Getting IT Together

As technology evolves, inventory management is more important than ever

In the early days of asset management, districts often pieced together inventories with Excel spreadsheets that had been handed down from generations for whom the most complicated pieces of equipment were 3M overhead projectors. As time and technology marched on and equipment inventories grew, those Excel spreadsheets quickly got out of hand. Once your district is ready to take that next step to a more robust inventory management system, where do you start?

The ideal management solution will allow inventory data to be collapsed into a single system that tracks equipment by purchase, serial number, warranty date, and job. It also will allow you to create customizable asset reports. Here are some basic steps to take as you begin the journey to purchasing an equipment management system:

1 Define your process and understand your database. The tool you select will be the backbone of your inventory management system. Learn how the system works and complete a needs analysis of your own environment. Ultimately, what do you—the end user— want to get out of it?

2 Define your roles in this process. Who is your purchaser? Who is your receiver? Who is the person that makes the bottom-line decisions about how your district will manage any changes? If your procedure must change, who propagates that information to your team and ensures that standards are followed? Consensus is very important so that information stays consistent.

3 Know your equipment. At minimum, have someone on your team who knows the equipment before you enter it in your database.

4 Create a solid naming convention and data entry procedure. Construct a data dictionary to eliminate redundancy. Know how you want to enter items into your system from the beginning. It will save you a lot of time in the end.

5 Documentation and control, control, control. AV management must begin with control. The system cannot work if too many keys are made available for your storage space. This has less to do with security than with how equipment can be innocently misplaced.

6 Analyze how many people must be involved to do your management efficiently. Less is always better—it ensures control—but having additional eyes to double-check your work and serve as back-up is always good. You definitely don’t want to take that week-long vacation to Bora Bora and discover that your whole system has shut down while you were gone. A week of mistakes can turn into a year-long nightmare.

AV inventory management can be a bear. It’s a burden that very few staff members volunteer to take on. But whether or not you have one person managing a few schools, or several managing a whole district, you can’t go wrong by following the steps laid out above.

Mary K. McDaniel is a member of the Academic Technology Support division of the Office of Information Technology at CU Boulder.