Regardless of whether it’s a few dozen classroom projectors or a large-venue model for a campus theater, procuring projection gear may seem like the beginning of a college career. Specifying the right equipment for the right space, however, starts years earlier when the IT staff and administrators put together the school’s strategic plan and annual capital request.

The goal is to enhance the school’s ability to teach. While the strategic plan and annual capital request are very different documents, they must complement each other to be effective.

• A long-term vision of where the school will be over a five-year period, the strategic plan treats the school as an integrated whole and concentrates on the big picture items and educational goals of the institution. There should be sections that deal with everything from class size and assessments to making sure that every classroom has a high-speed WiFi connection, a projector and other accoutrements of modern higher education.
• By contrast, the capital request deals with a specific department or physical part of the campus and details the exact work, devices and software needed to bring the strategic plan to life. It should have all the details that the strategic plan ignored, like how many of each projector will be required, when they’ll be installed and by whom. It often contains floorplans and wiring diagrams so it can be sent to vendors and integrators for bidding.

Done right, these documents mesh to provide a roadmap for an institution’s digital focus on education. If done poorly or ignored, expect to have waste, duplication and items getting lost in the shuffle. Here’re 8 best practices to make the most of a strategic plan and capital request.

Best Practice: Prepare
When writing the strategic plan have the big picture firmly in mind. Think of every aspect of education and try to have a floorplan in front of you to make sure that you include every physical part of the campus.

Best Practice: Consolidate
Let’s say your school has 250 classrooms with a variety of projectors from six or eight different vendors with a variety of ages, brightness levels and resolutions. It should be a key best practice goal of your strategic plan to consolidate them to one vendor with a standard model or two. This will not only save on troubleshooting and maintenance but chances are that it’ll cut expenses by needing to stockpile fewer lamps.

Best Practice: Timing
As you create the capital request, include specific timing, an implementation schedule and penalties for late or shoddy work. This is critical because the last thing you want is a classroom without an operating projector for a scheduled class.

Best Practice: Off-Hours
Do your best to hide the work by scheduling it during holidays, at night, or on weekends. Better yet, often the work can have the lest impact on instruction if it’s scheduled during the interregnum period between semesters.

Best Practice: Training
Everything new requires some training so make sure it’s someone’s responsibility to get students and teachers acquainted with the new gear. This can be in a quick seminar, online instructions or just by including a cheat sheet with every installation.

Best Practice: HELP!
Training extends to the Help desk as well. Because they’ll have to support and troubleshoot the new devices, they’ll need to be conversant in their technologies, features, and controls.

Best Practice: Sweat the Details
As you start carrying out the capital request items, it’s important to have a checklist because tasks can be so interrelated that leaving one thing out can affect the others. For instance, trying to install projectors in a building’s worth of classrooms would be futile if you neglect to install the new wiring that’s required.

Best Practice: Be Flexible
Nothing is written in stone, and the best strategic plans and capital requests should be flexible. Schools vary as to approving changes to the documents, but doing something like deploying solid-state projectors, which don’t require costly lamp changes, will likely be well received.

If you do it right, the strategic plan and capital request work like hand in glove. The best capital requests over a period of time end up being nothing more than the details of how you fulfill the strategic plan. And the result is a better connected campus.