Managing the paperwork sprawl

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Even for smaller colleges and universities, managing personnel records is often onerous. Now imagine having to do this for thousands of full-time and part-time faculty, sprawled across 17 schools and colleges. This was exactly the situation facing the staff at the University of Southern California (USC) Office of the Provost. By 2005, the Provost’s Office was drowning in mountains of paperwork and struggling to become more efficient.

For example, rather than being housed centrally in one location, personnel files were stored at the various individual schools, a common situation for massive operations like USC, says David Haugland, associate vice provost.

But having important documentation spread out hither and yon (“floating out there,” as Desiree Brown, faculty services coordinator puts it) made keeping up with the constant faculty status changes like promotions, sabbaticals and retirement a labor-intensive, confusing process. An additional concern was the potential for confidentiality and security breeches.

The need for speedier and improved data accessibility grew more compelling when Provost Marty Levine began making increasingly specialized queries of faculty records; for example, wanting to know which female faculty members had been promoted during the past five years, says Haugland.

Clearly, a new solution was in order. Enter an enterprise content management (ECM) system from Laserfiche, chosen not only for its ease-of-use but also for its ease of customization. The latter was an essential component since it allowed the Provost’s Office to centralize and standardize records while still accommodating each school’s unique filing systems and primary applications.

The staff began using Laserfiche in 2009 for active faculty career file management. The advantages quickly became evident. Brown was able to virtually eliminate paper from her desk. “Anything that comes in, I scan it and then pass it along as an e-mail. And the great thing is I have a record on my desktop.”

Along with cutting down on inter-office mail and reducing storage and processing costs, improvements were achieved in disaster recovery, transparency and compliance. And the time-savings have been substantial, says Brown.

“Something that used to take me 10 minutes to find, now it’s a matter of seconds,” she says. “A lot of the benefits are subjective, but turnaround times, compliance—we know we’re better than we were.”

Improved compliance is especially important. “All institutions of higher education are facing compliance issues,” says Haugland. “We’re able to report accurately and quickly, and that affects everyone.” 

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