A tech house call that can diagnose inefficiencies
Nearly a decade ago, Oklahoma City Community College installed state-of-the-art administrative system technology from Datatel that linked its student, finance, and human resources information systems together. It worked wonderfully - until staff turnover and training lapses diminished its utility.
“Our front-line people over the past decade really did not have the opportunity to stay current with the platform’s functionality in all areas,” said Marion Paden, OCCC’s vice president for enrollment and student services. “If you don’t have people actively engaged in the training, then things get lost. So the efficiency was not there.”
College administrators knew they needed to be more efficient. enrollment had grown by a third in recent years, as more people in the oklahoma city area embraced the value and convenience of a community college education amid economic turmoil. The problem: Paden didn’t have a lot of money to smooth out kinks in technology operations.
“You can’t hire more staff to do the same thing over and over,” Paden said. “You need to find more efficient ways to provide services.”
Members of her team had heard about a comprehensive review Datatel offered to optimize usage of its products, with the clincher that it was free. OCCC embarked on the process, called Action Planning, last summer. Datatel’s consultants spent almost three full days on campus and interviewed more than 40 key system operatives.
“People just had an open conversation about their frustrations with the system and the ideas they had for improved efficiency,” Paden said. “Things such as, ‘Can it? Should it? Could it?’ and essentially the Datatel people told us, ‘It does that already.’”
Based on its findings, Datatel came up with a three-year plan to tweak the system and make sure its capabilities were being fully tapped by the college. al- though the review process was free and yielded immediate results as simple adjustments were made to the Datatel system, some of the recommended steps carried a price tag. yet the plan was structured in a flexible enough way that OCCC could pick and choose its priori- ties, Paden said.
Action Planning was created to make sure Datatel’s clients are making the most of what they had already purchased from the company and thereby improve their experience. and as the company commands a 99 percent retention rate for clients, it is important that technology enhancements made over time do not go unnoticed or underutilized.
Paden says OCCC is now in the “fix-it” phase of its plan, in which system users work shoulder to shoulder with Datatel Business Practice Managers - either literally or through remote consulting - to deepen their understanding of the technology. The admissions department has already picked up some tricks for inputting repetitive data with fewer keystrokes and more accuracy.
What have the overall results been so far? “Improved efficiency, improved accuracy, and increased employee morale,” Paden said.
Not too long ago, system operators at the college felt a bit overwhelmed and on their own when it came to handling the basic functionality of the Datatel platform. No longer. Soon they’ll move on to the “enhancement” phase of their plan, which will add more features that are customized to OCCC’s needs.
“We just felt that the team from Datatel really listened to us,” Paden said. “We feel as if we’re in a strong partnership with them.”