Higher education has its own special kind of bureaucracy, but even by those standards, the convoluted process by which Jamestown Community College (N.Y.) contracted with faculty members to teach extra courses stood out. From creation to submission with payroll, the documents touched more than half a dozen pairs of hands, sometimes delaying payment and increasing the likelihood of misplacement. They were created anew each semester with information from a database that wasn’t always updated, resulting in data entry errors. And the whole process was paper-based?a storage nightmare and a big no-no in our eco-conscious times.
Jamestown’s solution was practically right under the institution’s nose. An upgrade of SunGard Higher Education’s Banner student information system product included the Faculty Load and Compensation (FLAC) module, which the college used to automate what had been a manual process.
Once the module was on its way, says Crystal Rose, assistant to the vice president and dean of academic affairs, “We started to take a look and realized that the process we have now is cumbersome, it does takes a long time, and there is the potential for major errors.”
Through FLAC, the creation of a faculty contract pulls up-to-date information directly from the Banner database and begins a self-service process that notifies users throughout the process to take action. First, the appropriate assistant dean enters the system to review the record of the contract; once he or she locks the record, the contracted faculty member is pinged to access the record and acknowledge it. When that happens, the contract is ready for immediate processing by payroll. The process is completely electronic and paper free, and can be completed in minutes instead of days.
Jamestown rolled out FLAC in three phases. For summer 2010 classes, it ran paper contracts alongside FLAC to compare the two processes; last fall, it reduced but did not eliminate the paper-based system. Administrators found a few errors to correct, and by January, the college was ready to move forward with electronic processing only.
“Each semester, it gets easier and easier as people become acclimated to it and understand it,” Rose says.
According to Rose, faculty members are happier?they have an easier time accessing their contracts, and their payment is timelier. On the institution’s end, satisfaction is equally high. Rose reports that FLAC has reduced contract creation and processing time by at least half. Preparation of contracts, which once tied up Academic Affairs personnel for 30 hours a week, now takes less than 10. And payroll staffers no longer need to manually enter contracts, freeing them up for other tasks.
“It’s a really good, efficient process that people are becoming happier with, which is always nice,” Rose says. -T.D.