College campuses are typically beautiful places. Tree-lined walkways, verdant quads, and stately buildings make for a pleasant place to take a walk.
But for staff at the University of St. Francis (Ill.), too many campus strolls took up time that could be better spent on other tasks—such as tending to prospective students. And the paper files they were delivering from office to office belied the university's commitment to environmentalism.
Looking to reduce its carbon footprint, back up documents effectively, and deliver better student service, St. Francis purchased and implemented a document imaging system. The admissions office was chosen as the first area of implementation because its paper consumption was both massive and detrimental to delivering decisions to applicants in a timely fashion.
"We live in an age where response time is important, and processing paper was really slowing us down," says Suzanne Bogovich, instructional database specialist. "Admissions primarily captures the majority of the documents that come into the university. Starting there just made sense for us."
The new system, Singularity, a recently acquired Hyland Software solution, links with the university's enterprise resource planning system so that admissions staff is immediately notified electronically when an application is ready for review. Student files are shared digitally among various offices and departments, eliminating the need for multiple copies and reducing processing time. Hand-written notes, paper files, and the aforementioned walks across campus have been replaced by electronic, instantaneous messaging.
The improved communication supports a robust workflow system that notifies the appropriate staffer when a new task requires an action and when a task is complete—no updating of spreadsheets and no more wondering where physical files have escaped to.
An unexpected benefit was that the admissions office interfaces with so many other campus departments, university officials soon realized the project needed to have a bigger scope than administrators originally envisioned.
"The implementation moved fast," says Bogovich, who oversaw the project. "We intended to implement only two offices, but we did about seven. … We didn't have a choice except to move the system forward in order for people to get the information. It has had a trickle-down effect." Document imaging saved St. Francis $14,000 in paper costs last year, and response time to prospective students curious about their admission status has been slashed. Student advising has improved as well, as faculty advisers can more easily access files.
Bogovich anticipates that even greater efficiencies will be realized as the system is used more fully, especially in the area of quantifiable metrics.
"We can look at the number of tasks going in and out of processing," she says. "It's great to know how much communication there is between the counselors and admissions processing. It's great to know what kind of tasks need to be done. It's great to know if we need to add another student worker; it's great to know when someone else needs to join the office at peak times of the year, because it's easy to count—it's all in the system."