4-Step Guide to Higher Ed Process Efficiency

Written by Abby Nieten on April 19, 2018

Posted in Education, Workflow Automation

Tight budgets and limited resources plague the education industry. Higher ed institutions, in particular, face pressure to reduce costs, improve efficiency, and produce high-quality student experiences. So it’s no wonder many of these institutions have turned their hands to automation and process improvement.

According to Formstack’s education workflow automation report, 88% of higher ed managers who use workflow automation are looking to increase efficiency. With a growing number of tech-savvy stakeholders—students, faculty, alumni, and donors who expect educational experiences to mirror the convenience of everyday consumer experiences—colleges and universities are right to concern themselves with transforming inefficient processes.

Higher ed administration involves heaps of repeatable workflows, data, and paperwork. From enrollment management to faculty hiring to student health services operation, the opportunities for process improvement across a university campus are seemingly endless. And many institutions are well aware: 63% have already implemented some sort of workflow automation.

Even so, 55% of education managers are still spending at least one full work day per week on manual, repetitive tasks; and another 25% are spending half of their work week on these tasks.

Something’s gotta give.

For automation to successfully lead to higher ed process efficiency, colleges and universities should take four important steps:

#1: Appoint Change Management Leaders

If you’re implementing workflow automation practices at your institution, you’d be wise to appoint a person or team to manage the process changes. Higher education is an established industry with traditional ways of working, so resistance to change is inevitable. Change management leaders can facilitate cooperation among people, technology, and data.

Typically, change managers are part of a larger university advancement group that promotes innovation and creativity. They own process improvements across the institution and coordinate large-scale implementation. They also serve as the chief champions of workflow automation efforts, helping people adapt in support of positive outcomes.

#2: Ditch Complex Systems

Complex technology systems are process efficiency killers. They require significant training and experience to operate and disruptive IT support to maintain. Colleges and universities are notorious for juggling complicated technologies like student information systems and course management systems. Consolidating and simplifying these systems is an important step toward process improvement.

Any automation tools you use should cater to nontechnical users. They should be intuitive and user-friendly so that managers can own their processes without relying on busy IT staff members for support. These tools should also have built-in security features that automatically safeguard the sensitive student and faculty data they process.

#3: Prioritize Communication

Where there is an inefficient process, there is most likely a communication roadblock. Workflow automation is not possible without seamless communication. But when multiple people from different departments are involved, efficient communication can be a struggle. Case in point: 56% of education managers cite poor communication as their school’s most pressing workflow challenge.

To prioritize communication at your institution, take advantage of digital automation tools that streamline communication. Set up data and process alerts that provide real-time updates and allow stakeholders to take immediate action. Use digital documentation that eliminates the need to physically track someone down for a review, approval, or signature.

#4: Reduce Bottlenecks

Workflow bottlenecks can be a major hindrance to automation and efficiency. Nearly 50% of education managers say it takes at least two days (and sometimes over a week) for process bottlenecks to be addressed at their institution.

Reduce bottlenecks at your university by creating seamless digital processes (bonus if they’re mobile-friendly!) that stakeholders can access and act upon from anywhere. You can also set up integrations, or technology connections, that automatically route data to pre-established destinations so it doesn’t get stuck in someone’s inbox. Take full advantage of your automation tools to reduce as much manual data routing and processing as possible.

The higher education industry is cloaked in tradition, but it’s time to modernize our colleges and universities through highly efficient, digital workflows. Click below to dive deeper into current education workflow automation trends and their implications.