Since UB’s Models of Efficiency program launched in 2010, more than 100 campus departments have been honored for their efforts in saving resources while enhancing service. We’ve shared their initiatives, but with efficiency stories, there is no “The End.” This year, we will periodically check in with past honorees to catch readers up on the institutions’ latest, greatest efficiency successes. To learn more about past honorees and to be considered in the future as a Model of Efficiency, visit www.universitybusiness.com/moe.
Originally honored: Fall 2010
To ensure student-athletes were meeting all academic program requirements, as well as attending practices and competitions, Paradise Valley Community College in Arizona formerly assigned two athletics staff members to monitor the athletes.
But the monitors were spending more time than anticipated in the related tasks: gathering information on students, hand sorting and updating data to track progress, confirming continued eligibility, and intervening at the first sign of academic difficulty. Creating spreadsheets and sending letters to faculty was time-consuming—very time-consuming—and Director of College Technology Carol Myers knew there had to be a better way.
Working with several colleagues, Myers and her team developed a digital process to automate the collection and use of student data. Named the Puma Athletic Web System (PAWS), it allows faculty and staff to easily add and share information. Myers estimates it initially saved at least 240 hours a semester in student-athlete information tracking. Using PAWS, coaches and trainers can communicate with specific cohorts of students, such as the whole baseball team or all tennis players, says Myers.
Although PAWS was created for athletic department use, enhancements made to the system have improved workflow in a number of offices that touch athletics. For example, the system now allows for communication with all faculty, or with groups of faculty—such as those teaching a particular student. The student’s record can then be shared with all of his or her instructors for reference simultaneously. The added communication features save the athletic department an additional 40 hours per semester, for a total of 280 hours. The next evolution of PAWS, being launched this semester, involves uploading a complete athlete eligibility packet, which will be available for completion online. Student-athletes must complete such paperwork annually. Historically, getting those packets completed and submitted was time-consuming and inefficient. During eligibility periods, it can take the athletic department two full weeks to chase down information from students, says Myers.
Athletes will now be able to log in, pull up their packet, fill in information, print it out, and sign and submit it. They can also save a partially-completed form and return to finish it later.
Paradise Valley has a strong history of student-athlete success, thanks in part to its system for monitoring and supporting them. During the spring of 2012-13, the college had a total of 14 academic all-Americans. Sixty-one percent of its athletes have a GPA above 3.0. “I’d like to think that the extra assistance our students are able to get through PAWS helps contribute to [this high level of performance],” says Myers.
Although PAWS was developed to serve a need in the athletic department, the system will soon be applied to the honors program, helping to track its 270 honor students, much like the student-athletes now are.
Originally honored: Fall 2010
What began in 2009 as a straightforward initiative to reduce admissions applicant wait times and paper use at University of St. Francis in Illinois has evolved into an overhaul of the university’s work process. An implementation five years ago of a document imaging system involved six departments and had the primary objectives of reducing paper copies and the need for storage.
That first step saved the university $14,000 in annual paper costs and reduced applicant wait times. The next level of implementation, which started the following year, included four more departments. The initiative’s focus then expanded to improving workflow and work process, not just paper reduction, says Suzanne Bogovich, a business analyst in the enterprise resource services department.
With 10 departments now online, the new work process gives faculty, staff and students access to digital documents, saving paper and time. It has revolutionized how University of St. Francis conducts business and serves its students.
In situations where several departments are involved in approving a request—whether its for a student to take a course off-campus or for a faculty member to develop an online course, for example—electronic documents are now forwarded automatically from department to department and internal constituents are alerted when their approval is needed. Efficiency and communication have both been improved as a result.
Everyone involved in the process knows where the paperwork can be found and where the decision stands. Any questions that come up can be answered by the college dean’s administrative assistant, who acts as a central contact. “When you need three to four departments to approve something, it’s more efficient to do it electronically,” Bogovich says. Since 2009, 1.3 million pieces of paper have been converted for electronic processing and sharing.
Recognizing the improved efficiency and response time possible with an electronic workflow, University of St. Francis is now planning to upgrade its entire document imaging system. That will include migrating documents from the old system to the new one.
Along with the cost savings, Bogovich says she has seen a cultural shift at the institution. Faculty and staff are now focused on the entire system and how it functions rather than simply how it converts paper documents to electronic. This has quickened the pace of change. “There’s a real opportunity to build efficiency and reduce response times automatically with an improved work process,” Bogovich says.
And it all started with an initiative that a single department spearheaded.
Originally honored: Spring 2010
Electronic application processing at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington began with a bang in 2008 within the university’s graduate school, which offers 46 acedemic programs. Scanning and electronically filing and sharing documents saved on time, space and paper.
The effort was so successful, other departments quickly inquired about going paperless. Since then, Information Technology Systems has worked feverishly to meet the growing demand for a paperless workflow.
The use of document imaging has expanded into most administrative offices, helping to streamline work processes and reduce use and storage of paper throughout the university. In the last three years alone, UNCW estimates it has saved between 3.4 and 4.8 tons of paper per year, applications analyst Holly Bowen says. During the 2012-13 academic year, it saved an estimated 1,478 reams of paper, or the equivalent of 89 trees. In converting paper documents to digital, the university also reclaimed as usable space several offices that had been filled with more than 93 filing cabinets of three drawers each.
The quick pace of expansion could not have happened without six power users across campus who have helped their departments adopt and learn the system. The work of those individuals has been crucial to the success and speed of implementation.
With the addition of a $10 app on each tablet, nine advisors (up from two at the outset) use iPads to review student progress or questions, and then have the students sign documents related to their academic record using a stylus right on the iPad. The documents are then saved in the system as PDF files and simultaneously sent to the students. Once saved, any advisor can reference the documents at any time.
“The trick with advising is that advisors are not always in the same department, so to be able to have this information available to all advisors on campus is great,” Bowen says.
The decision UNCW made early on that has saved tens of thousands of dollars was to purchase an enterprise license—rather than individual client licenses—from provider Perceptive Software. That move saved money and time by eliminating the need to track the client licenses, says Bowen. “Trying to do more with less and be more efficient is a win-win for everyone.”