Unsnarling Workflow Opens Door To Higher Ed Markets
Imagine if you were a major public university struggling to keep track of every penny received from grants, awards, or other outside funding sources. In the case of one California university, a separate finance office handles all those monies, both receipt and disbursement. Until a few years ago, the office was operating using purely paper forms, from the receipt of notification through bill payments made on certain projects funded by particular grants or awards. You can imagine the opportunity for lost paperwork, misplaced files, and frustrated "customers" within the university community.
When a new manager arrived at the office, that all started to change. Having used electronic content management (ECM) and automated workflow in previous offices tasked with similar financial responsibilities, the manager started the process of auditing the finance office's existing workflow to determine how to improve customer service. But before that project got too far, the manager met CampusDocs' (an ECM solutions provider) marketing director during a trade show presentation. The company offered just the automated workflow solution the university's finance office needed, and CampusDocs quickly closed a deal to examine the office's workflow and develop a software and scanning solution to turn paper chaos into electronic efficiency. "CampusDocs specializes in custom ECM solutions for higher education," explains Michelle Taft, VP of professional services for CampusDocs. The solutions provider actually debuted in 2001 as part of a larger company, but the higher education division became an independent entity a few years later.
Use ECM To Resolve Customer Service Complaints
In the case of this California university, the solutions provider worked with the finance office to evaluate its workflow, meeting with all the stakeholders to determine what problems the office faced and any questions or concerns the staff had about what would be a marked change in their day-to-day operations. "The biggest complaint the office heard was that it took too long — to pay students, vendors, bills, whatever — the whole process just took too long," explains Taft. The reasons why varied from lost documents to lack of visibility in the system to the pure slowness of the paperbased process, which literally had papers being carried from one checkpoint to another in the office. "The message was loud and clear — customer service was not in good shape," says Taft.
CampusDocs worked with the office staff to tweak its workflow so it better utilized the ECM solution, a process that can typically take up to a month. However, because CampusDocs specializes in higher education, Taft had worked on a similar installation several months earlier, so she had a blueprint for what might be needed by the new client. That background helped shorten the evaluation process to only a week. After making recommendations about the workflow process, CampusDocs installed a Kodak i65 scanner and Kofax Capture software (formerly Ascent Capture), along with CampusDocs' own ECM management solution, which is built on the EMC Documentum platform.
The finance office staff now scans each document the moment it arrives in the office, and that document then moves into the CampusDocs system, which initiates the fully automated workflow that is preconfigured by type of document. Once in the network, the document can be viewed by anyone in the office — a huge improvement over the past system.
The ROI on this $18,000 project was less about money than service, says Taft. "They really were worried most about improving the process so they could provide better customer service." Now, nearly two years in, the office has added a second scanner — a Kodak multifunction peripheral — and has nearly doubled its processing capacity. The office can also evaluate its workflow as the staff gets more proficient. "They can pull reports to show when information came in and how long it took to process it; they can even look at the personal level to see if one person is having a difficult time keeping up or can handle a greater load," explains Taft. That capability also allows the finance office to set expectations with its constituents in terms of how long certain actions should take, such as processing a purchase order. "It is much easier to manage their expectations if you can say, ‘A PO should take, say, three days, and if you haven't heard by then, call us,'" says Taft.