A Lesson In Digital Transformation: How School Districts Benefit from Document Automation

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With thousands of students per district and multiple academic records per student, educational institutions face the difficult task of storing and retaining these documents. After accounting for the numerous administrative records used in daily processes and the fact that many of these files are subject to privacy compliance regulations, it becomes clear how challenging managing these documents really is.

With the help of document automation, however, this challenge becomes much more manageable. Document automation solutions provide a slew of benefits to meet the challenges educational institutions face such as:

Record Keeping

Student records such as transcripts, attendance reports, and IEP notes all have mandatory retention schedules that vary from state to state. The state of Connecticut, for example, requires attendance records be kept for 6 years after the student leaves the school.

Manually tracking these retention schedules can not only be extremely time-consuming and labor-intensive, it can also be highly error-prone, resulting in either retaining too many records to properly track, or worse, destroying records that may be needed in the future.

Many enterprise content management (ECM) solutions, such as Square 9’s GlobalSearch, can automate these retention schedules. These solutions assign different sets of rules to different document types to determine when their retention periods end. Once these periods are up, the documents are automatically deleted, saving room in the system while retaining any documents your district may still need.

ECM solutions also index these documents to ensure that they can be easily searched when needed. A student transcript, for example, may be indexed by student name and ID, date of birth, and graduation year. Some ECM solutions even allow you to layer these fields in searches for more specific results.

Administrative Efficiency

In addition to the student records that educational institutions must retain, there are also numerous document-intensive tasks involved in operating these schools as well. Most schools and districts receive invoices from supplier and service providers and have contracts to manage with them as well.

Paying invoices often requires multiple levels of approval from administrators, and these documents are often lost in transit before the approvers ever see them. Workflow automation software such as Square 9’s GlobalAction can automatically route these invoices to administrators for approval and provide regularly scheduled reminders so that vendors are paid on time. These timely payments prevent late fees and even open your district up to early payment discounts.

Vendor contracts can also present challenges for districts. The collaboration process for these contracts can be confusing as new versions of the contract are created with each round of revisions. This often results in multiple versions of the contract floating around in your records with few indicators for which one is current.

Cloud ECM solutions allow multiple people to collaborate on a contract draft from anywhere without creating another version. With some ECM solutions, collaborators can even see edits in real time and reference previous versions of a single document by inputting the date they’d like to view it from.

ECM solutions can even help school districts retain employee documents such as government I9 and W-2 forms. In districts with many employees, these forms can be easily lost, but all organizations that employ in the U.S. are regularly audited by the IRS and ICE to ensure these forms are being collected. Failure to produce them can even result in steep fines.

ECM solutions index these documents with searchable fields making them easily accessible in the event of one of these audits. Some ECM solutions even come with web forms to simplify the completion process of these often-confusing forms.

Student Privacy

Educational institutions also handle many documents that are subject to strict privacy regulations. Student records are protected by FERPA, meaning that only specific educators within the school, the parents, and the students have the right to view these documents unless consent is given. HIPAA has similar provisions for the health and vaccination records that schools are required to retain.

ECM solutions provide account-based access to these documents so that only those permitted to view these documents actually can. Solutions that use a concurrent licensing model even allow for more nuanced permission settings as multiple accounts can be used per license.

In addition to these access controls, some ECM solutions also take great care in providing high levels of cyber security. Square 9’s cloud solutions, for example, encrypt information both in storage and in transit, rendering it undiscernible to anyone without a key. Square 9 also separately silos all stored data so that the actions of one organization they serve do not affect the others.

For more information

Square 9 Softworks offers a digital transformation package tailored to school districts and educational institutions. This package includes document capture, ECM, workflow automation, and web forms solutions. To find out how Square 9’s Education Essentials package can help your schools manage their document-based processes, Contact Us.

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