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Spec your system

Document management systems speed up response times while improving finances, says Tracy Brobyn, pre-sales consultant at Ellucian

The University of Southampton extends across eight faculties and receives over 20,000 postgraduate applications a year. Although it has a decentralised admissions office, it is able to collect and store supporting documentation and automatically acknowledge receipt within 24 hours of submission.

In 2010 the University invested in Banner® Document Management, a document capture and storage system developed to be fully integrated with Banner by Ellucian, the university’s student management system. Before implementing Banner Document Management, the supporting documentation required for post graduate applications was received by post, email or in person, then copied and filed with electronic versions stored on individual faculty systems.  This time-consuming process is still repeated daily at many HEIs that do not have document management software.

Georgina Fluke, team leader in the Student Registry department at University of Southampton, says now the process is much faster and more efficient since they implemented document management software. Applications are uploaded straight into the software by the student, and automatically filed within the solution’s central filing system. Once the documents are associated with the individual student’s record in Banner, they can be easily accessed by all relevant staff. 

The integration to the existing student management system helps make document management systems extremely cost effective. It is reasonable to estimate that at least £10,000 a year will be saved on paper, photocopying, and physical storage solutions alone in the first year of implementing an integrated document management system. In addition to savings on these energy resources is the saving made on time spent handling admissions documents. At St John’s University in the US, for example, admissions staff said they could review twice as many applications in 16% of the time with the same number of staff by using Banner Document Management and Banner Workflow in combination. That leaves them more time to work with students on a personal level.

When considering a document management system, it is important to weigh up whether it has been developed specifically for the needs of higher education. Many have been developed for businesses with different demands and legal requirements. With an HE specific document management solution, scanned documents, PDFs, Word documents and photographs are automatically uploaded through one portal. Once filed, all documents are indexed and accessible from the student’s personal record on the central student management page and can be viewed from anywhere, giving the system all the advantages of centralised data storage with the flexibility of multiple access points.

Also, universities and colleges have specific security and legal requirements that must be considered. Paper-based documents with sensitive student information can be easily copied or misplaced.

Electronic documents centrally secured and stored, remove these possibilities, while providing access to the information only to those who have the appropriate security level. Universities only using part of the full Banner ERP system, such as the student management system, can also consider the Banner Document Management system as a central data storage solution across the institution.

Document management software can also serve as a document storage and access solution in departments beyond admissions, extending to all parts of the student lifecycle. For example, at University of Southampton, Banner Document Management is used extensively to store documents for undergraduates as well as being fully integrated for postgraduate applications. The University has deployed the tool for storing scanned copies of passports and visas which is vital for Borders Agency processing.

Lastly, document management software supports environmental initiatives, greatly reducing the consumption of paper. With a continuing drive to efficiency and environmental responsibility, many universities will cease using paper-based or non-integrated systems in the future. An integrated document management system can increase operational efficiencies, reduce costs, provide better security of confidential student information, and help HEIs deliver better service to their constituents across the entire institution.