Public Sector

It’s not just about going paperless

Four steps to a digitized, modern school system

“Going paperless” is a commonly stated goal in a school district’s digital transformation plan, but it’s just the beginning of a journey toward the increased efficiency, effectiveness and modern work culture that technology can bring to bear. Freeing up physical space and reducing costs are certainly benefits, but the real gains school districts typically seek from digital transformation are to automate repetitive processes, bridge information siloes, increase satisfaction among employees and stakeholders and improve student outcomes.

Wherever school systems are on their journey, K-12 leaders can enhance their district’s effectiveness by taking the following four steps toward modernization.

Step one: Implement e-forms with workflow

Challenge: Despite the fact that many schools and departments have started to collect form data digitally, a completed PDF form or a spreadsheet of aggregated data from a Google Form adds little efficiency when considering the steps afterward. Whether they involve keying that data into an HR, finance or student information system, or manually sending the completed form to the next approver to download, sign and send on, these digital forms solve only one piece of the puzzle.

Solution: Schools should adopt integrated e-form and digital signature solutions which can automate – and dramatically simplify – critical processes such as employee onboarding, vendor registration, field trip requests, parent permission slips, student forms and more. E-forms shouldn’t just aggregate data digitally–they need to kick off approval workflows and push data into the appropriate systems. Forms should capture and process actionable data, automate line of business workflows and enhance existing application ecosystems. Centrally managed data and content enables a district to ensure utility, security and compliance.

Step two: Scan away the paper

Challenge: Most school districts have hundreds of file cabinets storing paper records and microfiche, some dating as far back as the 1800s. This challenge is exacerbated by the fact that many departments or schools continue to create paper by printing digital files to store in a paper folder – ironically – to keep all records pertaining to a student or employee “in one place.”

Solution: A critical step is to stop the creation of new paper records caused by the unnecessary and costly printing of digital files. Training school-level, HR, finance and other central office staff to scan any new paper documents, and store them centrally, is one example of the organizational changes that K-12 leaders need to facilitate across their districts.

Regarding the millions of paper documents stored in a warehouse, district leaders should purge documents that are past retention policy and prioritize digitizing the files with the longest remaining retention periods. Since district staff already have a full plate of responsibilities – and since they are not trained scanning pros – districts can save time and effort by hiring a contractor like OpenText™ to digitize what could be hundreds of boxes of paper records.

It’s important to note that all scanning should take advantage of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology, which turns documents into fully indexed, text searchable and machine-readable information. Additionally, spending the time to add metadata either manually or through solutions like OpenText Core Capture may add value to these records. Without OCR, scanned documents could end up no easier to find than when they were in a paper folder.

Step three: Make all content available and securely searchable from anywhere

Challenge: Even after schools have digitized every file, content is still spread across numerous systems, from desktops, SharePoint and Google Drive to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Human Capital Management (HCM), and Student Information Systems (SIS). To find a document, staff need to know where it’s located, what folder it’s in and under what file name. Most concerning, schools can’t ensure their records are secure and compliant when spread across multiple systems.

Solution: Moving these resources into a central repository will make it easier for everyone to access data and automate workflows. An effective central repository can OCR and fully index all ingested documents, and in some cases, tag them with metadata like an invoice number, vendor number, employee ID or student ID number, so certain document types can be quickly found with a form search, filtered search, multi-term search or shareable search template.

A central repository should also be accessible from multiple devices, with a fully responsive UI and an out-of-the-box app in which employees can engage with content or complete a workflow step from their smart phone.

Step four: Integrate content with HR, finance and student information systems

Challenge: With a central repository, employees still need to leave their HR, finance or student information systems to find documents. These applications are not designed for managing documents, and even if they can hold a few attachments, they generally lack effective critical features such as records management, role-based permissions or advanced security. Further, keeping documents directly in these systems perpetuates the problem of content siloes.

Solution: Once a central repository is in place, the next step is to integrate the district’s most critical applications to the central repository. But what really is an effective “integration”?  With OpenText Extended ECM Platform, integrated applications present an embedded window view of a student’s, employee’s or vendor’s pertinent files. The goal is to give staff access to content from within the applications they use every day, within the context of the business processes in which the information matters. In other words, we “eliminate the swivel chair” when it comes to an employee finding the content they need, when they need it.

Whether your district has yet to embark on a paperless journey, or whether you have already centralized most content, the OpenText Education Team is here to help you take your digital transformation journey to the next level.

Learn more about how OpenText solutions can help you use information management for positive change.

Rachel Dotter

Rachel Dotter has spent the last ten years connecting education institutions and nonprofit organizations with research and technology to maximize the value of their information. Currently, Rachel serves as Senior Account Executive on the Education Team at OpenText, where she helps school districts and higher education institutions automate business processes, bridge information siloes, and improve the user experience for all stakeholders.

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