In response to the pandemic, state and local government budgets saw a major increase in both annual funding and relief funds, with Australian school funding reaching $25.3 billion in 2022. Though this has presented extensive opportunities for state and local governments to improve educational IT investments in schools, it has also presented the challenge of ensuring these investments do not lead to an increase in waste or fraud risks.
The pandemic saw schools move to a distance learning model overnight. At this speed of change, agencies have been tempted to spend provided funds without necessarily considering the downstream impacts. However, IT administrators and decision-makers must be mindful to ensure IT system upgrades are not made in haste and are done so with a plan in place. Without close attention and oversight of spending, there is great potential for IT tool sprawl, which could potentially lead to more problems than before the pandemic started.
Here are three key things to be considered before introducing additional components or equipment to educational IT systems:
1. Invest in New Systems Wisely
With so much money to spend, it can be tempting to purchase the latest new tools on the market. But institutions must first determine how educators and students use these tools and what kind of impact they will have on outcomes. The most effective way to do this is by periodically assessing the application environment and questioning things such as how critical the application is to daily operations and whether there is any tool overlap. These questions will help determine whether or not the proper investments are being made for the future. With greater insight into the impacts of new systems and technology, leadership can make appropriate decisions about what tools should be consolidated, replaced, or upgraded. Alternatively, institutions should consider interoperable applications with a common platform, rather than continuously adding more and consequently, inviting unnecessary complexity.
2. Consider the limitations of your existing infrastructure
When given the opportunity to make major changes to a dated IT system, it’s crucial to consider the pressure the new IT systems can place on the entire infrastructure. Before moving forward with new tech, weak points in the infrastructure should be identified and mitigated. In dealing with these limitations, single-pane-of-glass monitoring tools are the ideal solution. These monitoring tools give network administrators a consolidated view of operations across complex infrastructure, unlike tools that work independently, these more holistic monitoring tools give network administrators a consolidated view of operations across complex infrastructure, with the added benefit of greater security capabilities. Having a coherent foundation of accurate and actionable monitoring data means IT techs can proactively overcome issues before they impact day-to-day operations.
3. Don’t over-monitor your IT systems
While monitoring the new changes to your IT systems is imperative, don’t overdo it. Too much monitoring can be problematic for IT administrators, as an influx of alerts and conflicting data can make it difficult to identify the real issues. Coupled with the fact that these tools disrupt the resources needed for learning, these processes can quickly become costly and inefficient. To monitor the changes taking place in your IT environment with efficiency, you must know who your “end customer” is and what they are looking for – i.e., students and teachers. Monitoring drives decision-making, so it is beneficial to invest in a comprehensive, consolidated monitoring tool that can neatly aggregate preferred metrics, rather than implementing an abundance of disorganised tools.
The pandemic has undoubtedly changed how IT departments run within educational institutions, as well as the decision-making processes surrounding fund spending. In light of this, IT administrators can avoid IT tool sprawl by implementing effective strategies, efficient monitoring, and deep consideration of the impacts on legacy systems. In doing so, their institutions can run efficiently both in the aftermath of the pandemic and for many years to come.