MontE Christman | Executive Director of Information Technology | Central Carolina Community College
Like all higher education institutions, Central Carolina Community College was no stranger to the headaches caused by paper-based business and student processes. They began their Softdocs journey with an all-hands effort to scan and digitize thousands of paper files across campus. Simply reducing physical storage constraints and eliminating the constant search through piles of paper was a major accomplishment.
But once the College’s IT team introduced Etrieve Forms, that’s when the automation initiative really took off. Then the COVID pandemic hit, and things got … interesting.
“It actually worked to our benefit, because we were all teleworking and you have fewer office distractions,” said MontE Christman, Executive Director of Information Technology at Central Carolina Community College. “We would start working on forms, and suddenly it would be seven o'clock at night. And I’d say ‘oh wow, I didn’t eat lunch! I guess we should wrap up and start again tomorrow.’ The remote time allowed us to really dig in on creating forms.”
Central Carolina decided to kick off their process automation efforts in the back office. Payroll, Purchasing, Accounts Payable and Human Resources led the way in the campus-wide adoption of eForms and automated document routing.
“We were really nervous at that point, because nobody likes change, and this was a pretty major culture shift, moving from paper to electronic,” said Christman. “We were bracing for harsh impact, just because of the size of the change. But it was almost all positive. People were very pleased, which is why we continue to have so many requests for more forms. So I was pleasantly surprised.”
One example of forms automation was the college’s local travel form for employees. Faculty and staff often need to move between the school’s three campuses. Gathering signatures on these forms required using interoffice mail, which often caused frustrating delays. With the Softdocs platform, as soon as the employee completes the online form and presses submit, it is available to their supervisor for signature.
The Financial Aid department has embraced eForms in full force.
“We have around 120 forms for Financial Aid. That's our biggest group by far,” said Christman. “Most of them are student forms. A handful are parent forms where the parent will sign in with either a Google or Microsoft account and fill it out. They can search for and send the form on to their child or dependent with minimal information. The form goes to the student to complete and finally, to the Financial Aid office for processing.”
“It's a good way to get parental forms signed without the headache of having to deal with mailing paper forms and requiring wet signatures,” said Christman. Single sign-on provides automatic authorization and eSignature compliance, creating tremendous time savings for everyone involved.
With student information tied to an automated workflow and securely stored within the Softdocs’s platform, Student Services staff now have answers to student questions at their fingertips.
“They can get a bird’s eye view of a student’s record and see all the forms that have either been completed or are still pending,” said Christman. “If a student calls, they can quickly look them up and say, ‘Oh, I see you've started that form, but you never actually hit submit.’ Or whatever the status happens to be.”
“In the past, it's often not until somebody in the office receives the form that they would know it even exists. So we tried to build some advanced warnings for the different departments to be able to look up the status of a form in process if they need.” Students can also log into the student portal themselves to view an application or form status.
Central Carolina belongs to the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS), known for its collaborative mindset and learning among its higher education peers. Christman believes in passing on what he and his team have learned from their Softdocs journey to his colleagues in NCCCS. Specifically, his recommendation to lean into the discovery process.
“In my opinion, for someone new to Etrieve, it's very valuable to build a knowledge base from what other colleges or other institutions have done with their implementation.”
“Sure, you’re going to have some unique processes, but for the most part, our processes are very similar. You can learn from your peers and the Softdocs support team how best to anticipate any challenges and set your school up for success.”
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