Now that you have vetted products and considered the total cost of ownership for the purchases you plan to make, it is time to build your lifecycle plan for the new purchases you are making. The plan you create will be the baseline for your next 5-10 years: It lays out when current purchases will be sunset and when replacements need to be reviewed and purchased.
A lifecycle plan assists districts in understanding the schedule of what is coming in and out of use. A lifecycle plan includes:
- A detailed list of every technology asset the school district has, including all devices and other hardware, operating systems, software and applications.
- The names of the asset owners and the business processes for each item.
- Dates of all purchases (so age can actively be determined), updates, and reviews.
- Documentation of how things work together in the district’s technology environment.
- A record of expiration dates, including contracts, warranties, and when the resource will no longer be supported.
Reasons for having a robust and active lifecycle plan include:
- Technology leaders can take advantage of the best opportunities when they present themselves. For example, knowing when software licenses are expiring may enable leaders to find solutions that combine multiple services for cost savings.
- It ensures continuity of your business processes. For example, if there were to be a security breach, being able to quickly identify all impacted technology services is essential. Dependencies are identified through the lifecycle management process.
- Surprises and emergency unanticipated costs are minimized or eliminated. For example, when system or support failures happen, there may be costly and time-consuming reparations. When a district is in crisis mode to fix something, they may incur unanticipated costs versus if it were a planned solution.
- District IT leaders, principals, tech staff, and end users will know when support and replacements are planned so they can manage the change within their sites regarding transition to the new technology, professional learning, and change management messaging.
Steps to lifecycle planning
- Implementation and management
- Asset disposal
Implementation and Management
As hardware is installed, implemented, and managed, how it is done helps build the foundation for the lifecycle of the purchases you have made. Building expectations upon what the hardware will be used for, how the hardware will be treated, and how often it will be checked upon and maintained are all factors that impact the life of devices. Work closely with building principals to establish expectations on how students and staff will manage devices and involve parents as partners in device management at home to help extend the life of 1:1 devices. Some school districts have built parent academies so parents can learn device care and best practices alongside their students.
In the technology department, it is key to build internal processes and procedures for the preparation of devices for your end users. Some school districts prepare their new devices in-house, while others contract out for “white glove” service in which items are inventoried and assigned to schools, asset tags are added, all imaging is completed, and the devices are added to the asset management system. As the devices are deployed to the end users, it will be important to support the devices by impacting the culture of care for hardware that is checked out to users.
Robust asset management and inventory systems are key in helping the technology department keep close tabs on the devices, where they are, who is using them, and what the repair on the device looks like through the lifecycle process. There should be an efficient way to check devices out to students, check the repair history on items, and record when devices were retired from the system. Periodically collect the devices for inspection and maintenance, although some school districts with a vigilant culture of technology support have students fill out a form assessing the state of their devices without collection and inspection.
A high-performing helpdesk and ticketing system, coupled with communication coordination with other departments, is important for success. Do your users know where to go for support? Your tech support and professional learning teams should confer often so common technology support topics that the helpdesk remediates can be distributed in a just-in-time fashion. Likewise, tech support should coordinate communication out to students, families, and caregivers. Decide who is responsible for the proactive monitoring of the hardware and software systems’ performance metrics, and who will evaluate ongoing systems of support, warranties, and proposed solutions.
Thanks to your lifecycle plan, refresh schedules are easy to anticipate and plan for. For example, student and teacher devices purchased in response to remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic wil need to be refreshed in 3-5 years. Cycles can run from 3-5 years, and more than one cycle should be recorded for longevity in the plan. While the second cycle may be aspirational, it is still important to include, as it will provide goals to move toward. What does the refresh cycle look like for each of the assets? How can they be placed on the refresh calendar so that there are not large budget spikes and dips in expenditures? Will your district be making large one-time purchases with internal funds, or will your district lease devices or hardware to keep the spending budget lines more even and consistent?
Don’t forget to consider the disposal of old assets. For some products, there are peaks in resale value where there may be an optimal time to trade in devices for new. Keeping residual value top of mind during lifecycle management will be very important if the district is experiencing or anticipating a budget shortfall. Planning for asset obsolescence and disposal is important because if not planned, it would be considered an unanticipated expense. The district should not forget its environmental impact responsibility as well as security responsibilities. Districts should contract out for partners in the disposal process so that hard drives with sensitive data can be destroyed and disposed of in an environmentally responsible manner.