The NDUS prides itself on offering a top-quality, highly collaborative learning environment. Once a student is enrolled at one campus, he or she has the opportunity to take classes at any of the university system’s 11 institutions. While this structure gives students the flexibility to choose when and where they want to learn, it also creates unique challenges when it comes to managing student-related information.
“Many of our students have a presence across multiple campuses, which means that there is a great deal of information that needs to be shared within and across our institutions, including admissions records, financial data, academic transcripts, and more,” said Madhavi Marasinghe, Director, Enterprise Services at the NDUS. “In the past, we managed almost everything using paper, which drove up costs and dulled our responsiveness. For instance, sending documents by fax and post meant it could take anywhere between a few hours and two weeks for individual documents to be sent from one department or institution to another.”
Several years ago, in an effort to streamline content sharing and management, the NDUS introduced Kofax Perceptive Content™ software at six colleges and universities. However, as each institution had a separate instance of the solution, the NDUS found that information was not being managed as consistently and efficiently as it would have liked. Furthermore, with the rest of the institutions still relying on paper-driven processes, enabling timely content access and sharing across the NDUS remained an issue.
The University System’s governing body—the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education—stepped in, launching an initiative which ultimately led to the consolidation of all 11 NDUS institutions onto a single instance of Perceptive Content.
“Introducing Perceptive Content was a step in the right direction, but we knew that there was still much room for improvement,” Marasinghe said. “Bringing all of our institutions onto the same platform helps our teams to work together much more effectively, and allows them to deliver an even better student experience.”
In a first-of-its-kind initiative in the domain of higher education, the NDUS worked with Kofax to unify its operations on the Perceptive Content platform—enabling a faster, simpler exchange of student records, increasing data security and reducing costs.
The NDUS established two teams for the project, both of which worked in parallel—one focused on migrating institutions to the central instance of Perceptive Content and the other on onboarding new institutions. Each team migrated and onboarded institutions using a phased, one-on-one basis. This gradual, focused approach has been key to ensuring a smooth and successful transition for each NDUS campus.
“For institutions that were using Perceptive Content for the first time, we didn’t want to overwhelm them by giving them too much too soon,“ explained Janna Kruckenberg, Lead Application Analyst at NDUS. “We started by focusing solely on storage: bringing their documents onto Perceptive Content, indexing them and establishing retention policies."
“Once a team has had some time to get comfortable with the new way of working we move on to rolling out more case management capabilities. Here, we ask users to create a written narrative of the typical lifecycle for individual
document types—detailing the different process steps it moves through and who handles the document at each step—and build out a workflow using that information.”
Close collaboration between teams at the NDUS and Kofax Enterprise Software Professional Services was critical to keeping such a large-scale, long-term project on track and within budget.
“The reason why this project went so well was because of the partnership we established with Kofax” noted Marasinghe. “If we had questions or something went wrong, Kofax was there to help—the entire team even flew in to one of our campuses to take care of a particular issue. I can’t stress enough how much we appreciate this team’s help. We wouldn’t be where we are today without them.”
Kruckenberg added: “We really appreciate the support and the availability that we’ve received from Kofax. Everyone worked as one team—from our central IT function and the people at our institutions to Kofax—and it has been a huge benefit to be able to draw on that camaraderie and joint effort as this project has progressed.”
The NDUS completed the migration and onboarding phase in June 2016. Now, NDUS is focused on creating workflows to streamline daily processes as well as rolling out Kofax Perceptive TransForm™ software, which will enable teams to rapidly convert paper forms to electronic ones.
“We’ve already digitized a number of forms, including financial aid applications, degree audit requests, study abroad appointments and degree applications. We hope to add more in the coming months,” Marasinghe said. “This solution will make life much easier for both our students and administrative teams. There’s no longer any need to fill out and mail paper forms, which can be a costly and time consuming process. Students just go online, complete a web form and it then flows through to our Perceptive Content repository, where it is integrated directly into a workflow for processing.”
Moving to a new content management platform has offered institutions across the NDUS a valuable opportunity to
look more closely at their ways of working and unlock greater efficiencies.
“As we’ve gone through this transformation, particularly with the creation of new electronic workflows, it has really put a spotlight on the way that our processes are set up, and prompted people to question whether there might be better ways of doing things. Several of our institutions have identified ways to improve certain processes and, as a result, are working with greater efficiency than ever before,” noted Marasinghe.
With teams across different departments and campuses now able to access and share information in a rapid, consistent manner, the NDUS is making big savings and boosting productivity.
Erica White, Document Imaging and Process Analyst at the NDUS, commented: “I know a number of departments, especially at our larger campuses, used to rely on a courier service to move around paper. Now that everything is digitized and instantly available online with Perceptive Content, many departments no longer spend lots of money on transporting paper documents; it has been a great cost-saving opportunity.”
Amanda Kuzel, Application Analyst at the NDUS, added: “One of the biggest benefits of moving to a centralized content management platform and shared workflows is that it allows for much faster and more reliable information sharing—whether it’s between departments or across campuses. As students move through our system, our teams can count on the fact that the documents they need will be there when and where they need them.”
Most importantly, the efficiency gains will allow staff at the NDUS to focus on what matters most: delivering exceptional student service.
“Our teams can handle electronic forms much more efficiently, so instead of it taking weeks for students to receive a response to an application or request for information, they can now get it in just a few days,” Marasinghe said. “Nowadays, people demand instant gratification—if they have a question or need something, they expect to get it in just a few mouse clicks or finger taps on a smartphone—and the same goes for our students. Moving to electronic forms will help us deliver on that expectation for a rapid response, and shape a much more satisfying experience for students.”
Kruckenberg concluded: “Teams no longer have to worry about hunting down files or sit around waiting for the information they need to arrive. With Perceptive Content, we are bringing together information, people and processes across departments and campuses to help teams work more efficiently, freeing them up to focus on helping students and shaping a better educational experience.”