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Utilizing Automated Workflows in Higher Education

Hussein Abubaker

Hussein Abubaker
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Manual processes and an increasingly large administrative burden for admitting students, organizing schedules, providing qualified financial aid, and even the day-to-day operations of running your school, come with a substantial time and financial cost. When it comes to overall college expenses:

“The largest expense category was the combined category of academic support, student services, and institutional support, which includes expenses associated with non-instructional activities, such as admissions, student activities, libraries, and administrative and executive activities. These combined expenses constituted 62 percent of total expenses at private nonprofit 2-year institutions, 54 percent of total expenses at private for-profit 2-year institutions, and 66 percent of total expenses at private for-profit 4-year institutions.”

The most effective way to reduce expenses without compromising on quality or breadth of service is through automation. Freeing up professional work hours throughout the registrar's office and other internal departments allows your teams to focus on strategy and long-term initiatives, not day-to-day data entry and paperwork. Learn more about how specialized automation is benefiting the higher education world and how it can help your organization.

The Importance of Automation Within Higher Education

Much like manufacturing tasks can be automated, you can automate administrative and operational tasks across campus. Workflow software can take student electronic contact forms, interpret the input text, and direct it to the appropriate contact or fully complete the request on its own, triggering the appropriate approval processes or charges to an account. Automation software can operate 24/7 and handle as many tasks as it has the processing power and instructions to do.

Ultimately, automation within higher education can:

  • Reduce the risk of human error: Data can be imported from existing information within other key systems, without typos or misreading of information. Every step are followed without delays or the risk of an essential step being forgotten.
  • Reduce burnout: Administrators and admin staff at all levels within colleges or other higher education organizations are feeling the pressure of high admissions and high turnover. Tedious, manual tasks can be overwhelming, especially when they're added to an already heavy workload. Automation can reduce or eliminate these tasks, help mitigate burnout, and lead to overall improved employee morale.
  • Increase productivity: When multi-step workflows switch from human operators to automated work in the background, employees can focus on important tasks and projects that make your school more appealing to applicants, increase the types of services provided, and focus on long-term growth instead of simply struggling to keep pace with demand.

What to Look for in an Automation and eForms Tool?

Knowing how valuable automation can be to your organization is an important first step. Carefully vetting software options and different tools is just as critical. As you begin your search, look for the answers to these five questions:

1. How Are New Forms and Workflows Created? How Intuitive Is It?

If your team can't fully utilize the automation tool because it's complex or unwieldy, it's a bad investment. Look for options with crystal-clear processes and lots of educational resources so you're not hamstrung because your campus has custom process needs. Also, test out the platforms on your shortlist through demos and trials — ensure the software is intuitive enough for easy handling.

2. Does the Solution Offer Unlimited Workflows, Electronic Signatures, and Form Submissions?

Some software only allows a limited number of workflows based on the licenses or packages you commit to. Similarly, there may be tiers of preset electronic signatures and form submissions allowed before you have to 'level up' to the next package. Ideally, your software should offer unlimited usage.

If Not: What Is the Cost Per Unit or Package?

If you find the perfect package but it offers limited usage, double-check the pricing for individual units, service tiers, or other options.

3. Can You Automate With Your Content Management System?

Your university produces a lot of content, which carries uniquely complex workflows. Look for systems that fully integrate and automate these tasks.

4. Can It Update Your ERP Through the Workflows?

Similarly, ensure the automation software integrates with your ERP for direct financial operations, financial aid and tuition-related tasks, and managing expenses.

5. Does It Integrate With Other Key Campus Software?

Other campus software, such as student portals, HR software, and more, will need to be able to accurately integrate with your automation tools.

Where Do You Start?

Once you have a shortlist of software options that satisfactorily answer those questions, it's time to see which software best performs the critical functions of your organization. Because students are the priority of your organization, prioritize software that addresses student-related tasks. These should include tasks in these departments:

  • Registrar's office
  • Admissions offices
  • Financial aid teams

Check out these case studies to see how our automation software solutions have powered more efficient processes:

Additional Campus-Wide Key Processes

Universities and other higher education organizations have more than student-focused operations. You have the same administrative burdens as general corporations and non-profit institutions. Highly manual tasks and repetitive workflows exist throughout every part of running your organization, so look for an automation platform that also powers tasks for the following departments:

  • Human Resources (HR)
  • Finance and Purchasing

Watch these case study videos to see how our software can streamline performance in these auxiliary departments:

Facilitate Productivity With Automated Workflows at Your Higher Education Institution

Adding e-forms, automated processes, and easier document management processes can shave hours off your teams' workloads across your organizations. It can also reduce burnout, increase performance, and improve student experiences. See more about how Softdocs can automate your online workflows through our intuitive platform. Contact us today to schedule a demo or to learn more about our unique capabilities for serving higher education institutions.

About the Author

Hussein Abubaker serves Softdocs as an Account Executive in the Northeast region, helping institutions modernize campus operations to drive institutional and student success. Prior to joining Softdocs, Hussein spent 18 years in the Higher Education space working for Anthology and Hobsons. During his time there, he served in many roles including as an Account Manager, Sales Engineer, and Strategic Consultant, helping schools use technology to build a connected Campus and do more with less. He also spent a few years overseas managing EMEA operations in the Hobsons London office. Hussein attended George Mason University and graduated with a BS in Computer Engineering. He resides in Vienna, VA with his family and enjoys traveling and sports.