Erin Ford, Director of Technology Services at Chesterfield County, Virginia Public Schools, says a new asset management system was a win for the district’s bottom line.

Oct 16 2023

These K–12 Schools Are Using Asset-Tracking Technology To Save Money and Reduce Risk

Consolidated asset management gives schools better control over essential inventory.

When Erin Ford joined Virginia’s Chesterfield County Public Schools as director of technology services, she became concerned about the way the district monitored its technology assets.

“We were tracking Chromebooks in a vendor-supported asset management system,” she says. “We also inventoried adult-user laptops in an older, on-premises system. Most other inventory, such as interactive whiteboards, document cameras, projectors and printers, was categorized in spreadsheets across several departments.”

This approach to asset tracking was problematic.

“We probably have millions of dollars’ worth of inventory in our schools, and we don’t really have a clear picture of that,” Ford says.

School districts have a financial obligation to account for IT resources, and they must know where devices are in order to effectively deliver IT support services.

“We were creating a liability for our school system when we know good asset management is an important form of risk avoidance,” Ford says.

As a result, she and other IT leaders are turning to modern IT asset management platforms to better handle their hardware and software resources.

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Comprehensive Tool Solves Tracking and Help Desk Tickets

In a recent blog post, ServiceNow describes asset management as “the management of all IT assets, including computing, networking and related equipment, as well as software licenses, entitlements and subscriptions.”

A variety of modernized tools can help schools meet that imperative.

Consider Ford’s experience in Chesterfield County. She joined the district of 64,000 students in July 2022, and in August, the county government audited the district’s IT assets. It was rough, and Ford had to make some serious changes.

In addition to needing consolidated asset management, “the ticketing system we used was antiquated and cumbersome, and it was frustrating for users,” she says.

EXPLORE: Get five tips for proactive asset management in K–12.

Now Ford is steering the district toward adoption of Incident IQ, a service management platform that combines asset tracking and trouble-ticket management.

In Incident IQ, “users and assets are linked in the system, so if I’m a teacher in my classroom, I’ll be able to see my computer and my projector,” she explains. “And I can click on one or all of those items and submit a ticket for a problem that I’m having.”

With a modernized solution such as this, Ford says, it will be “much easier to input new assets and then track them.”

“Incident IQ has an app,” she says. “If there is a serial number, which most pieces of tech hardware have, the app can pick up the serial number or a QR code and get it uploaded.”

Effective Asset Tracking Improves IT Response Times

There are several reasons to track and audit K—12 IT resources.

First and foremost, there’s accountability. “We’re a public entity, and we’re fiscally accountable to our patrons, so we must make sure that the funds that we receive are used appropriately,” says Jun Kim, director of technology at Moore Public Schools in Oklahoma. The district operates a one-to-one program for about 25,000 students and 3,000 staffers.

Effective tracking also makes IT more responsive. “In order to service something or answer a help ticket, it’s helpful for our technicians to know where that item is located and which exact item they need to look at,” Ford says.

DISCOVER: Learn how modern data platforms can help schools get work done.

Additionally, strong tracking and auditing capabilities support robust cybersecurity and more responsible management overall.

“If you don’t know what you have, you can’t defend it,” says Amy McLaughlin, cybersecurity program director at the Consortium for School Networking. “You don’t know if it’s gone missing. You don’t know how to fix it when it breaks, and that extends from the hardware into the software. If you don’t know what software services you’re running, who your vendors are, where the software is installed, you can’t patch and protect. You can’t deal with issues as they come up.”

Source: NY State Comptroller, “DiNapoli: School Districts Need to Improve Oversight of Technology Equipment,” March 16, 2023

Modern Asset Management Tools Help Streamline the Process

Several vendors offer robust asset management solutions.

ServiceNow’s IT asset management can automate IT lifecycle processes to minimize repetitive tasks and wasted resources. Flexera One lets users visualize their entire technology estate, from on-premises to Software as a Service and the cloud. And software asset management from Certero provides complete visibility into the software landscape, giving users control over license management and software governance.

Tools such as these can help raise the bar on K–12 cybersecurity efforts. “By seeing and understanding all your software at all times, when vulnerabilities become known, you can immediately see if you’re at risk and to what extent you may be affected,” Certero notes in a blog post.

RELATED: Here’s how Moore Public Schools is protecting student data.

School IT leaders say those kinds of modern capabilities are a must-have in the era of one-to-one computing. This is especially true for Moore Public Schools.

“We’re bound by state requirements and federal requirements like E-rate to track network equipment, such as switches and access points,” says Jun Kim. “The district must track everything, from refrigerators to furniture, from hotspots to large servers and journalism cameras. If it plugs in and glows, we have got to track it.”

In the past, Moore was like most districts and used multiple, mostly manual means of tracking IT assets. It was cumbersome and labor-intensive, and there was no easy way to report, Kim says. When a 2013 tornado hit, paperwork on thousands of systems literally blew away.

Incident IQ, or iiQ, “has streamlined our process,” he says. “When someone puts in a request to purchase a device, they use our system, and it’s now tied in with the purchase of that equipment. Once we get the equipment in, we use the same ticket number to process it and get it ready for deployment. Because of the information available in iiQ, we are able to track those devices with multiple filtering options, like purchase order numbers, purchase dates and location.”

Modernizing a school’s asset management system also saves money. With modernized tools to manage software assets, 11 percent of respondents in Flexera’s 2023 State of ITAM Report “realized more than $25 million, and 39 percent realized between $1 million and $10 million in savings and cost avoidance.”

Ford says this was the case for her team. She says that iiQ helped eliminate redundant or underused software, which saved money. Those extra funds made purchasing the tool a no-brainer and set up the district for successful asset management going forward.

Photography by Tyler Darden

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