculty and staff to take home.”
However, the college still struggled to secure certain in-demand devices and turned to vendor partners including CDW for assistance. CDW was able to draw on its relationships with manufacturers to find compatible alternatives.
For instance, for faculty and staff members who were working remotely, the school normally would have ordered Lenovo mini docks, which can be used to connect laptops to external monitors. When those became difficult to source, CDW suggested that LAS purchase another model.
“Our vendor partners, CDW included, were affected, as everyone was, by supply chain problems,” Wood says. “But they were good at helping us identify other brands that would work.”
Wood and a fellow member of the purchasing committee had previously negotiated campuswide prices for common pieces of equipment, which the university’s individual colleges can access via vendor-specific web pages. Before the pandemic, they began meeting regularly with the school’s CDW representative, and they continued to confer every other week during the pandemic. The rep provided a breakdown of what items were in stock and time frames on products that weren’t so the college could adjust its plans accordingly.