Guest Column | October 24, 2013

4 Ways to Get an "A": Automate Workflow Processing For Education

By Ray Emirzian, Vice President of Operations & Product Management, docSTAR

Raise your hand if you were the teacher’s pet. If you literally just raised your hand, congratulations! Award yourself three brownie points. Now hands down.

Let’s face it; the student who constantly offers to help the teacher is not the most popular kid in class. However, when it comes to providing IT assistance in higher education, teachers and administrators appreciate all the help they can get. Think of workflow automation software as the teacher’s pet for education. Automation helps to remove the burden of tedious document routing so that teachers and administrators can focus on higher value tasks. In other words, automation helps to improve the overall quality of student services. Here is a list of 4 ways automated workflow processing earns an “A.”

1. Reduced Costs. As administrative costs continue to increase, the resources allocated to data and document management must be reduced. Many school records must be maintained indefinitely, which involves personnel, time, and storage space.

Pop Quiz: On average, how much paper is stored in a four-drawer filing cabinet?

Answer: According to The Paperless Project, between 10,000 and 12,000 documents. That takes up to nine square feet of floor space. Automation software has the capacity to store over 25,000 pages per megabyte while reducing the need for expensive filing cabinets and storage space. Labor costs are also reduced since less data needs to be manually entered or maintained.

2. Increased Productivity.  Education institutions have unique automation needs and restrictions. Working with a paper-based manual process is costly, inefficient, and often causes delays in providing services to students. Managers spend an average of 4 weeks/year searching for or waiting on documents that have been misfiled, mislabeled or just plain lost. A campus administrator no longer needs to have stacks of paper waiting for action, approval, or filing. Core processes such as student enrollment or student application workflows would benefit greatly from an automated system since they are often tedious processes and require many touch-points along the way. Automated systems support processes with fixed timelines, status reporting, and digital approvals. Faster throughput of day-to-day workflows means an increase in productivity, not just with basic student processes, but also with programs and services that enrich student life on campus. By allowing an automated system to aid in diploma requests, teacher evaluations, class registration, and course scheduling, campus administrators have time to focus on providing high quality student services.

3. Improved Customer Service. Many administrators are familiar with the student or parent who calls every day inquiring about the status of enrollment, financial aid, housing, or diploma. With an automated system, students may be able to check on their own or receive an email alert. If they do call (which you know they will) the answer can be delivered in a few short clicks rather than having to put the parent on hold to find who has the file and what has been completed. Having the status easily available reduces stress levels and increases customer satisfaction.

4. Heightened Data Security. Automation gives administrators greater freedom to travel for recruitment, fundraising, or enrichment programs since they can bring their work with them. Colleagues can even check the status of their work while they are away. Digital files can also be backed up on an off-campus server so there is always a disaster recovery plan. Unlike paper files, digital student records can be secured with an encrypted validation process. Less files are left out on a desk or waiting to be shredded. Automated systems can be configured to limit the amount of personal student information available to various administrative departments to prevent theft or altering of the document without detection.

Does your workflow process make the grade?

According to InfoTrends, almost 80 percent of bachelor degree applications are completed/submitted using an online portal. The adoption of new automation technologies is becoming increasingly important in higher education and should be looked at very closely to identify the next opportunities.


Ray Emirzian is Vice President of Operations & Product Management at docSTAR, a B2B software firm specializing in cloud document management solutions and business process automation. He has more than two decades of experience in business process analysis, business process automation, and business consultation working with industry-leading organizations including NCR, Canon USA, and AuthentiDate Holding Corporation. Ray offers innovative perspectives on streamlining business for improved efficiency and productivity with emphasis on Accounts Payable Solutions. You can follow Ray and the docSTAR team on Twitter,@docSTARsoftware.