Managing documents associated with a million-plus entities just got easier at the Arizona State University Foundation for A New American University.
That's because the approximately 200-employee ASU Foundation — which serves a multicampus population of more than 75,000 students in Tempe, Ariz. — recently joined the ranks of higher education organizations realizing the benefits of automating manual processes through the deployment of document management technologies.
"When we installed our new fundraising system in 2007, we reviewed compatible imaging solutions," says Eric Conkle, manager of systems and infrastructure. "But none provided the capabilities we required."
Then, in 2010, the manufacturer of the foundation's fundraising system added EMC Documentum ApplicationXtender to the compatibility list. From an IT standpoint, ApplicationXtender fit the bill.
"Beyond tightly integrating with donor management, it provides batch-loading capabilities, which is important for current documents and, eventually, for reducing our historical-records backlog," explains Brian Bradley, manager of enterprise applications. "And it enables interfacing with external resources. Because we're evaluating a move to using a bank lockbox, we need the capability to ingest images directly from the bank."
The system also hit the mark with the foundation's business users.
"We can upload data in any file format," says Azar Farahmand, director of gift administration and data management. "Plus, it gives us robust optical character recognition capabilities, including full-text searches as well as confidentiality and security features. Redaction is particularly important because it permits us to authorize users at different levels of access in order to address donor privacy needs."
Since going live with ApplicationXtender in February, the foundation has pursued a phased rollout that will ultimately merge six filing systems.
To date, more than 10,000 documents — some containing dozens of pages — have been attached to donor records. "Whether it's proposal and prospect research, a gift agreement, a document or an acknowledgment of a letter sent by another department, everything related to a donor is now in one place," Farahmand says.
With centralization also comes the capability to provide authorized ASU personnel with access to this information, which will benefit the organization in multiple ways.
For example, prior to implementing the document management program, the foundation's file room staff typically responded to 1,200 requests per month. Today, monthly requests average 100 because "people can look up the information online themselves," Farahmand says.
Plus, she says, "Individuals located on our West Campus in Glendale who need same-day document access don't need to drive the three-hour round trip to review files anymore."
140,000+ Number of annual donor transactions at the Arizona State University Foundation that include imaged documents
SOURCE: ASU Foundation for A New American University
Regardless of how an institution leverages document management, ensuring a good fit goes beyond the nuts and bolts of scanning, according to Katey Wood, an analyst with the Enterprise Strategy Group.
"Moving from paper to digital is a nontrivial process," she points out. "To organize information and make it useful, you need to look at your institution's priorities and values."
As long-term document management users attest, the rewards make the effort worthwhile.
"We had vaults of paper going back decades prior to adopting FileBound in 2004," says Tim Winders, associate dean of IT for South Plains College in Levelland, Texas.
"We've digitized millions of pieces of paper across the institution," he adds. "We started with Admissions and added departments successively. Today, every department uses the technology to one degree or another, even Buildings and Grounds."
On the teaching and learning side, the FileBound document management application is particularly helpful when South Plains faculty advise far-flung students, who frequently register for classes at one of four locations and attend classes at another.
"Faculty members access FileBound to view a student's transcript to help guide the selection of college co+urses," Winders says.
FileBound's combination of features originally attracted South Plains, but the ability to integrate with the college's enterprise resources planning system and its cost-effectiveness made it particularly attractive. Over time, the solution has continued to evolve to meet new needs, including tablet users and centralized security controls.
Best of all, the use of the document management app saves space. "We're not paying for offsite storage vaults anymore," Winders says. "And we turned onsite file rooms into offices, break rooms and workrooms. Digitally, our document repository consumes only 400 gigabytes of disk space."
Re-Engineering a Solution
A few thousand miles away in Pittsburgh, it's a similar story at Carnegie Mellon University. By adopting Nuance Communication's desktop PDF software, the university ultimately implemented a full-fledged document management solution built around eCopy ShareScan.
"Using eCopy as our front end allowed us to build a system the university has come to rely on," says Tom Joyce, senior technology consultant at Carnegie Mellon.
The ability to reduce its storage footprint was particularly important because of the large volume of federal government research grants the institution receives. "We have multiple compliance requirements throughout the intellectual property lifecycle of a project and its spinoffs," Joyce says.
Carnegie Mellon captures all research-related documents electronically using eCopy. "The software's tracking and logging capabilities are fully auditable, which assists us with a whole host of audit, compliance and reporting requirements," he says.
With a total of 150,000 documents — ranging from one to 100 pages each — now residing in the system, Joyce notes that Carnegie and eCopy expect to celebrate a decade of working together in 2013. "That's unheard of in IT," he says. "eCopy has truly been rock-solid."
"Because eCopy runs itself, I can extend my reach into other projects," Joyce adds. "Over time, that's definitely helped us keep application support costs down."
4 to Score: Planning Pointers
Scope it right: "Imagine the possibilities and look for opportunities," says Tom Joyce, senior technology consultant at Carnegie Mellon University. "You can always take incremental steps during deployment — just ensure you adopt a solution that can grow with your needs."
Consider the cloud: "Some solutions offer cloud-enabled versions for improved mobile and remote access," says Katey Wood, an Enterprise Strategy Group analyst.
Start with a pilot: "The way Financial Aid uses document management is very different from Purchasing — and both are right," says Tim Winders, associate dean of IT at South Plains College. "A pilot helps you stay focused on the needs of a particular department."
Scan in-house for quality control: "We considered outsourcing our backlog for batch scanning," says Eric Conkle, manager of systems and infrastructure for the Arizona State University Foundation. "But we wouldn't have metadata attached to each document, eliminating the ability to drill down. Remember, the metadata is as valuable as the image itself."