January 23, 2019 | Budget

Harness the Power of Data to Make Budget Decisions

Instead of relying on assumptions and guesswork, use data to answer these 3 common questions.

4 min

How do you sort through endless opinions, requests and assumptions to make tough decisions for your computer labs? And then once you make a decision- like expanding a computer lab, reducing software licenses, or upgrading hardware, how do you justify it to administration?

Instead of relying on assumptions and guesswork, use data to answer these 3 common questions.

1. Is the software we’re paying for actually getting used?

When considering whether to add or reduce software licenses, you’ll want to look at the maximum number of instances an application was used at one time. Often you’ll find that a percentage of the licenses are never touched, which allows you to reduce the total number you’re paying for (woohoo!). If you find that licenses are reaching maximum usage consistently, consider adding more.

Application Launch History Report
Application Launch History Report

The above report shows how many times Adobe Photoshop was used each day over the course of one month. You can see that 25 licenses exist, but no more than 16 are ever used at once. With this data in hand, you can justify reducing the number of Photoshop licenses in this lab.

Since LabStats software was designed for universities, you can set parameters in this report to get the most accurate data. Select a custom date range (consider one month, one semester, one year, etc.) while excluding weekends and holidays. You can also use this report to see installed software and web applications, and compare similar applications like Photoshop and GIMP.

2. Should I add more computers?

Before you go out and buy more computers, take a look at the highest number of computers that are being used at the same time. If nearly all the computers in a lab are occupied, you may need to add more or increase lab hours. If you’re seeing that your computers are underutilized, you can confidently deny the request and work on solutions to increase use of what you already have (like displaying open computers to students via LabMaps).

Computer Lab Peak Usage History Report Graph
Peak Usage History Report

The above report shows the total number of computers used in a lab each day over the course of one month. The dips represent weekends as this lab is closed during weekends. You can tell that on the busiest days, only 45 of the 60 computers in this lab are used at once. If this trend continues throughout the year, then there’s no need to add computers to this lab.

The Peak Usage History report opens up opportunities to dig deeper and try different solutions. If you find unused computers, look for a commonality (older versions, missing software, located closest to the lab manager, etc.). Once you spot a trend, then you can develop a solution like focusing upgrades on the unused computers, moving them to another lab, or removing them completely. LabStats allows you to quickly recognize what’s happening in your labs, and then dive deeper to come up with the best solution for your campus.

3. Do we need more (or less) computer labs on campus?

Adding a computer lab is no small request, and not something you can leave up to guesswork. To make this decision confidently, you’ll need to be able to compare the activity across all your current computer labs. Oftentimes labs are vastly different sizes, so instead of comparing the number of computers used in each, look at the percentage of computers used in each lab.

Computer Lab Usage History Report Graph
Usage History Report

The above report shows the percentage of use across 8 labs for one month. Each of these labs are different sizes (for instance, the Library has 400 computers and Acadia has 20). Since none of the labs exceed 60% usage over the course of this month, it doesn’t seem necessary to add another lab.

The Usage History report may also reveal locations on campus that see the most activity. If you have funds to add a computer lab to your campus, the data can show you where it would be best placed (perhaps near another busy lab).

You can also use this report to see trends. If the data revealed that smaller labs were at 90% capacity while the one big lab (the library) was at 20% capacity, you might conclude that students on your campus prefer smaller lab spaces, and then move computers in the library to smaller study rooms or other places on campus.

Thinking about closing a lab? Run a Usage History report to identify the lab with the lowest percentage of use, so you can close a lab with the least effect on student experience.

The next time a big request comes across your desk, or you need to make a change in your campus computer labs, harness the power of data to justify your decision.