“You have to use tech to manage the tech,” Sexsmith explained.
Mobile devices, automated help desks, personalized learning resources, software virtualization, and cloud-based services are becoming the norm for K-12 schools around the country. But with shrinking budgets and staff reductions, school IT departments say it’s getting harder to juggle so many moving parts.
“The problem of three years ago—how to do more with less—is still here today, it’s just becoming even more of a problem for schools and IT officials,” said David Castro, director of public and private-sector marketing for Kaseya, a company that provides IT systems management software for some 500 schools and districts in the U.S.
Kaseya conducted an informal survey of nearly 200 IT directors from public and private schools around the country to better understand the nuances of the problem. According to the survey, school IT professionals said there are three main goals they need to achieve in their department:
- Provide a higher-quality learning experience;
- Do more with less; and
- Cut costs.
Nearly 70 percent of respondents said their biggest IT challenge right now is “dealing with budget cuts,” along with “keeping all equipment online and operating,” which came in second.
The survey provides a snapshot of what school IT leaders are being asked to take on and how they’d like to accomplish their goals.
Two-thirds of respondents said they currently use automation—managing routine day-to-day maintenance tasks without human intervention—for some IT functions, such as software patches, updates, and computer performance monitoring.
However, a whopping 76 percent of respondents said they are either considering automation for the first time this year or are exploring even more ways to automate various tasks.
“Automation isn’t going anywhere,” said Castro, “because it’s one of the only effective ways to do more with less.”
Staying ahead of the game
Knowing the challenges ahead, one county decided it was time to take some of the pressure off its limited IT staff.