Operating under their tenet “Innovation, Commitment, and Excellence,” Midway ISD had plans to embark on a district-wide 1:1 program in 2014. Under the new 1:1 agenda, each student in grades K-12 and every staff member would be assigned their own iPad, while each pre-K classroom would have a class set of iPads.
Prior to the launch of the program, the district’s Executive Director of Technology, Seth Hansen, and Systems Communication Administrator, Jeremy Morgan, knew their existing system for tracking assets would not match the demands of 1:1 requirements. “With every student having a device and most expected to be responsible for it 24/7, we knew we had to have a better way to track everything,” said Hansen
The district struggled to efficiently track inventory with an in-house database and spreadsheets. A major problem with the existing process was the lack of transparency throughout the district. “If a lab assistant was doing inventory at a campus and input a wrong serial number, they would have to contact me, and I would have to go into the database to look it up and fix it. It was a bad process that frustrated staff,” said Hansen. Additionally, because campus staff couldn’t access inventory information from the district database, they had to also keep their own asset records in spreadsheets so they could monitor what devices they had in inventory. Of course, it wasn’t uncommon for the database and the spreadsheets not to match up, which was a problem for audits. These independently managed campus spreadsheets also posed a problem for new hires who would come in mid-year to find the inventory records out of date or no trace of the last staff members’ spreadsheet.
Before switching to an automated asset inventory system, if a campus started the year with 30 laptops and ended the year with only 25, those 5 missing devices were never truly accounted for. Their processes were simply too cumbersome to enable staff to follow through with implementing accountability practices to the building, principal or staff levels.
Just as Hansen and Morgan began exploring a more complete solution for inventory management to help with the launch of the 1:1, bad luck struck one of the campuses – a fire. “A lot of equipment was in that building and for insurance purposes, we had to have a good count. Luckily, we had recently conducted an inventory using our spreadsheets, but we weren’t 100 percent confident we had a record of all their assets,” said Hansen. The knowledge that the 1:1 was just around the corner, and the fact that the district’s data just couldn’t be trusted, persuaded Hansen and his team that a change was necessary.
Hansen and Morgan began the search for their inventory management system six months ahead of their 1:1 program launch set for August 2013. “We needed a better product, and a better way to track everything. We looked at several different inventory software solutions out there. We decided that TIPWeb-IT was the best fit for us because the application was built from the ground up for education,” said Hansen. “The oversight we need at the IT department level of all building data is necessary for us. But just as critical is a systems’ ability to integrate data from our Student Information System to support the quick assignment of student and staff devices.”
During the TIPWeb-IT implementation process, one crucial decision the team debated was what to do with their existing data: use it or not use it? Ultimately, they decided the existing data was too unreliable, so they moved forward without migrating historical asset information into their new system.
Going into the project Hansen and team expected the transition to TIPWeb-IT would be daunting given staff tension around inventory already. But, with a team-oriented approach, Hansen reports that the district staff successfully conducted inventory at all 10 campuses within two weeks.
In the beginning, there was hesitation among staff to let go of their spreadsheets and trust the new system. “Sometimes we would have to talk to them and say, ‘It’s okay, let it go. The new system is more accurate,’” said Morgan. Eventually the staff grew tired of doing the double-entry process they had become so accustomed to and learned to appreciate the speed and accuracy TIPWeb-IT allowed.
The district benefits from using TIPWeb-IT for inventory management on a day-to-day basis in time and effort saved by their staff. The web based, single database system gives them all access to update and report on their inventory data from anywhere they are. No longer do the lab assistants have to call into the technology office to find out what their last campus audit results were. They now have real-time data at their fingertips, whenever they need it. Audits are also a much simpler process, having gone from taking months to complete a campus inventory sweep to a matter of days.
And even more than time, Hansen notes that confidence in the data is something they’re grateful for today. “Financially we are in a much better spot than before. If we were to have some sort of disaster, or if someone questioned our records, we’d be able to provide the correct data. We have an excellent grasp of where things are, and what our monetary costs are. From my seat at the district, I can run a report in TIPWeb-IT and see how many iPads we have that are out for repair at any given moment,” said Hansen. “Financial responsibility and peace of mind are huge benefits here for us.”