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“PerfectForms is the most user-friendly process implementation tool I’ve come across.”
-Mike Abney, process improvement facilitator, University of Tennessee at Martin
The University of Tennessee at Martin (UT Martin) Office of Business Affairs was faced with the challenge of taking student ID pictures and processing them during orientation. Each year, as incoming freshmen and transfers flood the campus, both excited and confused as to what happens next, the first thought in their minds isn’t usually “I should take care of necessary administrative tasks.”
In years past the university’s bursar had set up six manned digital camera stations during orientation. Students would be directed to the photo stations during orientation registration, and the goal was to take about 3000 ID photos within a short amount of time. The pictures would then be processed and uploaded to UT Martin’s ID card program, CBORD, and ID cards would be printed later that day.
Students would then go back to the orientation registration area, line up by the photo stations and wait for their cards to be handed out. One could imagine the kids would prefer being able to explore campus or decorate their dorm rooms instead; it was an inconvenience for both the students and the administrators.
Form and Workflow Solution
After a 23-year career in IT support services at UT Martin, Mike Abney was named to the newly created position of process improvement facilitator at the university. At a cost of just $360 a year for a full-user license, he turned to PerfectForms, a SaaS offering used to develop form-heavy web applications. Tailored to the needs of business users with no knowledge of programming, PerfectForms caught Abney’s attention for its ease-of-use, power and affordability.
Using the PerfectForms form editor, UT Martin did away with its process-heavy orientation system by creating and automating a student IID request form online. Instead of standing in line for hours on move-in day, now students can go to www.utm.edu/requestmyid at the time they apply for orientation (well before they arrive on campus) and upload a photo.
UT Martin can then email the students who forget to request an ID after they register, asking them to send their pictures so they can get IDs as soon as they arrive for orientation. Using this simple system, with the entire process completed well before things get hectic on move-in day, students arrive on campus with their ID cards waiting for them in their orientation packets.
This saves time and hassle spent on herding students at several times during the day, and eliminates the cost of hiring photographers and staging photo booths. An added bonus – UT Martin has student assistants who supervise the card creation process, freeing regular staffers to focus on other projects.
The University of Tennessee at Martin took first prize at the Professional Development Group’s First Annual Best Practices Awards – which recognize colleges that implement the best easy-to-manage money-saving programs – for its PerfectForms student ID project. Winners were announced at the National College and University Bursars Conference in April of 2010.
The award was validation of one of the many paper-heavy processes Mike Abney successfully set out to automate. Other processes he’s brought online with electronic signatures using PerfectForms include a dual enrollment wizard and form that facilitates admissions and registration; student vaccination forms; and purchasing forms.
Though the forms the university has created remain on PerfectForms’ servers, they’re easily embedded within the university’s web pages with workflows routed by email. PerfectForms has become an online document management tool for UT Martin, replacing manual forms and PDF files. Abney considers PerfectForms easier to use than Adobe Acrobat and appreciates being able to track which stage the forms have reached along a given process.
The university keeps data generated by PerfectForms on PerfectForms’ servers, secure in the 128-bit encryption PerfectForms offers. The servers have no trouble handling multiple concurrent users filling out forms at the same time.
“The use of PerfectForms campus wide has been amazing. Because PerfectForms is so easy to use and can address almost any online form challenge our users are faced with, the product is in continual use.”
-Jenny Walsh, Director, Office of Web & Administrative Systems for University of Portland
The University of Portland (UP) has made a concerted effort to transition paper-based processes online to streamline workflows and reduce labor related costs. Central to this effort is the University’s use of online forms to empower the whole gamut of their community, including students, faculty, and administrators.
Traditionally, the University tasked its IT and web services department to custom build online forms on a request basis. This process proved cumbersome and limited the IT department’s ability to focus on creating new, innovative projects that could benefit the greater community.
Faced with an incredible amount of data creation and collection needs, it was difficult for the IT department to keep up with the forms needs of the campus community. UP needed to find a new solution that could decentralize the form creation process, enabling the entire campus community to build, create and deploy their own forms. Because of the non-technical background of its users’ community, the solution needed to be intuitive and easy to use, as well as providing a breadth of functionality to address the multitude of applications needed to meet the needs of this diverse audience.
Form and Workflow Solution
Jenny Walsh, Director, Office of Web & Administrative Systems for University of Portland, chose PerfectForms because of the product’s extensive functionality, affordability and ease of use. UP was able to deploy PerfectForms to serve the data collection and online process needs of their entire campus community, including student groups, faculty, administrative users and more.
Since deployment in late 2009, the UP community has created more than 100 forms to streamline both simple and complicated tasks, freeing up IT resources to focus on more comprehensive projects. UP students, staff and faculty use PerfectForms to manage tasks such as student, faulty and dean evaluations, nominations for awards, and event registration, as well as to create a multitude of surveys to collect critical data and feedback, including those for incoming freshman, graduating students, faculty and various academic groups on campus.
In addition, UP was able to develop an innovative solution to help streamline the ability to securely collect funds and payments across campus. By integrating PerfectForms with PayPal, UP was able to create online payment forms to collect event registration payments, donations, and sell University paraphernalia online.
PerfectForms made form building easy for users across the campus, eliminating time consuming paper-based processes and freeing up valuable IT and Web Services Group resources. Because PerfectForms doesn’t require application development skills, UP was able to empower their campus community to meet their own needs with limited guidance. As a result, the University was able to streamline operations and realize significant value in many areas, including:
“Next to email, PerfectForms will be our most important communication system.”
-Al Foytek, Director Business Information Systems, Visalia School District
With mounting budget cuts, Visalia Unified School District in California’s San Joaquin Valley came under increasing pressure to improve processes and save money. The IT department specifically was tasked with looking beyond its own operations to help the entire district do more with less.
To support its population of 27,000 (K-12) students and 2,500 employees at 44 educational sites, Visalia USD had more than 100 paper-based administrative processes that it targeted to replace with automated, online forms. The existing forms were multi-part and often multicolored, ranging in cost from 20 cents to over a dollar each. One form from the district’s print shop department was used more than 15,000 times each year, costing more than $10,000 alone.
In addition, these labor-intensive and inefficient forms typically have a distribution which spans several people and often multiple departments and physical sites. With tens-of-thousands of forms for many different purposes, Visalia USD recognized the savings in eliminating each paper form. But more importantly, the district recognized the much larger savings in automating processes and creating efficiencies in labor use, which accounts for 85% of its annual budget.
Form and Workflow Solution
Al Foytek, Visalia’s Director of Business Information Systems, was initially drawn to PerfectForms because of the product’s extensive functionality and affordability. PerfectForms worked with Visalia to provide workflow solutions to gradually phase out its existing manual administrative procedures, and is on-track to fully integrate PerfectForms into its administrative workflow. Ultimately, more than 100 paper forms will be converted to PerfectForms applications, which will be used by over 2400 users. For example, the district expects to use PerfectForms to automate accident reports, substitute teacher requests, and transportation requests. The customizability of PerfectForms also enables Visalia’s staff to create automated forms that look exactly like their paper based counterparts. This ensures an easier transition from paper to electronic forms and requires less training for teachers and staff.
In addition to providing custom form creation and processing, Visalia USD is looking to implement PerfectForms as a complete workflow solution, which will dramatically reduce processing time and save the district substantial resources.
PerfectForms automation will allow Visalia USD to dramatically increase efficiency and reduce costs. By cutting down the amount of time Visalia’s staff spends on administrative tasks, they are able to devote more time to students and parents, therefore improving school performance. Savings are being realized in many areas, including: