Redefining Work Roles and What's Important, Part 2

Tambellini Author

Top of MInd: Newsworthy for Higher Ed
Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

It is no longer possible to deliver documents by campus mail, to walk them over to another office and drop them in a colleague’s inbox, or to assemble packets of information and courier them to their destination. It is no longer possible to sign contracts in person, with or without a notary witness. Yet, it is essential to stay on task and minimize delays.

What, then, are your options? How do you leverage solutions already in place on your campus, or quickly ramp up with a new solution?

The answers vary and depend on what solutions are already in place, what funds are available for purchasing, and the skills and availability of your development staff.

There is a wide range of possibilities:

  • The most rudimentary solution for workflow is email and shared drives.
    • All involved parties would need to be emailed in all phases of approval; creating a distribution list could expedite the communications and ensure that no one person is left off an email thread.
    • Final documents would be stored on shared drives with limited access. A photocopy of a signature is considered legally binding in most states. However, be sure to verify your state laws with your legal counsel.
    • Also, if you determine that photos or photocopies of signatures are acceptable, you will need to have one party sign, email, or fax the document to the other party for signature, copy/photo, and transmission of the counter-signed document back to the originator.
    • The manual steps in this solution are apparent. A less obvious and difficult task is managing the security on the shared drive, which usually requires IT intervention.
  • Standard collaboration tools such as SharePoint, OneDrive, and Teams have workflow functionality that many institutions have not enabled.
    • Business analysts in the IT department or embedded in the departments can collaborate with functional users to set up and test new workflows quickly.
    • Some collaboration solutions offer electronic signature options, such as with Office 365. Otherwise, there is still the need to manage signatures in the manner noted above.
    • Security setup can be easily delegated to individuals outside of IT.
  • Many institutions leverage existing electronic signature solutions such as DocuSign and Adobe E-Signatures to enable workflows.
    • Vendors offer workflow templates and online training as part of licensing. Business analysts can work with the functional users to define and test the workflows. Savvy business users can learn to create the forms and workflow, and ad-hoc/one-time workflow is achievable with many users once trained.
    • E-signature functionality is inherent to the application, giving your institution the ability to include or exclude it as needed.
  • Alternatively, some workflow solutions offer electronic signature functionality.
  • Mature workflow/document management solutions such as Onbase by Hyland and Etrieve by Softdocs provide robust functionality.
    • It takes time from both IT and functional users and financial resources to procure and implement these solutions.
  • Some ERP’s have the help-desk-like or online help functionality built into the software. Typically, this functionality is used to address support issues but can be leveraged for one-off processes.
  • If you use a survey tool, investigate to see if its ability to launch processes that can be used for simple workflows.

Many of these solutions can exchange data with your ERP. However, time to develop integrations may preclude the need to provide functional workflows for your users quickly. In these cases, it may be best to defer the integration development until after the business processes are working. Manual data entry can be eliminated further down the road.

Scanning documents can be a challenge as well for remote workers. Free apps such as Office Lens from Microsoft can be downloaded to your IOS and Android devices. It uses your device’s camera to take a photo of the document. You then save it to OneNote, Word, PowerPoint, PDF, Mail, or your photo library.

For documents requiring notaries, some secretaries of state have authorized traditional notaries to become online notaries once they apply for and receive online notary commissions. Generally, the signer and online notary must appear in a two-way audio-visual conference. During the conference, the identity of the signer is verified, and the document is confirmed and digitally sealed. Vendors have developed solutions to expedite these conferences. Check with your state to determine the online notary regulations and resources.

Now could be a good time to re-think the policies that drive the need for paper documents. Gather the facts to support requests to allow electronic or copied signatures and to discontinue practices of requiring original documents instead of scanned copies. Here is an image to inspire you. The efficiencies gained now can be applied later and will help to define best practices and new job roles when we emerge from the disruption.

Stay healthy, and please let us know if Tambellini can assist you or your team

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Tambellini Author
As a Senior Advisor at Tambellini Group, Sue Spies authors and publishes research, assists in client engagements, and supports client services. Most recently from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Ms. Spies was the Director of Enterprise Information Systems, where she was responsible for the development, implementation, and support of academic and administrative systems. Ms. Spies is an experienced panel facilitator and presenter covering topics such as custom solutions, code, and collaborative work with institutional research colleagues.

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