Determined not to let paper get in the way of stellar student service, Union University worked with Cannon IV’s iMAJ Data Enterprise Software group to streamline workflows, improve information sharing and deliver faster student service using Kofax Perceptive Content. Today, the university has brought newfound efficiency and flexibility to admissions, financial aid, the registrar’s office and other student-facing services—freeing staff to focus on delivering a first-class higher education experience.
Union University is a private, evangelical Christian, liberal arts university located in Jackson, Tennessee, with additional campuses near Memphis and Nashville. The university offers more than 100 programs of study to approximately 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
Products, Content Publishing & Distribution, Data Capture & Extraction, Document Management, Workflow & Process Management
At a time when competition in the higher education sector has never been more fierce, Union University must work harder than ever to attract new students—and keep them engaged and satisfied throughout their entire academic journey. To maximize the success of its enrollment efforts, the university wanted to ensure that administrative staff are working as productively as possible. However, reliance on paper-driven processes threatened to thwart this ambition.
“We run a very busy back office—there are a lot of moving parts involved, a large amount of information that needs to be exchanged between offices, and a great deal of transactions that take place every day,” explained Jim Avery, Associate Vice President for Information Technology. “As the university grew, we really started to feel the strain of relying on paper—it took a huge amount of time, effort and resources to manage, and introduced inconsistency and inefficiency to our operations.”
The potential for delayed student service, misplaced documents and rising office supply cost motivated Union University to find an enterprise content management system that would eliminate the inefficiencies of paper processes in the registrar’s office, financial aid and undergraduate admissions. Since each of these departments share documents, it was recognized that great efficiencies could be achieved by implementing a workflow and content management solution. A key requirement of the solution was the integration with Union’s existing student information and CRM systems.
In order to effectively manage limited Union University resources, they settled on a phased implementation strategy starting with the Student Financial Planning department. The Academic Center and Undergraduate Admissions departments followed.
“Paper was really slowing us down, especially during busy periods, such as in the run-up to the new academic year,” said Connie Teel, Assistant Data Coordinator for Undergraduate Admissions: “At this time, our enrollment counselors work almost entirely on the road, travelling to recruitment fairs and high schools to reach out to prospective students. Our administrative staff often need access to enrollment records, but if a counselor was offsite, the team would have to wait days or even weeks to get to those paper files.”
Jim Avery Associate Vice President for Information TechnologyAs the university grew, we really started to feel the strain of relying on paper—it took a huge amount of time, effort and resources to manage, and introduced inconsistency and inefficiency to our operations.
Relying on paper documents also made it a challenge for Undergraduate Admissions to work effectively with the university’s Student Financial Planning office.
“There is a great deal of overlap between Undergraduate Admissions and Student Financial Planning—such as when we are preparing a financial award package for a new student—and they need to be connected and communicate efficiently to function properly,” noted John Windham, Director of Student Financial Planning. “However, work would often get delayed because people in one office were waiting for a particular file that was buried in a pile of documents on another person’s desk or in a filing cabinet. We knew that there had to be a better way of working.”
Union University wanted to move away from paper and streamline back-office workflows, particularly when it came to admissions and student services. This would give its staff more time and energy to focus on value-added work around enrollment, potentially helping the university to attract more students.
Union University launched the search for a solution that could help it to put the right content in the hands of the right people—rapidly and reliably. This search led the university to Kofax Perceptive Content.
“What immediately stood out to us with Kofax Perceptive Content was the deep integration that it offered,” Avery said. “We liked the fact that we could connect the solution with our existing Ellucian Colleague Student Information System (SIS) and Ellucian Recruit customer relationship management [CRM] applications in such a way that it allowed a user working within one of these applications to bring up related electronic documents without having to exit the application, simply by clicking on an icon. None of the other vendors we considered offered this kind of integration right out of the box, and it was a defining factor in our decision to choose the Kofax solution.”
Union University has a relatively small IT team and knew it would need help implementing the suite of Perceptive Content applications across three departments, particularly when it came to navigating change management and the more technical aspects of the implementation. Strong support from Cannon IV, a Kofax Partner, has been helping Union University to guide a successful implementation and manage the transition.
“Working with Cannon IV has been one of the best experiences we’ve had on an IT project. The team has been very responsive whenever we’ve had questions or requests; they’re always there to meet any need we have. One area where they have really exceeded our expectations is on the project management side. Cannon IV have been great at bringing our different functional areas on board with the new solution and encouraging them to consider new ways of working without ruffling any feathers. We have been incredibly impressed by the level of care, attention and professionalism that the team has brought to this process,” Avery said.
The project’s success has been recognized at the highest levels of the institution, as Avery recalled: “Our VP of Enrollment Services has said that in all his years of technology projects, this has been the only one where he did not have a single person come to him to report a problem. That is a testimony to Cannon IV’s excellent technical knowledge and project management skills, and the dedication of all our people at Union University who helped champion the project and shepherd it into the various.”
Susan Hopper RegistrarIt is remarkable how many processes we have been able to automate with Kofax Perceptive Content. It has considerably reduced our workload, which makes it much easier for us to stay on top of growing business volumes.
Today, Student Financial Planning, Academic Center and Undergraduate Admissions offices at Union University have embraced electronic content and workflows. Employees at these offices can now access, share and work with information more quickly and efficiently than ever before.
By moving to electronic content and workflows, Union University has eliminated a number of processes that used to create bottlenecks, risks and duplication of effort. It no longer has to worry about paper documents going astray or about the possible inconsistencies created by different offices keeping their own copies of the same documents. Today, one electronic version of every document in one place is kept where it can be instantly accessed by all users with the relevant permissions.
Using Kofax solutions, financial aid officers and admissions counselors make decisions more quickly. With critical information readily available, employees never need to leave their desks to complete a file. Perceptive Workflow streamlines the process, allowing staff to immediately see any student’s precise status in the admissions and financial aid process.
Susan Hopper, Registrar, added: “It is remarkable how many processes we have been able to automate with Kofax Perceptive Content. It has considerably reduced our workload, which makes it much easier for us to stay on top of growing business volumes. Equally important, we can now focus on other work that we had been pushing aside for a while simply because there wasn’t enough time in the day to handle it all.”
Buoyed by its success, Union University continues to gradually extend the enterprise content management platform to other academic offices across its campuses.
John David Barham, Director, IT Services and E-Business Administrator, noted: “Initially, there was some reluctance and hesitation to move to the new system, which we anticipated. We have people who have been working at the university for many years—even decades—and we knew that getting them to change wasn’t going to happen overnight. This is why we put a lot of time and effort into change management, and we feel that has really paid off. Today we have a very high acceptance rate, the Kofax solution has really been assimilated into everyday work, and we are getting positive feedback from users.”
Avery added: “Once people have experienced first-hand how much easier work is with Kofax Perceptive Content, they can’t get enough of it. We thought that we were going to have to drag people to the new approach kicking and screaming, but today our users are the ones leading the charge towards further digitization. It has really sparked us to look for every opportunity to move away from paper and coax more areas of the organization onto the platform, which we look forward to doing in the coming months and years.”
With teams across different offices now able to access and manage information quickly and consistently, Union University has brought new levels of efficiency and agility to operations.
Avery concluded: “Thanks to Kofax Perceptive Content our teams can focus on what really matters—delivering a great student experience. It has lifted the burden of administrative tasks that consume a great deal of people’s time and energy, but add little value, and allows them to devote themselves to work that is of great benefit to the university and our students. We see this as a clear competitive advantage.”
Jim Avery Associate Vice President for Information TechnologyThanks to Kofax Perceptive Content our teams can focus on what really matters—delivering a great student experience.
“I often receive calls where I need to access a student’s file in order to answer certain questions,” explained Hopper, the Registrar. “Previously, I had to put people on hold in order to go and find the file; sometimes I wasn’t even able to access the file I needed because it was already checked out by another employee, which meant that I’d have to take a message and call the person back. Today, I can pull up everything right at my desktop—regardless of whether another employee is viewing the same files concurrently—and give callers the answers they need straight away.”
In Undergraduate Admissions, near instant access to information is helping teams to accelerate the enrollment process.
Robbie Graves, Assistant Vice President for Undergraduate Admissions, explained: “Instead of having to wait days and weeks for enrollment counselors to return to the office in order to access and review applications, we can view the relevant information online in minutes. This means we can get back to applicants much faster than ever before. In the past, it could take up to a month to send out an acceptance package; today, we can turn that around in about one week. That’s a huge benefit for students who are waiting anxiously to hear back from us, and helps us make a great first impression.”
The enhanced flexibility and productivity is helping Union University deliver a much more responsive, high-touch service to students.