Schools, colleges, and universities all have to manage enormous amounts of paperwork in order to function at all. As well as the constantly growing number of documents produced and disseminated, there is the problem of storing them safely so that they can easily be retrieved if required.
All this takes time for administrative staff to deal with in terms of keeping on top of mountains of paper as well as the cost of their time and for storage overheads. As cutbacks continue and economic austerity appears to be stretching on into the future, the whole education sector needs to look carefully at how its operations are managed and how costs can be reduced.
Electronic document management
When looking at methods to streamline processes that are paper-driven, the adoption of an electronic document management system can prove to be an attractive option. Such systems can lead to significant savings in costs, time, and storage overheads, thus freeing up management and teaching staff to give more focus and time on imparting knowledge and information to students and pupils.
Benefits of using electronic document management can flow across the whole educational operation, whether it’s a large and complex university that has several campus locations or a medium-sized secondary school looking to reduce its overheads and enable its teachers to engage in more classroom time. These benefits can include the management of facilities and equipment, administration for staff and students, health and safety, record keeping, dealing with Tier 4 requirements for students sponsored to study who are from abroad, managing compliance for data protection, and handling issues related to Ofsted.
What does an electronic document management system do?
The system tracks and stores electronic documents using software programs that automatically capture and index information from documents. The information can be made accessible to a number of people, depending on who needs to access it, and the availability can go to systems that are in different departments. Efficiency is improved and overhead costs cut.
The systems can be outsourced to a web-based arrangement in the Cloud, an ever more popular way of using these types of solutions. Hosted by a Software as a Service –SaaS – provider, they negate the need to spend capital on computer hardware on an education site, constantly pay for software updates, or go through lengthy installations.
Web-based services also make it much easier for documents to be accessed by users who are not on campus, whether they are management, staff, or students. Research partners who work remotely can also get convenient access to information.
Aspects of document management systems
Not every educational organization will need a large system to manage or store their information, just as some institutions may find a workflow management program not necessary for their requirements. However, with the significant benefits in terms of freeing up human resource time (leading to increases in productivity), cost reductions and the ability to catch, store, and access information quickly, many in the education sector will want to explore what such a system can do for them.
The initial process is to have a technology platform that has high quality imaging and capturing capabilities, enabling organizations to convert their paper forms and documents into a flexible digital format. This allows them to stop using paper and convert to electronic storage. Documents can be managed electronically and information from forms can be captured automatically. The technology can even capture handwritten documents. Platforms can also be set up to capture email and fax content so that there is a processing and control tool that is more unified.
Software for the storage and management of electronic documents let education establishments to make major improvements to the control of their document-based information. A highly classified system stores the documents and enables them to be retrieved instantly. They can be made available from different office locations as well as from different systems. Existing intranet portals and content management systems will usually benefit from seamless integration with the electronic document management system.
Closely working with a chosen supplier will determine how prepared the organization is to implement a new system. There may be some preparations that need to be done before the system is rolled out and certain hardware may also be necessary, such as everyday desktop scanning and photocopying equipment. The provider will work to implement the appropriate scale of electronic document management system to correspondwith the scale of the organization, and questions will include an estimate of the number of documents to be scanned and stored on a daily or weekly basis, and how many people will be using the system.