2020 highlighted just how important agility in higher education can be. We remember (all too vividly) the urgent shift to online learning, teaching, and working.
Now that the unpredictable days at the height of the pandemic have subsided, we are beginning to glimpse the lasting impacts of COVID-19 on higher education technology.
One of those impacts is increased automation on campus. Of all the benefits that came from shifts implemented by Eastern Michigan University’s IT department, Doris Celian, the controller at EMU, was most impressed by the efficiencies gained after deploying automated workflows. “By integrating automated expense and invoice tools to relieve back-office chaos, we were able to continue focusing our efforts on providing faculty and students with the support they need,” she said.
No-code automation, deployed by IT, can provide the agility your faculty and staff need to focus on the most important tasks. In this post, we will dive into how higher education forms automation software can help your campus, highlighted by three IT leaders at the University of Michigan, the University of California San Diego, and the University of Hawaii system.
Prefer to listen? Hear these professionals share their stories in the webinar below.
Forms automation software allows institutions to automate their forms. Ideally, the forms automation software you select will also include workflow automation for approvals. Obtaining approvals can be the biggest culprit when it comes to consuming back-office time. Institutions can minimize oversight and management time with forms automation software, benefiting from a centralized location for application data, rapid process deployment, and powerful applications with no custom code.
When managed on paper and PDFs, a paper-based process, including form and workflow, is often spread out over multiple systems. For example, a form might be filled out on paper or via an eSign tool. Then, email is used to collect approvals. Finally, those approvals might be manually entered on a spreadsheet for tracking and recording purposes.
A workflow such as the one outlined above introduces many inefficiencies. There can be errors in manual entry, delays in responses, and the potential for lost data.
With a forms automation solution, the process owner can keep the form, workflow, and the data it produces all in one reliable, accessible system.
One centralized location becomes especially important when many departments are involved in a single process.
In 2020, the University of Michigan scrambled to implement a COVID-19 case management process. Leaders at the institution needed data on testing, contact tracing, compliance, and following up on new cases.
Janet Przybylski, Migrations and Scheduling Manager at the University of Michigan, was responsible for developing a process to collect this data. The first challenge she faced was to standardize information that had already been tracked in disparate systems and spreadsheets across dozens of departments. She was able to deposit all the information she could find in a data management solution and develop a form and workflow using Kuali Build to capture new, standardized data. This data allowed leaders to make data-informed decisions and closely monitor the pandemic on their campus.
Eventually this process was expanded to include local organizations in healthcare and law enforcement to report and care for COVID patients in the University of Michigan network. Przybylski was grateful to have developed a solid foundational process in the forms and workflow solution that could then be iterated upon as the scope of needs increased.
Enable faculty and staff to rapidly deploy processes with a forms automation solution. When the need arises, they can quickly build a form, integrated workflow, and collect and report on data as soon as the information begins flowing.
The agility that comes from a forms automation solution was crucial at the onset of COVID, as IT departments rushed to produce processes to track COVID data.
At the University of California San Diego, facilitating a safe return to campus for research faculty to resume their work was critical. UCSD annually generates about $1.4 billion in research activity. Using forms automation solution Kuali Build, UCSD’s enterprise system IT group quickly deployed a return to onsite research application.
“Within about 3 days, we deployed [the return to research application]. There were subsequent tweaks and adjustments to the application, but within 30 days or so, there were over 2,000 submissions in this specific application through Build,” said Brian DeMuelle, Executive Director, Enterprise Architecture and Infrastructure at the University of California San Diego.
It took about three days to build the application and shortly after deploying, research faculty were able to return to work.
Since Spring of 2020, UCSD has added 10 additional applications to automate a variety of processes. So far, they’ve processed 23,000+ documents. Quickly building a form using forms automation software has unquestionably helped them save time and money.
Custom code comes with a slew of implications. It means maintenance, bug fixes, and some level of customer service. While higher education IT folks are surely capable of building and maintaining dozens of custom solutions, they can’t build a solution for every single problem. It simply wouldn’t be sustainable.
This is where automation solutions come in. With a forms automation solution, IT can enable nontechnical business users to create their own applications. Business users can solve their own problems without turning to shadow IT systems or getting in line on IT’s waitlist.
In the late 2010s, the University of Hawaii enterprise IT team noticed a rising trend in shadow IT systems and the need for custom solutions.
“The individual and standalone applications [successfully spread by word of mouth] across different campuses. Suddenly, we have these flames lapping at our feet. And remember, through all of this, we have to keep the enterprise systems running,” said Garret Yoshimi, VP of IT and CIO at the University of Hawaii.
IT would have liked to systematically work through the common needs and build custom applications, and they tried that approach. However, creating powerful applications is rigorous.
“We still needed a way to address [the shadow IT systems] that continuously put pressure on central IT organizations,” said Yoshimi. IT needed a reasonable way to respond to these needs. A full team of developers and business analysts to address each problem was off the table.
The solution? Forms automation software. Yoshimi outlined the University of Hawaii’s criteria for forms automation software as follows:
Yoshimi and the Hawaii system selected Kuali Build, a forms and workflow automation software. Kuali Build checked all of their boxes. The solution could meet their needs today and could scale as needed. Before long, the IT team helped campuses develop applications in the provided platform, Kuali Build, and now campuses can safely build and manage their own solutions rather than turn to shadow IT solutions.
Increase your IT team's capacity by enabling business users to solve their most pressing challenges. Empower them with a solution that centralized their application data and allows them to rapidly deploy powerful workflows, no coding required.