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The technological investments by higher education institutes are showing a steady positive trend each year. Institutes are increasingly shifting their focus from technologies like master data management, CRM, marketing automation to the latest concepts like AI, machine learning, and IoT. This expansion of focus towards the latest and futuristic technologies shows how higher-ed is getting more comfortable with investing in innovative roadmaps. However, if we look closer into the departments and their day-to-day operational activities, we find that the business processes being adopted by them don’t match these technological advancements. The processes being adopted by many departments are highly manual and this heavily impacts their speed and operational efficiency. Very important document-intensive processes are still handled manually by administrators, faculties, and library services. These age-old processes tend to impact prospective students and other stakeholders negatively. While institutes continue to invest in new technologies and platforms, it is highly critical to review and improve the business process simultaneously. The approach to improve traditional processes involves the following steps:

  • White-boarding: This is when the teams sit together and capture the true picture of what is happening
  • Capture improvement areas: This is where you list down the inefficiencies or improvement areas
  • Design new process: The key to this step is to make it simple and if required to forget the current process completely while arriving at the new process. Also, you should not forget to capture measurable outcomes to capture progress

Business process automation and workflow automation can play a major role in simplifying the day-to-day operational processes, reduce cost and time, and play a critical role in the digital transformation strategy

Functional areas such as registrations, admissions, human resources, library services, etc. are people dependent and people-oriented, and the complexities within these processes and high probability of errors not only impact the efficiency of the department but also impact the students, faculties and, staff who are dependent on the department outcomes.

The lifecycle of the process starts when the student contacts the institute enquiring about the course which later leads to the registration and admission process. Once enrolled, the interaction multiplies with more actors like faculty, staff, library services, operations department, placements, and many more, and the lifecycle goes on till the student progresses to become alumni. Hence, the automation and digitization throughout the lifecycle become critical to ensure smooth, error-free, and operationally efficient process.

The possible process automation scenarios in higher-ed institutes are described below:

  • Registration and admission
  • Attendance tracking
  • Academic processes in grade changes
  • Library services for research, acquisition, and negotiation
  • Automated workflows For administrators:
    • Faculty travel requests
    • Financial aid requests
    • Grant proposal processes
    • Internship applications
    • Payment disbursement requests
    • Staff and faculty onboarding
    • Transcript requests
    • Vendor approvals
    • Admissions
    • Scholarships
  • Automated workflows for professors and other teaching staff:
    • Budget request approvals
    • Student scheduling
    • Attendance records
    • Travel or PTO requests
    • Peer or student reviews
    • Curriculum approvals
    • Purchase orders
    • Payroll forms
    • Content approvals
    • Scholarship awards

While higher-ed institutes adopt new technologies and platforms, they should continuously review the current processes within each department and functional areas and consider the possibilities of automation right from admissions to alumni engagement.

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About the Author

Rajneesh Pillai
Associate Director

Rajneesh Pillai started his career in Mindtree and is currently an Associate Director in the Salesforce Practice with an overall experience of 14 years in the Communications, Media, Education, and Technology Industry group. His expertise is in managing the implementation of various enterprise systems such as ERP, SCM, CRM, and MDM. He currently manages the institute-wide Salesforce and MDM implementation program for an Ivy League business school in the US

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