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The Modern Campus: Strategies for Process Automation

Improving efficiency by updating systems and managing change
University Business, September 2018

A recent survey found that 59 percent of higher education CIOs believe that digital transformation will lead to significant business model changes, yet many institutions face challenges when it comes to implementing digital strategies for growth. As student demographics and education delivery models evolve, institutions must actively pursue innovative ways to remain competitive.

This web seminar explored strategies for automating processes and change management to help modernize an institution. The CIO from Linn-Benton Community College, which serves nearly 20,000 full-time, part-time and noncredit students in Oregon, shared how the college modernized its operations— from student-facing services including transcript evaluation and petitions, to advancement functions such as donation processing and more—to improve efficiency and service. 

Speaker

Michael Quiner
CIO
Linn-Benton Community College (Ore.)

Michael Quiner: At every school I’ve been to, I usually see a whole row of filing cabinets in just about every office. Filing cabinets in financial aid, in the business offices, in the bursar’s office, in the foundation offices, in the advancement offices, and even in IT. Perhaps we’ve missed the boat when it comes to pushing technology in higher education. Laserfiche is a document management and business process automation vendor. It has a wide client base in municipalities, county government, K12, and higher education. The company was chosen as a Gartner Magic Quadrant leader in document management and business process automation. Laserfiche has developed a guide called “Five Steps to Modernizing a Campus.”

Here is how we applied the steps at Linn-Benton.

1. Start digitizing paper. We saw that we had all these filing cabinets full of documents. We started to go through and digitize them, and save them in an electronic format. This school has been doing that for 15 years, and now we have about 2 terabytes of files in a digital archive storage space.

2. Organize the data. We’ve created indexes and supplied metadata to a lot of the documents. Now we can easily retrieve data, find matches to other documents and manage it with policies.

3. Automate the business processes at the departmental level. About four years ago, Laserfiche started talking to us about business process automation—using electronic forms and workflow. We identified that we had 200 paper forms, and we then started to attack that issue.

4. Streamline the processes. Once you have your processes identified and in a workflow, you can then start to make them more efficient, and you can start to tie them into other departments’ processes.

5.  Transform the processes. The Toyota Kata method says that if you can identify where you’re at, then you can identify where you want to be, and then you can navigate obstacles and uncertainty to get there. The fifth step to a modernized campus is connecting processes and systems across campus, and leveraging the data gathered to further improve operations and service delivery.

What did we keep in mind as we moved through those five steps at Linn-Benton? I recommend the following considerations to any institution pursuing process automation.  

1. You have to have a North Star. You have to have a big aspirational goal. Think about the big things. I’m going to make the assertion that there’s only one North Star that counts, and I say without hesitation that student experience is the only reliable North Star that we work with.

2. Take baby steps. We started out with one area, moving through the continuum of the process to get to a different area, and we’ve done that by taking little steps along the way.

3. Find your “Incredibles.” There are some people who have helped move this process forward, but who are not necessarily part of the college's leadership team. It’s important to have some executive sponsors, some champions at the top, but in this process, it’s also important to have people in the offices who work with these forms and students every day, who are the champions for the student experience, and who are willing to step up and do something about it.

4. Communicate. Communication is the most important thing people say we’re lacking when we try to implement change on campuses. We’re not communicating clearly the benefits of change; we’re not communicating clearly to students how change can help them. And it’s communication on just about every level. As we have developed business processes in Laserfiche, we communicate more frequently with everybody involved. Constant communication gives people confidence in the college’s capabilities and interest in their well-being. It also lets people know that these tools not only help us with paper flow, but also with human flow.

These strategies will not eliminate the problems and obstacles that you will encounter. But a good strategy will help you get to them sooner. You can fail sooner, and then correct things sooner.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please visit universitybusiness.com/ws062818