Jul 22 2021

Low Supply and High Demand Drive Delays

Shortages of K–12 educational technologies, including student devices, network products and audiovisual equipment, force decision-makers to compromise, wait or plan further ahead.

Unfortunately, the industry can’t keep blaming shutdowns from COVID-19 or the cargo ship blockage in the Suez Canal for the supply chain disruptions affecting many industries across the nation and around the world.

From automobiles to K–12 classroom technology, it continues to be increasingly difficult for industry leaders to get the supplies they need. Average turnaround times for buyers to see their orders have risen from weeks to months.

School districts planning to upgrade or roll out a technology in July previously had to finalize their plans and purchase by June at the latest. Now, K–12 IT leaders should try to finalize plans before January to have the tech project implementations ready to go in July.

A combination of unavailable supply chain components and higher industry demand is causing these delays. Unfortunately, there’s no crystal ball to say how long they’ll last, but with many companies estimating the holdups continuing through 2022, we recommend districts take steps to mitigate these disruptions.

Component Scarcity and Abundant Funding Cause Supply Chain Disruptions

One of the two primary factors driving the delays is the low supply of necessary components. Specifically, shortages of integrated circuit chips, LCD screens and processors are creating the most disruption of K–12 technologies.

Last year, the shortage was most notable in student devices and Chromebooks, some models of which are still backordered. Steadily, the shortages have started to affect other products. Schools are beginning to struggle to secure network and audiovisual products for their classrooms this summer. Because laptops, networking and AV technologies are the three most in-demand product categories for schools, this can lead to a great deal of stress for IT leaders when the products are not available in a timely manner.

These shortages also mean that replacement parts for existing technology within the school environment are now more difficult to come by. When a student’s device stops working, IT teams are finding long lead times on most replacement parts, increasing the challenges associated with managing device fleets. Sometimes that even means replacing the device with a costlier option or a different brand to ensure students have access to the technology they need.

DIVE DEEPER: Follow these tech tips to prolong the life of student devices.

The other factor in the industrywide delays is the increased demand for these products in the K–12 space. An influx of government funding over the past 18 months has led more schools to buy more ed tech.

A large portion of the market is replacing projectors with interactive panels this year, and there are fewer panels to go around as a result. Chip shortages are also severely affecting network equipment. Network switching, access points and most wireless solutions are all in high demand but short supply.

IT leaders who need these products for new buildings or for infrastructure updates are facing challenges getting the parts they need when they need them. Instead of completing installation over the summer, when students aren’t in classrooms, they’re facing monthslong delays that may have them completing the updates in the fall or over winter break instead.

Handle Supply Chain Disruptions with Planning and Flexibility

The best thing school administrators and IT leaders can do is plan ahead for their technology needs. Working with a CDW account manager or a CDW•G educational strategist to procure needed tech can help district leaders gain a better understanding of the limitations and delays on the products they’re looking for.

Districts planning technology refreshes must start thinking ahead for updates that are many months down the line. CDW•G account managers can help district leaders know what to expect with supply chain disruptions and make long-term plans for getting the technology they need on time.

CDW•G’s account managers can also help schools determine their priorities on tech purchases or device refreshes. Availability, price and brand preference are the three main considerations for K–12 decision-makers. The account managers can offer options based on a school’s top priority, or make recommendations that balance all three considerations.

DISCOVER: Use a structured-choice approach to find the right ed tech for your district.

A school district that needs something quickly, for example, may be more willing to consider a different brand or spend more for a product, while a school district with a tighter budget may be more willing to wait for its desired product to come in stock. Of course, there is middle ground for each scenario, and CDW’s assistance can help districts achieve it.

This article is part of the “ConnectIT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology” series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #ConnectIT hashtag.

[title]Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology

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