Image and Integrate
It's no longer enough to digitize and store
documents: Today's campus staffers need to route,
track, access, annotate, link, and so much more—
across departments, buildings, and campuses.
CAROL HARRISON IS THE REGISTRAR AT the College of Southern Maryland, and back in the days of
paper, she used to have a problem: keeping track of students' records,
especially as they moved from one department to another, and through one
process or system after another. It wasn't that the records disappeared;
they were just, well, occasionally hard to find. For example,
she had to a) keep student applications on file; b) route copies to
the staffers who review them, and make sure that their comments were
attached to the appropriate copies of the appropriate applications; c) coordinate
the communication among the reviewers; and d) somewhere along the line be
able to access the annotated records, to give students timely feedback.
Clearly, Harrison needed a better document management system. Her
predicament was not unusual: Universities everywhere have come to realize
that shuffling papers and folders back and forth; hiring and training people to
manage filing systems; and storing thousands upon thousands of applications,
forms, policies, regulations, and other documents all are costing time, money,
and even space. Gradually, institutions of higher education have been adopting
systems that store, track, and send files back and forth electronically. Today, registrars like Harrison are finding
that their document tracking and management
headaches are a thing of the past.
One Solution, Two Stories
For Harrison, the change came in 2005,
when her college rolled out ImageNow,
developed by Perceptive Software. After her office started
using the software, the Department
of Continuing Education adopted it,
then the Bursar, Instructional Technology,
and Human Resources. Today, virtually
the entire College of Southern
Maryland (comprising 21,000 students,
440 full-time faculty and staff, 336 part-time
faculty and staff, four campuses,
and 100 programs of study) is a web of
document management system connections,
and Harrison claims the system
"does amazing things."
Now, when a prospective student
applies to the college, he can fax the
application, e-mail it, enter it on the college's
website, or fill it out in longhand
and mail it in; any which way, the document
is scanned and filed into a central
repository. From there, advisers can not
only access it from virtually anywhere in
the world, but they can search among all
the applications for specific categories
such as "Community Service." In that
instance, for example, the ImageNow program
will locate those applications containing
community service entries, rank
them by relevance, and even highlight the
section where a candidate may be discussing
volunteer work. As the document
is accessed by various individuals, one
adviser might add a "looks promising"
note on the application, and then e-mail
the annotated document to another adviser.
If all goes well and the candidate is
granted admission, the numerous requisite
forms he will then proceed to fill out
are scanned into his student file, which
can then be accessed by the appropriate
individuals—financial aid and student
records staffers, and so on.
APPLICATIONS TO BELMONT University have doubled over the past five years—but thanks to the efficiencies of its document management system, the school hasn't needed to increase its staff.
Harrison has two scanners in her office
to expedite the scanning process. That's
just about all she needs: Now when students
come in requesting information, she
says, she doesn't have to respond, "We'll
have it for you tomorrow," which was the
old drill. These days, she can call up the
information for the student on the spot.
"I can literally do all the work here in
my office," she explains. "Everything is
right there on my desktop, in one central
location." And, she can't help but add,
"Things aren't as lost as they used to be."
To date, the college has scanned in 15
years of records; the job is about 75 percent
complete, says Harrison. "Now we
service students better," she declares.
Farther west, at the somewhat larger
Minneapolis campus of the University
of Minnesota, Dan Wagner, product
manager for imaging for the Office of
IT, has been implementing the same
ImageNow product and training people
in its use for the past several years. Over
30 departments are linked—Admissions,
the Registrar, Student Services, Environmental
Health and Safety, Dentistry,
Nursing, and Athletics among them.
Still, Wagner maintains, "There's a lot of
room for growth, a lot of potential." He
demonstrates the program several times a
month to other departments, and is looking
forward to a fully connected campus.
He, too, claims the system "provides
benefits across the university—not just
for our staff, but for faculty and students
as well." The university processes thousands
of undergraduate admissions each
year. Now, Wagner points out, the system
can quickly distribute applications
to the various colleges, where advisers
can see them and forward them along.
But speeding access to documents
doesn't just mean time and paper savings.
There are financial considerations,
too, says Wagner. After the system was
initially rolled out, U of M President
Robert Bruininks announced that the
paperless student financial aid system
was saving the institution 700,000 pieces
of paper each year and approximately $250,000 in related costs, including savings
of $2,244 each week, or $116,688 per
year, on financial aid staff. Prior to the
rollout, the Office of Student Finance
employed 25 part-time students at $3,120
per week; afterward, only two part-time
students and one full-time student were
required, at a cost of only $876 per week.
Dollar savings attributed to reclamation
of floor space (due to removal of filing
cabinets) amounted to $2,200 per year. In
addition, there were substantial savings
on the cost of the paper itself.
At The City University of New York, a new policy documents site
now allows users to search for documents whether they're PDFs
or XHTML pages, and the program returns only relevant sections
from documents. A university board member recently saved
the institution from a malfeasance lawsuit by locating and routing a
pertinent document to a council member within five minutes.
Similar figures were obtained for the
Office of the Registrar. But of course, it's
not all about savings; it's about payback.
As CSM's Harrison says, "We immediately
saw our return on investment. It
made our office so much more efficient."
Not too long ago, in Nashville, TN,
administrators at 5,000-student Belmont
University faced not only the
challenge of incorporating a new document
management system (Banner
also that of getting people—notably, the
university's 200 faculty members—to
go along with the initiative.
Kathy Baugher, the institution's dean
of enrollment services, points out,
"There's always the fear that things are
going to be different. Faculty members
uncomfortable with technology simply
are not going to use it. So we tried really
hard to put processes in place to make
it easier to use." One important part of
the approach: "We've tried to involve
the faculty every step of the way."
One way the project team did that was
to ask faculty members to identify the
first step of reviewing an application
online. Then the team created a pencil-and-paper form to calculate GPA, check
ACT scores, etc., after which they showed
the resisters how to scan the form. Eventually,
the team created an electronic version
of the same form and carefully
weaned the apprehensive away from the
pencil-and-paper version. Soon, most of
the faculty agreed with Baugher: "The
system is not as intimidating as people are
afraid it's going to be. It's relatively easy:
It scans in the image, and you label what
that document is and work with what are
essentially virtual inboxes." So, Baugher
receives electronic applications, sends
them on to various departments such as
Arts and Sciences, and even attaches
electronic rubber stamps and sticky notes.
"It's a virtual filing cabinet," she
explains; "a storage and retrieval system."
Belmont has made extensive use of its
system across the Financial Aid, Admissions,
and Registrar offices, and more. In
Student Affairs, for example, imaged
documents are accessed to review disabled
students' requests for special
accommodations. (Housing applications
are scanned in when students register, and
then passed on to housing.) The result:
greater efficiency in, and integration of,
the enrollment and housing processes.
And while applications to Belmont have
doubled over the past five years, the
school hasn't yet needed to increase its
staff. Other benefits: a) space that had
been used to store documents was freed
up, b) student services were able to be
located closer to students, and c) staff
could be located where office space was
available, without the need to be near
"Imaging has allowed us to take the
attention off the process and put it on
the individual applicant," says Baugher.
At the University of Minnesota, a paperless student financial aid
system is saving the institution 700,000 pieces of paper each year
and approximately $250,000 in related costs. Prior to the rollout, the
Office of Student Finance employed 25 part-time students; afterward,
only two part-timers and one full-time student were required.
Whenever, Wherever Access
At the University of Michigan Medical
School, Mary Bernier, programmer/analyst supervisor for information services,
wanted reviewers to have access to
students' applications even if they were
off campus, something that was difficult
to manage with paper documents. It
wasn't always easy to locate people, particularly
when they were continually
moving from one class, seminar, or conference
to another. Now, Bernier uses an
electronic system, Xythos Digital Locker, to help administrators,
faculty, and students share and
manage files. Virtually anything relating
to a particular student is in that student's
electronic file: records, applications,
evaluations, and letters of recommendation.
"It's really nice having all of this
information right at your fingertips,"
Bernier says. The school soon plans to
give students access to their own files.
Jim Till, chief marketing officer for
Xythos, reinforces the importance of
"intelligent imaging," or what happens
to documents after they're scanned.
Who has access to them? How can they
be modified? How can they be shared?
"There needs to be a common language
and methodology," he maintains.
An imaging challenge on quite a large
scale was recently faced by administrators
at The City University of New York.
The largest urban public university in the
US, CUNY comprises 11 senior colleges,
six community colleges, an honors college,
several graduate schools, and a university
center, together serving almost
half a million students. Understandably,
the challenge for CUNY was to locate
policy documents quickly and accurately.
Using ISYS:web from ISYS Search Software as a cornerstone
search program, CUNY developed
a policy documents site that enables users to search for documents,
whether they're PDFs or XHTML
pages. Moreover, the program returns
only relevant sections from documents.
Steven Quinn, information management
coordinator at CUNY's Office of
the Chancellor (and the primary designer
of the system), says that prior to the
institution of the policy documents site
and the search program, CUNY's website hadn't been updated in 15 years. But
it was critical, he says, to get the complete
board of trustees minutes from
1969 forward (plus selected minutes
from 1940) onto the site. Previously, the
archives went back only to the 1980s.
Now CUNY not only has digitized
8,000 pages of board minutes, but also
has transferred its Manual of General
Policy onto the site, for quick and easy
access by the chancellor, president,
legal and budget staffs, student affairs
officers, or "anyone in a position to
implement or be affected by a policy."
According to Quinn, the ISYS:web
software was critical to the initiative's
success. His team initially tested version
6 of the software when it was designing
and building the system, brought the site
live with version 7, and has since upgraded
to version 8.
Interestingly, this type of document
access isn't as administration-focused
as it might sound. Recently, because
of soldier-students returning from
Afghanistan, there was a question about
veteran student reinstatement. Staff
from the CUNY Veterans Affairs office
needed to review the university's policy
regarding students who were deployed
overseas, so that they could allocate the
appropriate amount of credits as those
students were reinstated. Because of
painless access to the policies, CUNY
administrators were able to ease the
reintegration process for the returning
students. This access now holds true for
every CUNY college: Whether it's
FERPA or some arcane policy about
campus plumbing, the policy document
search system "makes it possible for
people to follow these policies in good
faith," says Quinn.
As it happens, last year a local city
council member accused the university
of malfeasance. Prior to the implementation
of the ISYS system, that charge
might have lingered overhead for months
while the staff pored through thousands
of documents to see if it was of any consequence.
But in this case, a board member
searched for, located, and e-mailed a
pertinent document to the council member
within five minutes. It clearly showed
that the university was only guilty of
something it was legally required to
do. Quinn recalls arriving at the office
to find the furor subsiding. Someone
approached him, smiling, and said simply,
"Your system worked." Says Quinn,
"People are starting to develop a confidence
that wasn't there before."
Unified Storage & Access
Universities, especially large ones, traffic
information not only via paper, but
also across fax, e-mail, and voicemail. A
vexing problem: How to transfer information
from all of those channels into an
electronic format that can then be stored
or communicated. Take the case of the
State University of New York's Application
Processing Center in Albany,
where Bryan Schaefer once was image
system manager. According to Schaefer,
the university was handling upwards of
450,000 enrollment applications each
year, and applications were routinely
supplemented with faxes, e-mails, and
voicemails; the document numbers
were exploding, he recalls.
MANAGING DOCUMENTS ON DEMAND
AT OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY, where construction of a new medical center is underway,
employees, contractors, and students all can share information and documents via
computer, without worrying about firewalls and security conflicts with other preexisting
systems. All the information shared among contractors and vendors goes through
application service provider (ASP) SpringCM, where it's updated
and distributed electronically. Because the app is hosted via the web, users can access
the program from anywhere without investing in any special hardware or purchasing software.
They can search for documents, extract text from them, and route full-text extractions
to users' own preset workflow processes. They can even place virtual sticky notes
on the documents as they are passed along. When the project (construction or otherwise)
is completed, users can easily be removed from the system.
Users can be set up on the system in about 10 minutes to an hour. An individual
signs up, names his folder and adds the university logo, adds some user privileges,
and assigns e-mail addresses and fax numbers. There's a $500 setup fee to access
the program, and a charge of about $130/month per five users. Potential SpringCM
clients can even play with the program free for 30 days.
Though Ohio State is using SpringCM for collaboration around the construction
of the new medical center, the program is designed to: provide students with easy
access to course materials and collaboration tools; ensure that all students have
access to the same updated material; help manage student and trainee project
activity from a single, integrated dashboard; employ alerts and reminders to keep
project participants apprised of critical project milestones and due dates; easily and
centrally organize communications and collateral material; and allow users to share
documents in real time, in WebEx meetings.
Schaefer is now the regional sales
engineer at Kofax Image Products, maker of the Intelligent Capture
& Exchange suite of software. The
product, he says, captures content in any
paper or electronic format, from any
device anywhere, regardless of the desktop
platform technology. It has the ability
to extract appropriate information
from varied content sources, and then
notifies the pertinent departments when
critical information is received or when
preemptive action is necessary. Now,
information is not simply captured, but
analyzed. Capture & Exchange follows
on the heels of Advanced Capture, and
will be finding its way to universities by
the end of 2007, says Schaefer.
The time is ripe for these kinds of systems.
At Villa Julie College, just outside
Baltimore, MD, the school's two
campuses are 10 minutes apart, and
recently, Admissions was poised to move
from the Stevenson to the Owings Mills
campus. Tracy Bolt, the registrar there,
was concerned about what would happen to the customary paper records shuffle.
She remembers asking, "How are we
going to be able to share information and
paperwork when we're separated?" The
transfer evaluator, for instance, needed
to be able to see the transcripts of
accepted transfer students so that she
could quickly evaluate them even prior
to their entry to VJC. Other offices
needed to "see" the records, as well. The
answer came from AIG Technology's
D3 Workflow Suite document management
the installation of which Bolt spearheaded
in October 2005.
To meet the challenge, Bolt chose two
programs from the Suite—Doc e Serve
(image layout, reporting, sorting, and file
merging), and Doc e Scan (captures
images from Doc e Serve). (A third module,
Doc e Fill, routes documents for distribution
and approval, and is used in
other university departments, including
Financial Aid and Accounting.) Utilizing
the two programs, admissions materials
now are scanned and electronic files are
created for every VJC applicant. "It has
simply been a lifesaver," Bolt declares.
"Looking into the imaging system is now
a part of our standard vocabulary and
piles of paper are now nonexistent. Each
student has [an electronic] file cabinet
drawer with folders—academic advising,
application, registration. Any paper data
that comes through related to that student
is scanned into the folder."
Although the system links various
parts of the college—Registrar, Admissions,
Financial Aid—access is restricted.
For instance, Bolt points out that she can't
see the financial aid package a student
may have received, and the Financial Aid
office does not have access to student
information regarding disciplinary
actions. The biggest benefit? "There's no
file handoff anymore. It's made communication
between the departments seamless,"
she enthuses. Still, while the AIG
system has enhanced coordination, it
wouldn't have been as successful if
department leaders weren't already working
together as a team. "‘Change' is our
middle name. We were ready to hop on
board with it all the way."
The Road to Paperless: More
institutions are clearing out those
Image Management: Tightening
links between DI, online processing,
and document management