Oklahoma Christian University’s modest size offers big innovation: the private liberal arts college with 2,200 students and more than 60 degree programs is a visionary leader in advanced teaching and learning methods. Oklahoma Christian (OC) consistently ranks as one of the top colleges in the US.
This prestige has driven a greater enrollment rate at OC in recent years. However, the influx of students strained the school’s technology infrastructure as many departments struggled to maintain back-end processes related to student services, such as billing, financial aid award processing and records retention.
“The irony is that we’ve been a pioneer in educational technology, but our business operations were behind the curve,” says John Hermes, OC’s Vice President for Information Technology. “We are a very digital campus, yet very analog in our administrative processes.”
Committed to taking administrative departments paperless and modernizing campus operations, Hermes identified the need for an enterprise content management (ECM) system.
“I watched the paper records and operational inefficiencies conflate on campus, but we had no way to manage these problems without ECM,” notes Hermes.
Scripting an ECM Syllabus
Hermes began the search for a solution by developing criteria for an ECM system that could provide:
- A quick, easy learning curve for administrators and students.
- Integrations with existing line-of-business applications.
- Methods for reducing paper records and incoming mail.
- The flexibility to manage data for many departments while still maintaining secure records.
Although the university considered other ECM solutions, it was Laserfiche’s scalable architecture and integrations with existing applications, like the school’s ERP software, that assured administrators the system could easily cut costs and build a platform for shared services on campus.
More importantly, Laserfiche’s flexibility provided OC the opportunity to apply its innovative spirit to business process improvements.
Although OC envisioned bringing the whole campus onto Laserfiche, Hermes first needed to prove that ECM and the shared governance model produced real results. His approach centered on three strategies:
- Choosing a department for initial implementation that could quickly demonstrate the value of ECM.
- Creating a cost analysis of current business processes.
- Leveraging a knowledgeable vendor for a quick implementation.
Accelerating Financial Aid
To achieve these objectives, Hermes collaborated with Clint LaRue, OC’s Director of Student Financial Services, to develop an initial Laserfiche project for Student Financial Services in 2010.
“Customer service issues were very apparent when we evaluated the existing system,” says Hermes.
Previously, submission forms entered the office via paper mail from students all around the world. Information was frequently missing, incomplete or lost, and there was little transparency into where an application in the financial aid process.
Now, with Laserfiche acting as a process management and integration layer between the department’s line-of-business systems, the financial aid process has been completely digitized.
Students submit financial aid forms electronically and their completed applications are automatically routed by Laserfiche to a financial aid counselor to review from within the familiar Colleague® by Ellucian environment. Once reviewed, a single click archives the record in Laserfiche and automatically update the student’s profile on the student portal.
With the improved process, the financial aid office is more responsive to students. Giving students real-time access to documents and quick online feedback about their application status is “invaluable,” according to LaRue. “We’ve eliminated the perception of lost documents, and can retrieve them much easier,” he says.
The integration between Laserfiche and OC’s student information system simplifies information access for financial aid counselors and reduces their administrative burden of manual data entry in multiple systems.
Hermes and LaRue calculated that through eliminating expenditures such as file storage size, mailing, personnel and time costs, the financial aid office saved $31,000 in less than two years with Laserfiche.
A Modernized, Paperless Campus
Replicating the success of the financial aid project, OC has since expanded their Laserfiche implementation across campus through a shared services initiative, streamlining processes from enrollment management to finance administration.
“Starting small with an office we knew was struggling helped us show a quick return on investment to other departments and gain support throughout the university,” says Hermes. “By leveraging intuitive Laserfiche technology, we have been able to achieve the vision of a paperless campus in just a couple of years. In the process, the initiative has improved employee morale and ultimately everything we are trying to do for students.”
Grace Ding is a Software Marketing Specialist at Laserfiche.