3 Ways IT Teams Can Manage Tool Sprawl

“Tool sprawl”—particularly in edtech—is an increasing challenge. My colleague Brandon Shopp (), group vice president of product strategy at SolarWinds, has some great advice on how to keep edtech tool sprawl in check.

Since schools transitioned to remote learning, districts have added or upgraded their IT education technology and monitoring tools to provide better outcomes for all. But it’s not necessarily a good thing. The saturation of edtech tools may be leading to wasted money, inefficiencies, and missed opportunities.

In 2020, the deployment of edtech tools in schools increased by nearly 90% year-over-year.

With such a heavy reliance on technology, tool sprawl seems almost inevitable. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are three things school districts must consider before falling into the trap of adding more applications or monitoring components to their IT systems.

  1. Commission or decommission?

It’s tempting to invest in the latest shiny new solution. But instead of rushing to commission more apps, tough decisions must be made about where opportunities exist to contain the application environment, rather than continue to saturate it.

The best way to do this is to conduct periodic assessments of the application environment. IT pros and administrators should ask a few fundamental questions: how critical is the app to daily operations? Does it align with the district’s mission? What data does it house? Does it overlap with another tool? Is it fully utilized? Finally, is it maintenance-intensive?

With these insights, officials can have a meaningful conversation about consolidating, retiring, replacing, upgrading, or commissioning new technology based on what’s best for students, faculty, and the mission.

  1. Plan for and mitigate infrastructure limitations

Tool sprawl isn’t just costly and inefficient; it puts pressure on the entire IT infrastructure. Pre-pandemic school networks and systems weren’t designed to accommodate a remote schooling model where everyone connects at once. However, through trial and error, schools pivoted and scaled their infrastructure perimeter to support the remote classroom and a surge in network demand.

Because high-performing networks are more critical than ever, to accommodate new software and hardware loads, weak points in the infrastructure should be identified and mitigated. Single-pane-of-glass monitoring tools are ideal for this because they give network administrators a consolidated view of network operations across their complex and sprawling infrastructure. This ensures they can proactively deal with issues before they impact learning and day-to-day operations.

With a stable, scalable, and flexible infrastructure plan in place, districts will be better positioned to handle sudden changes or pivot when the next pandemic or disaster strikes. 

  1. Understand potential network conflicts

While it’s easy to think more tools equate to more insights, a plethora of monitoring solutions, each focused on a different piece of the infrastructure, can consume valuable bandwidth and disrupt resources needed for learning. Consolidating network monitoring tools onto a common platform can help mitigate this problem–without drowning in alerts and data.

Monitoring tools aren’t the only issue. Day-to-day apps used by students and faculty also cause network conflicts and slowdowns. When IT teams understand which applications are mission-critical, like student record systems or E911 services, they can create policies that grant them bandwidth priority.

Read the full article in eSchool News here.

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