Avoid Student Information System Madness: 4 Chores ECM Can Eliminate

Avoid Student Information System Madness-4 Chores ECM Can EliminateContrary to popular belief, the real madness of March, as it relates to higher education, is not NCAA basketball. Yes, many of you are no doubt suffering the frustration of watching your carefully conceived brackets crumble in the face of bad calls and buzzer beaters. But, let’s face it: you never really expected any ROI from that investment, did you?

No, the real March madness – heck, the year-long madness, more likely – is going on far from the court. It’s happening on the desks and screens of the users of your core business app, your student information system, familiarly referred to as SIS. That’s where the madness of inefficiency may well be undermining staff performance, office morale, student service and general institutional effectiveness. The likely culprit? That’s easy. It’s the disconnect between the structured data stored in SIS and the unstructured data and documents that currently live outside of SIS. These items are critically related to the activities and transactions being driven through SIS.

Coincidentally, while the basketball season is winding down, the activities of the user groups for the three commonly used student information systems are ramping up: Datatel, Banner and PeopleSoft. In fact, I’m writing this commentary in between stops on the road.

Next up for me is Alliance in Denver for the annual meeting of HEUG, the PeopleSoft Higher Education Users Group. (By the way, I’m not forgetting those of you whose institutions run SIS applications from other vendors or use a homegrown legacy system. My comments below have your environments in mind, not just those riding on one of the Big 3.)

So, how do you know if your SIS users are operating in a state we might characterize as “madness”? Well, there are some tell-tale signs. All can be addressed with the implementation of SIS-integrated ECM (enterprise content management) capabilities.

4 Chores ECM Can Eliminate:

  1. Fat-Finger Data Entry
    Make no mistake: despite whatever I say about its limitations, your SIS is a powerful, fundamental system of record. For that reason, you’ve got to get all necessary data into that system as accurately and efficiently as possible. So, when it comes to feeding SIS with data coming from external sources, particularly from documents, work to reduce/avoid manual keying of that information into the system. If staff members are spending inordinate amounts of time punching data into entry fields in your SIS interface, look to add or expand capabilities for automating these tasks.
  2. Playing the “Go Fetch Game”
    Does it seem as though staff members are getting up from their desks and heading across the room or down the hall an awful lot? Coffee refresh? Donut run? Bathroom break? Well, that might explain one or two of those trips. But, the rest?  Nope, those are no doubt the result of the need to fetch paper documents from a filing cabinet, box or pile. You can stop this particular madness by making those documents electronically available for retrieval directly from SIS screens.
  3. Playing the “Match Game”
    For those of you who enjoy tests of logic, you may miss this game, otherwise known as the “Which of these doesn’t belong with the others?” game. In this case, it’s not an onion sitting amidst three pieces of fruit or a bicycle grouped with three motorized vehicles. Most often, it’s an application-related document that (perhaps because no SIS record yet exists for that prospective student) cannot be identified and associated with any other information on hand in the Admissions Office. What happens to that document? It gets filed away in a drawer crammed with other “orphaned” documents, through which staffers have to search in an often futile attempt to match the stray with other incoming documents. Again, look to automate time-devouring tasks such as this.
  4. Dual-System Toggle Mania
    Even at institutions that have implemented some kind of basic scan/retrieve document management system – an “electronic filing cabinet” if you will – the madness continues.
    Without an integrated ECM platform in place (the kind that can do way more than merely store and display documents), staff members are forced into the electronic version of getting up and walking across the room. Already logged into SIS, they have to log in to a separate system and toggle between the two. Is this better than what happens in a paper-reliant operation? Sure. But, is it optimally efficient? Absolutely not. Optimization comes when ECM is feeding the SIS interface with documents and other information – directly.

To eliminate these chores and others, my suggestion is clear: Arrange a handshake between your SIS and a tightly integrated ECM platform. Get them talking. Otherwise, your chances of avoiding madness – in March or at any other time of the year – are, at best, about as good as basing your NCAA tournament predictions on the implied toughness of the teams’ mascots. Good luck with that.

Tom von Gunden directs Hyland’s market research, strategy and advisory initiatives in higher education. Tom holds a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University and spent more than a dozen years in higher education, serving as a tenured university professor, program director and accreditation specialist. His deep understanding of best practices in deploying ECM (enterprise content management) capabilities comes not only from his direct involvement in system implementations in colleges and universities, but also from his prior work as chief editor of Web and print publications focused on ECM and data storage technologies.
Tom von Gunden

Tom von Gunden

Tom von Gunden directs Hyland’s market research, strategy and advisory initiatives in higher education. Tom holds a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University and spent more than a dozen years... read more about: Tom von Gunden