Mar 21 2024

3 Ways to Supercharge Higher Ed Device Management with an E-Procurement Solution

Universities that offer platforms for replacing broken devices and aging peripherals can keep everything running without extra work.

Device management in higher education is a never-ending task, whether IT teams like it or not.

There are many tools available to help colleges and universities stay on top of device management. There are reliable device management platforms — such as Jamf for iOS devices and Windows Autopilot for PCs — for tagging and tracking thousands of laptops and tablets. There are also various asset management programs keeping the applications powering those devices up to date. But even the most thoroughly mapped-out lifecycle management plan, IT teams can’t prevent the unexpected. Devices will get stop working, users will break them (accidentally, one hopes), and faculty and staff will bug IT teams incessantly about upgrading to the latest and greatest devices and accessories.

One of the primary purposes of third-party device management is to give IT teams back the time spent responding to device- and peripheral-related requests. However, that well-oiled device management machine can get bogged down if universities don’t have a way to take their skilled IT people out of the procurement process.

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That’s where web-based e-procurement platforms have a chance to shine. By creating a portal for faculty, staff and (in some cases) students to replace their own broken devices with college-approved replacements, IT teams can free up time and have an easy answer to any request they may field: It’s all on the portal. That’s a far cry from what many institutions have been doing traditionally and may even still be doing today.

“Many of ServiceNow’s higher education customers previously managed their procurement processes through homegrown solutions comprising various software applications, shared email inboxes and tracking spreadsheets, all with manual approval processes,” says Shannon Cobourn, global head of mission solutions in the education and nonprofit sectors at ServiceNow, which offers one of the leading procurement platforms for higher education.

Obviously, that kind of patchwork solution is far from ideal, so if your institution is looking to tune up its well-oiled machine with an online procurement portal, here are some helpful tips to make it happen.

1. Fully Understand Your Current Procurement Processes

It’s hard to fix something if you don’t know exactly how it’s broken. Transitioning to an all-encompassing online procurement platform can be a complicated process if significant attention isn’t paid to the procurement processes currently in place at an institution. There will be rules to establish, permissions to assign and technology choices to be made, and they must be done in the best interests of the college, the users and the IT staff.

“Institutions should conduct a thorough assessment of their existing procurement processes and identify bottlenecks or gaps in technologies,” Cobourn says. “It’s crucial to document institutional guidelines and policies for purchasing to ensure compliance with regulatory agencies and budget constraints.”

Some procurement platforms, including ServiceNow’s Source-to-Pay Operations solution, also offer back-end tools for procurement and IT staff related to vendor management, invoicing and more. These implementations help optimize the entire procurement process, make reporting easier and simplify the experience for end users, likely increasing adoption by staff and reducing the number of questions that will be volleyed back to IT or procurement teams.

“Regular monitoring and evaluation of procurement process performance through reporting can help identify areas for further optimization, ultimately driving greater efficiency and cost savings across the institution,” Cobourn says.

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2. Identify Procurement Priorities for Users and Technology

Another challenge higher education institutions are likely to face in managing procurement is making sure that the right devices are going to the right people. Some staffers may need only basic computing, while others may need high-powered machines for everything from animation and video editing to cutting-edge research and virtual reality.

Setting permissions for who can order what is a critical piece of any procurement platform. Properly configured, permissions can automatically approve user requests without any intervention from the IT team. This frees IT staff to do other things and leads to “increased employee satisfaction, greater efficiency and cost savings,” Cobourn says.

In addition, configuring procurement platforms gives IT teams complete control over which vendors — at least those for university-provided devices — enter the ecosystem. Tech consolidation and standardization can pay off financially through bulk-buying discounts and improve network security since there are fewer different devices to monitor.

“Establishing a single e-procurement environment enables higher education institutions to optimize processes, reduce costs and focus on delivering value-added services to the institution,” Cobourn says.

3. Go Beyond E-Procurement to Maximize Your Platform’s Potential

In addition to procurement, ServiceNow can also be used in myriad ways to improve efficiency across campus. Creative implementations of ServiceNow have allowed institutions to connect business, legal, HR and other departments to help with things such as time-off requests, financial aid and more.

Regardless of the chosen platform, having awareness of what it can do is yet another chance for higher education institutions get the most out of such a tool. That can be key to countering the impact of shrinking budgets and IT staff sizes at a number of institutions.

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