Document Management

Image and Integrate

Image and IntegrateIt'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.

Image and Integrate

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."

Overcoming Resistance

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 Xtender), but 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 physical files.

"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 system, 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."

::WEBEXTRAS ::
The Road to Paperless: More institutions are clearing out those filing cabinets. Image Management: Tightening links between DI, online processing, and document management solutions.

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