I have used my JSS for a couple of years now but have recently taken on some ipads. I was told Apple Configurator should be used. Is Apple Configurator necessary (I'm a newbie to it) or is simple mdm management the only thing I really need? Any clarification on this would be great.
DEP or the Apple Configurator are only needed if you want to use the iPads in supervised mode. Otherwise you can simply enroll the iPads to the MDM. So it really depends how you want to use the iPads. But having to enroll a bunch of iPads with the Apple Configurator is not very convenient. If you already have ASM, and you want supervised mode, then DEP appears to be the tool of choice.
I find Apple Configurator very handy for DEP. After the devices are assigned to the mdm server in school manager I plug ten at a time into our old sync station and run "Prepare" in Configurator. It adds a wifi profile and runs through the prepare process. Its faster than trying to add the Wi-Fi settings manually into each device.