Total Cost of Ownership is “a methodology that allows you to measure and understand the costs of acquiring and maintaining all of your networks, computers, devices, and staff.” (CoSN)
When making plans for the school district’s desired state of technology, it is imperative that IT leaders are aware of all the costs associated with purchases. As stated above, the district has most likely incurred some of the costs already, but new costs may arise as new technologies are introduced.
Scenario: A district transitions from ceiling-mounted data projectors to televisions mounted on the walls. Adding an electrical receptacle behind the television ensures no electrical cables are exposed. A wall mount and speakers are also needed. The remote control for the television is another necessary component which must be tethered to the television to prevent loss, and a supply of batteries must be available. Additionally, the disposal costs of the ceiling-mounted projectors should be accounted for.
In this scenario, one might think that the television is the only item that needs to be purchased. However, the hidden costs for each television include:
- Extended warranty or protection plan
- Power receptacle
- Wall mount
- Remote control connector
- Batteries for remote control
- Creation of the work order for mounting the television to the wall and adding additional power receptacles
- Time to complete the work order (in a way that doesn’t disturb students in the classroom)
- Disposal of old equipment
- Periodic wellness checks on the equipment for battery replacement or maintenance
Put all proposed purchases through the Total Cost of Ownership lens to ensure there are no unexpected costs. In the following “considerations” section we have broken down district technology into different categories and listed TCO considerations for each:
- Extended Warranties
- Protection Plans
- Make sure your internal team is certified by many OEMs to do repairs in-house.
- Leverage high school students and student tech teams so they can learn industry skills and earn certifications.
- If outsourcing repair, compare manufacturer-offered as well as third-party vendors which are often equally competent but cost far less.
Considerations for Internal v External Repairs:
Will the district be maintaining the client devices internally or will a device protection contract be taken out on devices? Here are some considerations for each scenario:
For either scenario
- A ticketing process for reporting device issues
- A collection process
- Where will the devices go for repair?
- How often should devices be picked up for repair?
- What is the acceptable time that a device can be in for repair?
- What does the student or teacher use while their device is in for repair?
- How will you keep track of the loaner device?
- Who checks out the loaner device to the student?
- A redistribution process
- How is the repaired device returned to the student/teacher?
- Will your department keep spare parts for repair?
- Where will you store them?
- How low should supply go before you order more parts?
- Does your repair team have:
- The appropriate tools for the job?
- Room to:
- Collect broken devices?
- Repair broken devices?
- Stage broken devices for pick up?
- A record of each repair along with repair time?
- Who is the individual responsible for contacting the device repair company?
- How do devices get picked up for shipment to the repair service center?
- Is this during a regular time or on an as-needed basis?
- What communication takes place between the device repair service center and the school district?
- How do devices get returned to the district?
- What is the district’s procedure for returning the device to the end user?
- Service level agreements (SLAs)
- When does it begin and end?
- Who is the DRI (directly responsible individual) for payment?
- Will the contract be renewed?
- Devices issued to individuals (desktops, mobile devices, accessories like keyboards and headsets, assistive technology)
- Shared technology used in classrooms, labs, and media centers
- What is the lifecycle plan for these devices? Trying to extend the lifespan of devices beyond their projected life could include unwanted service costs, incompatible operating system versions or device brands, and emergency expenditures for replacements.
- When will replacement devices be purchased?
- Will you be moving older devices to different sites as newer devices are deployed? If so, a significant amount of time should be devoted to accurate asset record transfers, device reconfiguring, cleaning of devices, and movement to the new site.
- What is your device disposal plan? Technology needs to be disposed of in an eco-friendly and secure manner.
- WiFi network including access points
- UPS (uninterrupted power supply)
- Do you have a ticketing system for sites to report coverage issues?
- Do you have a way to monitor your network?
- Do you have a system of automated notifications so that your technical team is made aware when there is a coverage outage?
- Have you created heat maps of coverage for your buildings and do you have a plan to increase coverage in low-coverage or high-density areas? Do you have a way for your end-users to report lack of coverage?
- Will you contract for maintenance of your infrastructure hardware?
- If you don’t contract for hardware maintenance:
- Do you have professional learning available to teach technical staff how to configure switches and servers?
- Will you have a set of spare switches available for swapping out when a switch goes down?
- Are you ready to support 24/7 in-house on-call services?
- Ongoing maintenance
As many schools shift to digital learning, they are seeing a sharp reduction in printing-related costs:
- Moving to a paperless strategy for instruction and operations can save significant time and resources in copy/printing personnel, paper consumption, printing supplies, and hardware maintenance.
- Professional learning to support this shift—leveraging digital resources, transforming teaching pedagogy which results in less paper use, using a learning management system—will further reduce your need for printers and copiers.
- Many student records may still be paper-based. Consider scanning and digitizing existing student records and saving them within the district’s student information system with role-based permissions for access.
- Content and curriculum
- Educational administration applications
- Infrastructure software
Moving to a digital environment results in cost savings by reassigning allocated funds for paper-based resources to digital resources. Updates to curricular materials happen faster, and digital resources offer more non-linear content, embedded checks for knowledge, and dynamic opportunities for engagement.
- Consider applications needed by operational departments (like Human Resources and Facilities) and ensure they are not over-purchasing seat licenses for named users. Thanks to lifecycle planning, you are able to track the renewal windows for all software licenses in your district.
- Knowing when to review software contracts for renewal, considering multi-year contracts, and putting caps on how much a contract cost can increase from year to year are all ways in which contract costs could be reduced and become more affordable over time.
- Prioritize solutions that make user management and signing onto those applications easier. It does no good to spend funds on digital resources that users have a difficult time accessing or have barriers to access.
- Infrastructure software needs to be reviewed regularly to see if it is still necessary. As time goes on, solution providers are morphing their best-of-class software into best-of-show in that they are starting to bundle multiple services into one product. Substantial cost savings could result if it is discovered that there are duplicated services provided because that means one paid service could be eliminated.
- Reviewing and searching for overall systems that can measure the use or efficacy of the hardware or of all the software you have purchased could help your department prioritize purchases in the future when funding is not so plentiful.
Direct Labor of Technology Staff
- IT support of district staff
- Professional development and training
- Content and curriculum development
Workforce planning and the calculation of the total cost of ownership for technology support is essential in building a solid sustainability plan. When calculating for positions, the usual salary and benefits may be calculated, but there also may be hidden costs that you have not included, such as:
- The cost of onboarding new employees
- Funds put into training IT staff on the support of new technologies introduced to the district
- Support funding for IT staff to earn technical certifications
- If IT staff travel throughout the district between schools, the cost of mileage and lost time due to travel
Another cost that may be overlooked is the cost of the educational system if the technology issues are not remediated in a timely manner. If there is loss of work and production, hidden costs could appear with emergency services rendered.