Known for its inclusivity and forward-thinking approach to higher education, Seattle University still struggled with antiquated administrative processes and a less-than-ideal student services experience.

Their legacy document management system was clunky and lacked the needed capabilities. Despite all their efforts, many student-related processes still needed to rely on paper.

Our previous system was called paper. Maybe you’ve heard of it,” said MK Smith, Associate Provost and Director of Application Services.

“We still had a lot of pieces of paper around. My daughter was a student here, and when she went to declare her minor, she had to walk a piece of paper around campus to get all the signatures. She’s just one of thousands of students who had to deal with that.”


The existing system was also an on-premises deployment, adding management of all the desktop clients to an increasingly full IT plate. University IT leaders approached their current vendor about the lagging functionality and the unpredictable pricing. Ultimately, it was clear they would need to look elsewhere for a document management and workflow solution that could help them achieve their goal of a more modern campus operation and maximize their IT budget.

Preparing for an Increasingly Remote World

Like most higher education institutions, the COVID pandemic brought unexpected challenges for Seattle University and its students. “We did the entire 2020-21 academic year remotely,” said Smith. “It was important to get academic and financial aid forms deployed electronically and to set up automated workflows behind those forms so we could process them while working remotely. That saved a lot of time for the Registrar and Student Financial Services offices.”

“Also our staff aren’t having to reenter any data because we have Softdocs integrated with Ellucian Colleague,” said Smith. “And of course, for the student experience, it’s been very helpful for them not having to walk a piece of paper around. They complete the (electronic) form, and off it goes.”

Department leaders saw many opportunities where simply swapping an electronic form for the old manual process, such as the student employee form, made a significant difference in time and effort. Transferring a student worker to another manager or department became as simple as typing in a student name or ID, selecting the new supervisor, and initiating the automated transfer workflow.

Prioritize the Student Experience

For Seattle University, the success of their digital transformation initiative is supported from the top down. University leadership believes in the importance of process improvement and making it easier for people to engage and do business with the institution. Integrating Softdocs into their tech stack is just one more essential building block toward that goal.

“We look at simplifying processes like having a lean mindset,” said Travis Nation, Vice Provost for Information Technology, Chief Information Officer.

“We want to rethink processes holistically—bring alignment to common activities. For example, if everyone says ‘we must have that group sign off on this process step’ but really, they just need to be notified, we can simplify and streamline there. It’s been a big culture shift, but we are also reaping the rewards.”