The Dangers of a Homegrown Inventory Management System at Your School District

By Adam Rosenfield

Homegrown System Inventory School

You’ve put a lot of time and effort into your homegrown inventory management system. You built it because your district didn’t find existing software that met your unique needs. However, while the advantages of a custom-designed system can be alluring at first, the risks and costs over time exceed the initial benefits.

Many districts today are replacing their homegrown inventory management systems in favor of a third party vendor developed and supported application. Delaying the implementation of a solution can be detrimental to your district’s operational efficiency, costing your staff time, and your district thousands of dollars every year.

Here are four reasons to evaluate the worth of your homegrown inventory management system.

1. Staff Turnover Causes A Lapse In Knowledge
There are only a few people in your company who know the ins and outs of your homegrown system. So what happens when one of those staff members leaves?

Either that person will be replaced with someone who doesn’t know the system, or worse, the position will be eliminated altogether. In both scenarios, the knowledge it takes to maintain, enhance, and support the system will have left the district. Without trained staff who have the intimate understanding of how to maintain your homegrown solution, the system could go down, the database could become corrupt, current backups may not be available, or critical business functions may not work correctly. All of this places your district’s inventory management program at risk for failure.

Enterprise level solutions do not require the same level of technical oversight. The technology footprint in the district is limited to only firewall access and system integrations. Things like keeping up with the latest hardware requirements, database backups, application hosting, and system performance and reliability become the responsibility of the solution provider.

2. Software Development Is Not a School District’s Core Competency
As an instructional institution, your business is education and helping further the knowledge of your students. Resource allocation is a key in figuring out the balance between managing the operations of a district and identifying the skillsets in staff that are going to best support the district’s mission. Implementing an inventory management solution designed for K-12 allows you to focus more on employing staff for the purpose of educating students without sacrificing operational efficiencies.

3. Your District Doesn’t Have a Dedicated User Support Team
In-house inventory management systems consume a lot of district resources to keep them running effectively.

The developers will have to act as the front line of support whenever a problem strikes or someone needs help using the system. Having them in this role, while also working on maintenance and system upgrades can decrease the quality of support service. Your team will have to re-prioritize their tasks in order to make the updates, which can take them away from your district’s mission.

A software company that specializes in K-12 inventory management solutions will have teams of experts, from project managers to customer support, who can assist your district with inventory best practices, guidance, and options to help take your inventory management program to the next level. In addition to online support, solution providers, like Hayes Software Systems, offer in-person training, workshops, online manuals, and collaboration tools where you can get help from other districts who are also using the product.

4. Hidden Costs Add Up
Many districts think developing an in-house system will save money because their own programmers will be cheaper than going with a third party. However factoring in the costs associated with the design, development, continual upgrades, and support, the software ends up being more expensive and a greater risk than if purchased from a solution provider that specializes in inventory management for school districts.

Hardware and software upgrades are also costly and can lead to unintended consequences. An operating system upgrade may actually render your software useless until proper updates have been applied. Additionally, in-house feature upgrades cost money, and you’ll likely be competing for district technology resources with other departments. While you may see one feature as a priority, others may not. By working with a third party solution provider, you’re getting new features and functionality with every release.

Do you have other benefits to using an automated inventory management system over a homegrown system? Leave your tips in the comments section below!

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