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3 Ways Educational Institutions Can Avoid IT Tool Sprawl

Avoid Educational Tool Sprawl
As more and more money enters the state and local government budgets from pandemic relief funds like The Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) program, the prospect of IT tool sprawl is becoming more prevalent than ever before. While the SLFRF program has presented enormous opportunities for state and local agencies, waste and fraud are almost a given, considering the amount of money being distributed to bolster agency systems. During the pandemic, things changed quickly, while schools immediately moved to a distance learning model. At this speed of change, agencies have been tempted to spend funds from the SLFRF without considering downstream impacts. But CIOs must be mindful of long-term organizational goals and how things will look once there is an end to the pandemic, and how things will play out in the years to come. Without close attention and oversight around spending, there’s much greater potential for IT tool sprawl, leading to more problems than before the pandemic began. Brandon Shopp, GVP of Product Strategy for With SolarWinds, contributed an article to ECampusNews advising CIOs about what they should consider before adding more components or equipment to their IT systems. Here they are:
  1. Be Strategic About New Systems. 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’re having on outcomes. Shopp advises, “the best way to do this is to conduct periodic assessments of the application environment and ask a few basic questions. How critical is the application to daily operations? Does it align with the school’s mission? What data does it house? Does the data flow between systems? Is there tool overlap? Is it maintenance-intensive?” 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. As an alternative, Shopp says, “instead of simply adding more apps, institutions should consider interoperable ones with a common platform.”
  2. Consider legacy infrastructure limitations. When given the opportunity to make major changes to a dated IT system, CIOs may not fully consider the pressure new IT systems can put on the entire infrastructure. As such, “weak points in the IT infrastructure should be identified and mitigated,” Shopp Says. “Single-pane-of-glass monitoring tools are ideal for this because, unlike tools that work independently, they give network administrators a consolidated view of network operations across their complex and sprawling infrastructure. With a seamless foundation of accurate and actionable monitoring data, they can proactively deal with issues before they impact learning and day-to-day operations.”
  3. IT Monitoring – Don’t overdo it. While monitoring the new changes to your IT systems is imperative, don’t overdo it. Shopp says,” too much monitoring creates headaches for IT administrators. Stove-piped dashboards, a sea of alerts, and conflicting data can make it hard to identify real issues. These tools also consume bandwidth and disrupt the resources needed for learning. It all adds up to a costly and inefficient way to monitor any environment.” To efficiently monitor the changes taking place in your IT environment, you must know who your “end customer” is and what they are looking for. Monitoring drives decision making, so “consider investing in a comprehensive, consolidated monitoring tool that neatly aggregates preferred metrics—rather than implementing a broad range of disorganized tools,” says Shopp.
Undoubtedly, the pandemic has changed how educational institutions run their IT departments and decision-making about where funds should be spent next. That said, with the right strategies in place, efficient monitoring, and thoughtful consideration of the impacts on legacy systems, educational agencies can avoid IT tool sprawl and run efficiently for years to come.
Omar Rafik
Omar has 36 years of professional experience in the areas of data communications to include X.25, TCP/IP and Satellite communications with 10 years as a…
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