Higher education administrators looking to increase efficiency frequently cite document management as a major roadblock. Even so, the numerous flaws in the system used by the College of the Desert’s admissions and records department went beyond the typical woes.
Half a dozen faculty and staff at the California community college might end up handling a single document. Lost materials and angry phone calls were commonplace. Documents had to be manually scanned and attached to student records. An incorrect label could get an item misplaced forever. And the lack of integration with the college’s student information system required staffers to log into multiple applications when addressing student issues.
“It was cumbersome. It was taking too long. We weren’t serving students to the best of our ability,” says Annebelle Nery, the college’s executive dean of institutional effectiveness, educational services and planning.
Administrators set their sights high in searching for a solution. They wanted a system that could not only automate workflows but also mine data from the documents entered into the system. After an RFP was sent out and potential vendors who responded were reviewed, administrators chose Laserfiche, whose enterprise content management tools provided digitized recordkeeping, greater transparency and much more integration.
Laserfiche gives students access to forms and applications 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Students can submit electronically and upload supporting documents. The system attaches those materials automatically to a student’s record and emails students with the status of their requests at every step of the way. And thanks to Laserfiche’s integration with the college’s ERP, Colleague by Ellucian, staff can offer assistance without having to go digging through multiple systems.
The silence of the system’s users told Nery she had a success on her hands. “It was relatively quiet,” she says of the rollout. “People just used the forms and submitted them electronically.”
The time spent processing applications and petitions has been cut by 40 percent. Because of the automatic notifications, email and phone inquiries are significantly down. And the student worker who formerly scanned inbound documents has been freed up to take on other tasks.
What has Nery especially excited is Laserfiche’s ability to use transcript and application information to place students in the appropriate classes and recommend needed services. That aspect of the system is not operational yet, but it has performed well in testing, Nery says. She compares it to the way internet companies detect keywords in searches and emails, then suggest products and services to users.
“What Laserfiche delivered not only exceeded my expectations but fulfilled this vision I had that we could be like a Google or Yahoo! and use the information around us in an efficient way without having to hire staff to do it all,” she says. “That’s my favorite part.”