Our educational institutions are drowning in paperwork due to inefficient document management. Every school or college has numerous departments, each performing numerous functions. All these functions are dependent on numerous forms, usually being processed, usually on paper and manually. Processing all this paperwork is tedious and time-consuming, leading to numerous errors and delays in helping the students that the institution is there to serve. And nowhere is this challenge more starkly visible than in the Financial Aid offices where the inefficiencies created by the mountain of paperwork are inversely proportional to the importance of the office.
One warrior made it her personal mission to eliminate or at least significantly reduce the amount of paper at her place of employment and the process started with her department, Financial Aid. “Paper gives me anxiety,” said Haley Lindsey, the Director of Financial Aid at Dodge City Community College. “It’s 2021, why do we still ask students to print out and fill forms manually?”
Lindsey spoke with us recently to share her experiences at Dodge City Community College (DC3) and how she used Softdocs to accomplish her mission of reducing inefficiencies. DC3 is a 2-year community college in Dodge City, Kansas, established in 1935. With about 1,500 full-time students, DC3’s reliance on paper was significantly slowing things down for its students compared to other community colleges. Documents were getting lost, forms were being stored in the wrong folders, and filing cabinets were taking up a lot of space. It was time for a change.
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Lindsey started her campaign to eliminate paper and introduce process automation at her college. She brought in additional champions to help her in her cause – the Assistant VP of Enrollment and the DC3 Broad of Trustees. Bolstered with their support and based on her experience at her previous job in Pratt Community College, Lindsey sought out the help of Softdocs’s Etrieve platform. “When I got to DC3, we were still mailing all our forms to students. DC3 is a terrific school, but we needed to meet the students where they live – online and on their phones. Etrieve is going to allow us to accomplish that,” she told her team.
When it comes to implementation, Lindsey recommends that before IT gets involved, the key leaders from the department be brought in to define the workflows - who starts the workflow, where it goes next, who signs off at various stages, and who gives the final approval. This will help establish the checks and balances you need for effective process management. This will also secure buy-in from the team to ensure a smooth transition into the new system.
The Financial Aid office implemented Etrieve Content, Etrieve Forms, and Etrieve Flow. With Content, they got an electronic filing cabinet to store all their scanned files digitally in a customizable filing structure. They can share files or restrict access as needed, set up groups to reflect the different forms they contain, collaborate across departments, and use the powerful search function to look up whatever files they need. “Groups can be overlapping or completely unique,” pointed out Lindsey. Forms lets them create digital forms that are easy to create, edit, store, and revise and also easily accessible for students through their desktops, laptops, or mobile devices. Flow provides users the opportunity to create effective and efficient workflows for a smooth transition of work and shorter processing times.
Talking about the benefits she saw from implementation, Lindsey says, “The biggest change we observed was the shortening of processing times. Our previous way of doing it took 2 weeks for a process to be completed from start to finish. With Etrieve we were able to do the same in 3 days.”
DC3 uses Jenzabar One as its ERP and with Softdocs being an official partner of Jenzabar, Lindsey was excited about the integration between the two applications. Integrated search, filing automation, and output capture are just a few of the benefits that Jenzabar users are able to leverage with Softdocs.
For a department that uses about 50 different forms, implementing the Etrieve Platform was a critical step in eliminating paper and moving closer to process automation as envisioned by Lindsey. “Ultimately this is about helping students and with Etrieve and we’re well on our way to doing that.”