The Beginning: Ellucian Colleague Integration Partner Search

In the early 2000s, having selected Ellucian Colleague as their new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, Rockingham Community College recognized an opportunity to add value to this deployment by implementing Softdocs solutions.

“At first, we didn’t really know what content management was. We just realized the need for additional functionality as we moved forward with Colleague,” said Cheryl Evans, Technology Specialist at Rockingham Community College. “Then we saw the services that Softdocs provided and thought ‘That’s exactly what we’d like to be able to do here.’”

Softdocs’ status as a long-standing Ellucian partner and unique focus on serving the education space resonated with decision makers at the institution, leading the college to quickly view Softdocs as more than an EdTech vendor, but a technology partner with a genuine interest in the continued success of their institution.

While the amount of resources required to implement a new ERP limited the college’s ability to concurrently rollout the Softdocs’ Enterprise Content Management (ECM) product suite, the decision was made to begin implementing Serve by Softdocs to simplify many laser-printing processes on campus. Before Ellucian Colleague, the Business Office—and other areas on campus—relied on manual processes to create, populate and print checks and statements. “We knew that with the processes that went with Ellucian, we were going to have to have a third-party vendor that would be able to do these printing techniques for us. We had a need to be able to have information captured and then put onto the checks and the things they would be printing from the business office. We felt Softdocs and Serve were simply the right fit.”

Leveraging Automation

The college first utilized the Softdocs print customization tool within Administrative Services to be used in the printing of year-end tax forms, payroll, and other checks written through Accounts Payable. Unlike other print customization solutions Rockingham looked into before choosing Softdocs, Serve allowed the institution to create and leverage highly customized document templates in printing processes. With Serve, an institution can pull ERP data into these customizable templates, format the data exactly how they want to, and then route the formatted document for printing and/or digital archival within an electronic content repository, whether Etrieve or a competitive solution.

In 2005, Rockingham extended its deployment of Serve to include a student component, addressing its need for increased flexibility in printing registration statements. Leveraging Serve allows faculty to avoid directing students all over campus to pick up a statement, instead of simply printing needed statements in the buildings where students register. Rockingham and Softdocs worked together to set up the required printers, formulate how printer names would be used to direct printing to the appropriate buildings, and grant printing rights to faculty as needed.

“Our utilization of Softdocs evolved greatly over a five or six-year period, as everything became more paperless on campus. After statements, we started printing transcripts for our curriculum side of the house, and then Continuing Education about a year after that,” said Evans. “Even as our college becomes paperless, Serve by Softdocs continues to be used completely in Administrative Services.”

Rockingham’s need to print payroll checks has been readdressed with employees’ widespread utilization of direct deposit, however, Serve still plays an integral role in the other business functions of writing checks and paying bills — as well as in the printing of transcripts.

Expanding Softdocs ROI

Once the college had successfully implemented both Ellucian Colleague and Serve by Softdocs, focus soon shifted to introducing other Softdocs systems on campus—including Softdocs’ legacy electronic forms and content management solutions.

“When we chose Softdocs as a partner, it wasn’t just about Serve,” said Evans. “We also selected Softdocs’ Doc e Scan and Doc e Fill solutions, recognizing the value they’d provide as our college went paperless. You see, we had paper everywhere!”

Within some departments on campus, documents dating back to the college’s founding 63 years ago still resided in filing cabinets and storage. Softdocs’ legacy ECM solutions provided the opportunity to begin digitizing and electronically archiving much of the paper files and documents on campus, as well as begin reducing the rate that paper accumulates around campus, through electronic forms. Resources, once committed to standing up a new ERP, were reallocated to begin building the organizational structure for the college’s content repository within Doc e Scan. Softdocs handled much of the back scanning of decades of files, allowing faculty and staff to focus efforts on incorporating front-end scanning within their day-to-day processes and workflows. Financial Aid was the first office on campus to begin leveraging this approach.

At this time, the college also began replacing paper forms with electronic forms. “We chose to start with forms that impact every area on campus, such as leave reports, leave requests and time sheets because those are things that every employee has to do,” said Evans. “We knew if we could get employee buy-in doing those forms, it would be much easier to implement other forms that don’t serve as wide of an area.”

Introducing eForms and Workflow

It didn’t take long for the college to receive the buy-in from employees they were looking for. “When Financial Aid saw what we were doing with student records and how it would benefit their day-to-day, they said ‘now we want our forms’,” said Evans. “It really wasn’t long after we started using electronic forms that every area on campus approached us about needing certain forms digitized.”

For example, Rockingham’s Admissions and Records offices were interested in having forms created to be filled out by faculty for students who came to their areas for help.

“After the employee-facing forms, those were some of the next forms we introduced — forms for students but that would be filled out and submitted by faculty.”

A few examples of these eForms include:

  • Progress Report for TRIO and Early College
  • Instructor Form for Missed Classes
  • Grade Change Form
  • Proctored Tutoring Request
  • Teleworking Agreement
  • Network Access Form

They have also introduced Interest Forms and internal/external Facility Registration Forms. Rockingham built these forms by leveraging Softdocs’ Premier+ and the Forms & Workflow Solution. These new forms allow them to schedule buildings and rooms on the campus.

The Interest Forms allow counselors to attend events and easily connect with prospective students. Previously, they used paper forms that were messy and hard to read. The college now has an easy-to-use interest form that can be pulled up with a QR code. The anonymous forms filled out by prospective students are automatically collected and written to a database that counselors can access for reports.

Going All-in with Modern Solutions

2017 saw Rockingham migrate from Softdocs’ legacy ECM solutions to Softdocs’ browser-based Etrieve platform. Architected specifically for Education, Etrieve combines content management, electronic forms, and workflow automation into an easily scalable, seamless ECM experience for every user—whether on campus or online. Documents residing in Doc e Scan were copied over and filed within Etrieve Content’s customizable filing structure, without impacting any users at the college. Etrieve Forms and Etrieve Flow replaced Doc e Fill, elevating the school’s utilization of electronic forms and workflows with additional capabilities and efficiencies.

“While Doc e was still running great for us, we knew that migrating to Etrieve would put us where we needed to be,” said Evans. “We knew that Etrieve would be a more mobile-ready solution, and we’ve learned that it has many more capabilities than our legacy system did.”

Leveraging Etrieve, Rockingham expanded their use of electronic forms to include student-facing forms that could easily be filled out and submitted online, without requiring students to spend time on campus to do so. All Doc e forms were converted to Etrieve forms, and with Etrieve it’s easier than ever to create new forms at the pace desired by departments and offices across campus.

“A lot of our forms now leverage databases that have been built, pulling data directly into forms and prepopulating fields for our students and staff. We are using drop-downs and auto-populating fields to make our forms as user-friendly as possible. Many of our departments are excited about the various reporting tools and dashboards that are available with Etrieve. Financial Aid began using a dashboard, then Admissions and Records wanted one too! We are running a lot of reports, across campus, to see who has turned in time sheets, leave reports, etc. We’ve even just set up 4 or 5 reports for Human Resources on how to view emergency contact information!”


Adapting Abruptly to New Challenges

As the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything across the Education space, Rockingham felt an urgency to expand upon their utilization of electronic forms and rapidly stand up many additional forms to counter new, unexpected challenges. Leveraging funding received through the CARES Act, the college opted to enter into a Managed Services agreement with Softdocs to more fully support remote students with additional e-forms in Financial Aid and Student Records areas.

Together, Rockingham and Softdocs:

  • Introduced 59 new electronic forms across Student Records, Financial Aid, and Human Resources
  • Quickly created a Teleworking Agreement e-form to accurately track remote faculty/staff and required home office equipment
  • Rolled out additional e-forms dashboards to enable staff to efficiently track and maintain received documents and forms
  • Created a Part-Time Contracts e-form to digitally onboard student and part-time employees

“In less than 48 hours from when I called Softdocs about creating a Teleworking Agreement for our HR department, we had the form up and running. We even have the ability to run a report and see who all has turned in that agreement.”

Creating One College

“One of the things our college is working on right now is this One College Concept. We want each of our students—whether Curriculum or Continuing Education—to begin, progress, and complete their journey with us in very similar ways. One admissions application and one form to drop a class, whatever that class may be. Etrieve is central in our plans to develop the forms and workflows we need to improve communication across campus and truly provide our students with a one college experience.”