Featured Product: Optika Acorde Higher Education Solutions Kit

An irony of the information revolution is that Americans are using more paper than ever before. That's because the productivity enhancements have gone hand-in-hand with a dramatic increase in workload, which, of course, means more documents generated and more paper consumed. However, parts of the high-tech industry are helping us achieve—if not a paperless society—at least a less-paper society. Document imaging, which allows us to scan, store, and access printed materials electronically, is freeing up physical space and leveraging the network to simplify and streamline workflow.

Higher education is a prime candidate for the benefits of document imaging. Any staff person can describe the volume of paper records that a college or university can accumulate in a short period of time. Every student, staff person, and faculty member who has ever been connected with the school probably has a file devoted to him or her. Each new freshman class carries with it the detritus of admissions applications, financial aid forms, medical records, and grade reports. These vital records get passed from department to department as needed in a riot of paper routing. Eventually the documents are archived.

Many universities have adopted Optika's Acorde Higher Education Solution Kits to tackle the paper problem. The Acorde suite combines document imaging and workflow solutions to streamline a variety of processes, from admissions and financial aid to student records and research grants. Optika works with partner resellers to craft specific solutions for each client. For instance, it might help an institution scan and archive old but essential records. Another client may want to focus on developing a workflow system that will allow staff to develop, manage, collaborate on, and route documents in a completely digital environment.

Although Optika calls its Acorde solutions a "kit," it's actually a more customized approach, according to product marketing manager Toni Eddleman. Typically, clients adopt Acorde's Context and Process modules, and add components that fit their needs, such as Acorde Resolve. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) integration is available to link the imaging and workflow with other enterprise systems. Acorde Context facilitates imaging and report management in the form of a document repository, which customers can use to capture, store, retrieve, and display content.

Acorde Process is the workflow tool. It enables users to develop and change documents, deliver them, and obtain status updates on the workflow process. Acorde Resolve is an external-type portal for connecting specific users. This online collaboration tool is especially useful for multi-campus institutions. Acorde Process Builder, part of Acorde Process, is a GUI-based administration tool. Says Eddleman, "Process Builder eliminates the need for an IT staff to manage the Acorde suite. Instead, it can be run by business managers in the assigned department."

Optika has clients in both the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors. According to Eddleman, about 10 to 15 percent of its market share comes from higher education. One such client is Fordham University, which three years ago purchased the Acorde solution at the launch of a major initiative to digitize and store over 100 years' worth of student records. Fordham, which was founded in 1841, wanted to replace its paper files containing more than 350,000 documents with digital images and a microfilm archive. It was able to achieve that goal in only four months with the help of the local reseller, ATI.

Gene Fein, associate director of technology for the Fordham University Enrollment Group, says the university was attracted to the Acorde system because of its scalability, security system, cost (significantly less than others they considered), and Web-based solution. "With three campuses, Fordham really needed a Web-based approach that would allow us to work as one," explains Fein.

Although Fordham originally adopted the Acorde system for Academic Records, it has since expanded the application of the solutions kit to include Financial Services. This allows university financial aid personnel to immediately access student financial aid records and route them as needed. Having digital versions of the documents, which might include everything from a tax return to a birth certificate, has saved valuable time.

Washington State University (WSU), with campuses in four cities, has also adopted the Acorde Higher Education Solutions Kit. The university was looking for a way to streamline the admissions process, which can take up to a year for one student to complete. Their list of priorities included organization, immediate access, Web-based connectivity, and security.

According to Lavon Frazier, assistant director of Information Technology at WSU, "We had paper everywhere. We needed to get it processed into an electronic workflow." The fact that WSU is spread over four disparate locations but shares one central admissions office added to the problem. "We had been sending paper back and forth by courier and fax," she says. Thanks to the Acorde solution, the admissions applications process is now fully automated. Each campus scans its own documents, which are then available on demand to authorized personnel. "We are now processing many more applications with fewer staff people," says Frazier. "The workflow system automatically identifies the next step in the process, right on a person's desktop. What's more, in the past it might have taken days to locate an applicant's file. Now we can access it immediately."

Optika emphasizes a phased approach to implementing its Acorde solution. Optika or its reseller partner works with the institution to craft a solution that will quickly address the customer's key needs. As a result, each customer scenario is different. The goal, according to Eddleman, is to grow the system in the way that best meets the customer's needs while maintaining a focus on delivering a rapid return on investment.

For more information on Optika Acorde, visit www.optika.com.

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