The Best Time of Year to Conduct an Inventory Audit (Hint: It’s not May!)

Think you know the best time to audit inventory? Consider these 5 reasons to change your audit schedule.

Best time to audit inventory like desks and chairs at a school

By Gena Blankenship

Many districts complete inventory audits at the end of the academic school year when staff, teachers, and students are already stressed to the max. Often, crazy schedules and competing priorities cause the audit to go undone, forcing you to use inaccurate and outdated inventory information to plan for the coming year. Is that really the best time to audit inventory?

In my experience, completing your inventory audit in the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is much easier for all involved. Here are 5 reasons you should consider conducting your audits in late fall, instead of the end of the academic year.

1. You won’t be competing with end-of-year student assessments.

Audits conducted at the end of the academic year can disrupt important formative assessments, such as short-cycle or yearly state standardized testing. A scanning team that walks into a computer lab or classroom during a formative assessment can distract students and possibly compromise test security. There are fewer formative assessments in the late fall so you have more freedom to schedule your audit. But, take into consideration your teachers’ summative assessment schedule (teacher-created tests and end-of-unit quizzes) and try to work around them as best you can.

2. Staff will have more time to complete the audit.

A successful audit requires staff participation. Schedules are already jam-packed in May/June and it’s tough for staff to squeeze in the tasks associated with an audit. Your staff have first-hand knowledge of asset locations and how they are used. Your scanning team may not know that a certain cart of laptops gets shared with all 5th grade classrooms, or that the iPads are assigned to students who are in different classrooms during different times. It can be hard to scan items that staff take home during May/June audits, as staff may have left for vacation. During a late fall audit, staff and teachers are more likely to have the time to pull inventory out of cabinets and desk drawers so it’s readily available for the audit team. This practice allows the team to get in and out of the classroom quickly, causing less of a distraction.

3. Assets are more likely to be in their assigned locations.

In May/early summer, assets may be moved around due to maintenance or construction. Many schools are thoroughly cleaned during the summer and everything is taken out of the classroom so floors can be waxed and walls painted. Audits are very challenging to perform when inventory is temporarily stored in hallways and gyms, instead of their assigned locations.  In late fall, inventory is more likely to be in the correct location.

4. The reconciliation phase will be easier.

With good planning, the scanning portion of an audit can be done quickly but the reconciliation phase often takes much longer. During reconciliation it becomes imperative that auditors are able to speak with staff members to help track down items that are misplaced or did not get scanned. Auditing in May/early summer can make the reconciliation phase very difficult. The reconciliation team may be looking for items that were taken home for the summer, or the employee who knows what happened to the item could be off contract and unreachable.

5. Your budget for next year will be more accurate.

Most districts create their budget for the next academic year around March or April. If there is a recent audit of technology assets that has been completely reconciled, that data can be used to put together a budget for the coming year.  A standard set of reports explaining the availability, age, and cost of assets can help a Principal know exactly what he or she needs to purchase to keep their technology up to date and functional for the next school year.

At the end of the day, every district is different. The secret to getting your audit timing just right is to involve the building leadership in your planning process. Ask your biggest stakeholders when they think is the best time to audit inventory. These key people can tell you what is happening in their building and how they can make the process easier for your scanning team. Explain your processes and what they’ll get in return, and let them help you accomplish your audit goals.

Another best practice that I found was to complete three different types of audits throughout the year. This made our annual audits easier and boosted my data accuracy without burdening my staff or budget. Regardless of when you conduct your audits, an inventory management system like TIPWeb-IT (for assets) or TIPWeb-IM (for textbooks) will improve their accuracy and consistency.


Gena Blankenship served as the Director of Technology at Deming Public Schools (NM) for 20 years, growing the district’s education technology program from 900 computers to 6,000+ computers and assets. Recently retired, she enjoys working on projects around the house with her husband and spending time with her horses.

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