Today, higher education administrators and IT departments are asked to do more with less. Since the onset of the coronavirus, many institutions have seen budget cuts and workload increases. Process automation can significantly remedy the situation, and it is becoming a major area of interest for higher ed leaders.
As you look to automate processes in or across departments, keep in mind process automation software typically can’t be found in one single product. Higher ed institutions often have a portfolio of automation technology, averaging from three to five products. Each software has a specific use case, and no software can meet the needs for every use case. Let's dive into the functionality and use cases for e-signature tools and forms and workflow platforms.
An eSign tool is used to electronically obtain approval or consent in a legal way. This type of tool is perfect for single-approver document-heavy processes, like hiring a new employee or confidentiality agreements.
When to Use:
The University of Hawaii has a range of process types for its 10 campuses across six islands. For “document-heavy” processes, Hawaii uses an eSign tool, according to Garret Yoshimi, CIO and VP of IT. For processes that require higher-powered integration and configuration abilities, but not excessive customizations, the institution uses a forms and workflow platform, which we’ll dive into later on.
To better understand eSign tools, these are the pros and cons that you’ll see in a tool like Adobe Sign:
With a forms and workflow software, you can create forms and route them through a custom approval process. We’ll use Kuali Build as our forms and workflow platform to understand the pros and cons.
When to Use:
The University of California San Diego uses a portfolio approach to process automation. They use Kuali Build for local and departmental forms and workflow. Brian DeMuelle, Executive Director of Enterprise Architecture and Infrastructure, calls this category of processes “general-purpose workflow.” For example, UCSD might use Kuali Build to automate reimbursements or purchase requests.
These are the pros and cons you can expect from Kuali Build:
One last element not discussed above is the legal viability of the tools. The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-Sign Act), which you can review here, states that electronic signatures are legal in every state and U.S. territory where federal law applies.
Confirmed. Electronic signatures are legal.
E-signature tools were built to capture signatures, and Adobe Sign operates well in that role. However, not all higher education processes require signatures. Many, perhaps the majority, of a university’s internal processes don’t require a signature. Instead, they’re approval-based and an auditable trail of approval is adequate.
What I’m getting at here is that there is a time and place for both an eSign tool and forms and workflow software. Many of Kuali Build customers use both regularly. A tool like Adobe Sign is best used in single-approval processes that are PDF-based and require minimal integrations with campus systems. Kuali Build is best used where complex, multi-step approvals are needed internally and integration with campus systems is necessary.
Check out how the University of Hawaii used Kuali Build, even with an eSign tool already in place, to cut approval times to under 24 hours. Read their success story here.