Inventory, Computers and Mobile Devices

If you work in a large enough district long enough you’ll experience not just one but multiple instances of major property loss.  These losses are not just the result of theft, but are due to fires, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornados to name just some of the most common forms of catastrophic property loss.  Then, no matter how busy you thought you were before, the headache of documenting your losses begins.  Suddenly the position of inventory specialist that everyone vetoed due to cost seems like false savings.  You now have to painstakingly put together a list of your losses.  You print off a list of inventory assigned to the site and embarrassingly it lists 20 Apple II+ computers.  You groan.  After numerous time-consuming meetings with school staff a more-or-less accurate list of lost equipment emerges. You then have to check this against purchase orders to obtain (fingers crossed) asset tag numbers and serial numbers. You trace through how this stuff was inventoried.  You discover that the computers that were actually destroyed are all listed in the inventory system as residing at the district office, since they were all centrally purchased.  The Apple II+ computers were obsoleted years ago, but not through proper channels.  Although the actual disposition is lost in the mists of time, one tight-lipped employee who has been at the school for the past 30 years, if properly cajoled, might reveal that the Apple II+ computers were replaced with upgrades in 1992.  At that point the school just sold the old ones to a local church group that provided after school care.  A win-win for everyone in the school’s opinion. How the proceeds from the sale were spent is anyone’s guess.

So the example is an exaggeration. It is not all this bad.  But unbelievably tight budgets and pressure to reduce overhead and put all dollars into the classroom means that inventory systems and procedures are generally not up to par.  The Santa Clara County grand jury report from 2009 painfully points out many of the deficiencies of asset management and inventory systems at school districts. Add to these challenges the increase in the number of mobile devices.  Inventory systems assign equipment to buildings.  But how do you assign a laptop computer used by a nurse who travels between four sites?  How do you inventory a tablet that a maintenance worker uses to record work orders as he or she works at any of fifty sites?  Well, you probably have to show the laptop as residing in the district’s central Health Services Department and the tablet as residing in the Maintenance Office. And this is just the beginning.  With the increase in BYOD (bring your own device) and the imminent shift to electronic textbooks (will every student be given a device?) the number of mobile devices is just getting ready to explode. But here’s the good news.  Control your computers and mobile devices and the inventory problem is probably 80% solved.

It is time to explore mobile device management solutions.  To quote webopeda:

“Most mobile device management solutions provide organizations with end-to-end security —  meaning the mobile apps, network and data used by the mobile device (in addition to the mobile device itself) are managed by an organization’s IT department with a single mobile device software product. Some enterprise MDM solutions combine mobile security and expense management in a single product. Depending on the vendor and what specific features it supports, you can typically expect mobile device management software to contain some or all of the following features:  management and support of mobile applications, mobile policy management, inventory management, security management and telecom service management.”

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