Managing a complex ecosystem of administrative functions, involving multiple internal (core staff and students) and external (new students/alumni and potential job candidates) stakeholders who demand good governance, is a way of life for many educational institutions. When processes are varied yet removed from the main function of the organization – in this case better student experience by allowing staff to spend more time doing student facing – the business case for FlowForma Process Automation quickly becomes apparent.
Our educational clients are not typically digital in their outlook, but many have already removed/cut down on paper processes in some way. By doing so, this has resulted in a shift to a "death by email" ethos with increasing reliance on email and spreadsheets, leaving them with multiple sources of truth, and missing the data to make informed decisions.
Manual tasks also still remain and add to the administrative burden, which lead to errors, and often cause delays when paperwork goes missing. Forrester Research has demonstrated that digitized processes are more resilient, more adaptive, cheaper to run, faster, and more transparent.
The company’s Global Digital Process Automation Survey argues that process automation is no longer a nice-to-have, but a strategic survival imperative. This echoes our experience in the education sector, where institutions want to be self-sufficient with easy-to-build workflows that are not IT-centric and improve their 'competitive advantage', may this be from student/staff experience, or greater efficiencies across the institution in their drive to become more lean.
Emulating Integrated Business Systems
Improving governance, better reporting for performance measurement, focusing on teaching rather than admin, are the Holy Grail for the sector, all of which can be addressed by the FlowForma Process Automation tool, while introducing non-technical people to digital processes.
Mark Lay, Head of Finance at Abingdon & Witney College in Oxfordshire in the UK, told us why he thinks FlowForma Process Automation is such a perfect fit for the sector. "In an equivalent firm of our size, I would expect an integrated operating system that manages Finance, HR, and Payroll, but you rarely find that in the education world. You have to make do with lots of bespoke systems pieced together," he explained.
With no prospect of replacing manual processes with the current systems he had grown accustomed to in the commercial sector, he turned to FlowForma Process Automation to emulate the seamless integration and do it at a fraction of the cost.
Results from a range of workflows have been spectacular in time saving alone:
- Trips and Visits – 1,665 hours
- Accident and Incident Reporting – 320 hours
- Expense Claims – 402 hours
- Task Risk Assessments – 620 hours
- Student Risk Assessments – 370 hours
- Student Update Forms – 1,325 hours
Bottlenecks in paper trails between three main campuses and six satellite sites have been eliminated completely.
Getting Started With Digital Transformation
We find that this non-technical approach to transformation works best when a series of simple steps are followed:
Find a champion, a FlowForma Process Automation user who can unlock and share the benefits of a 'citizen development' platform.
Go for quick wins with ‘workflows’ that deliver results and encourage adoption.
Focus on adoption rates, encourage feedback, and build momentum by driving ownership across the organization.
Digitize for outcomes and track progress as you integrate with existing systems and tools such as FlowForma Process Automation.
Classic education use cases have been around student processes, like student clearing/registration, Finance approvals, and staff workflows, including onboarding and curriculum management. But what inevitably happens in education, as with other sectors, is that innovative new ‘flows’ emerge to tackle more unique tasks such as pandemic requirements, or the drive towards temporary remote learning.
The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, which sends employees to dangerous corners of the world, relied on a clunky, form-based process to assess risk levels and ensure appropriate levels of sign-off before every trip. A FlowForma Process Automation workflow, Travel Assist, has made a complex process much simpler.
"There were a couple of curve balls around the process that we were able to address that made the process simpler for everyone," recalled Martyn Coleman, IT Systems Architect. He talked about how FlowForma Process Automation helped break down barriers between semi-autonomous groups that are common in higher education. And he talked about other benefits: "We get good quality compliance data out of Travel Assist and a way to nudge travellers along on a process they have to complete."
For more information on how FlowForma assists the sector, visit our education webpage. Alternatively, take a free 14-day trial.