Escape the Admissions Processing Wasteland: 2 ECM-Driven Steps to Fast, Quality Decisions (Part II)

Escape the Admissions Processing Wasteland 2 ECM-Driven Steps to Fast, Quality Decisions (Part II)

In part one of my cautionary take on the Admissions Office “wasteland,” I identified two key steps in implementing and leveraging enterprise content management (ECM) to bring speed and quality to application processing and review:

  1. Purge Paper
  2. Monitor Metrics

To reiterate, both recommended actions effectively target “waste” in terms of costs (budget) and resources (people). But, the “purge paper” step takes speed and efficiency only so far.

To fully address the even more critical threat – wasted opportunity – you can’t stop there. Yes, your operation is now nearly or completely paperless. And, you may have revved up the application processing engine with some automation – automatically tracking and matching incoming documents, transferring application files from operations, triggering reviews, and so on.

But, once the review process gets underway, starts heading toward decisions and, ultimately, determines a matriculated class, what will ensure that the entire cycle moves quickly, toward a quality result (i.e., your ideal incoming class secured as early as possible, ahead of the competition)?  In a word, metrics.

Action #2: Monitor Metrics

Regardless of your practices regarding admissions decisions (e.g., open versus selective, rolling versus calendar-based), you’re concerned about one key processing metric: throughput. Your fundamental goal in securing an incoming student or entire class of incoming students is (to badly misquote a Stevie Wonder lyric) to sing out confidently, “Here they are, baby! Signed, sealed, delivered, they’re ours!” (Yes, I know that was terrible. All the more reason for you to stop humming or singing along NOW!)

So, what kinds of metrics do you need to ensure that you’re on pace and “in tune”? (Couldn’t resist.) For measuring throughput, you need quick, comprehensive and, most importantly, real-time views of bottlenecks and potential bottlenecks.

You’ll want to pull back the curtain on these indicators of potential process derailers: 

  1. Incomplete applications
  2. Applications by processing/review stage
  3. Applications by processor/reviewer (including distinctions between seasoned and new staff)
  4. Elapsed time per stage or inbox (based on parameters and timers you’ve set)
  5. Applications by decision status

Preferably, ECM-enabled views into these areas should be available from dashboard-oriented reporting interfaces. You’ll want the results to appear on the surface clearly and instantaneously. And, the more visually appealing the reports are (e.g., presented as bar or pie charts), the more likely they’ll be quickly digested and acted upon.

And, while you’re at it, dive into the demographics. If you’re looking to target a particular region or student population (perhaps in alignment with recruitment efforts), you’ll gain actionable insight. Leverage ECM-enabled views to track and, if so desired, adjust and shape the applicant pool – again in real-time.

Granted, much of this demographic data is stored in a SIS and/or in a front-of-process recruitment application and can be reported on there. But, that’s often a before-the-fact (i.e., at the time of initial application) and after-the-fact (i.e., after the decision has been made) view. What’s often missing and what ECM-based reporting provides is the “in-the-midst-of” view.

This perspective is critical to monitoring and modifying the potential outcome of the process – the ultimate makeup of those new students delivered to your door…signed, sealed, etc.

You know the tune.

Tom von Gunden

Tom von Gunden directs Hyland’s market research, strategy and advisory initiatives in higher education. Tom holds a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University and spent more than a dozen years in higher education, serving as a tenured university professor, program director and accreditation specialist. His deep understanding of best practices in deploying ECM (enterprise content management) capabilities comes not only from his direct involvement in system implementations in colleges and universities, but also from his prior work as chief editor of Web and print publications focused on ECM and data storage technologies.

2 Responses

  1. Jason A. Wood says:

    Most companies struggle with the adaptation or the variation of their technologies. Whether it’s ergonomic limitations or steep learning curves, there is an emotional reliance on the methods of the past. To lift from another one of Mr. Wonder’s lyrics, “They’ve been spending most their lives, living in a pastime paradise …”

    Implementing new routines can be difficult. To gently warp the title of a 1980 J. Geils classic – CHANGE STINKS.

    The irony is that many admissions employees are not as familar with burgeoning technologies as the young kids applying for their colleges. Especially when some of the applications processes include antiquated Fox-Pro databases; programs where even the simplest copy-&-paste functions aren’t available.

    That’s why TRANSITION needs to be the norm. Constantly changing portions of a system is good for employees.

    Not making these consistient adjustments leaves your employees as the occupational equivlent of the eight-track. And while one may love Foghat’s 1979 gold-selling album “Boogie Motel”, it’s unavailabilty in the digital format has prevented a whole new generation from enjoying “Third Time Lucky (First Time I Was a Fool)”.

    And I’m confident that it wasn’t “Lonesome” Dave Peverett’s original lyrical intent, I’m sure he would say that no organization can afford to be by-passed in the fast-lane while taking the “Slow Ride” to change.

    Just like music, turnover is neccesary. I’m reminded of an old college professor’s mix tape I once had. Sandwiched somewhere between T.Rex and The Dictators “Two Tub Man” was a song with the lyric “That was the greatest song … that was EVER sung … by anyone, baby!”. Almost fifteen years later, the band’s name escapes me. However, great songs have continue to come. The Barenaked Ladies and Ben Folds bleeding into Fountains of Wayne and The Virgins.

    Thank you for the delightful post.

  2. Jason, thank you for the thoughtful response. You offer a useful reminder that user adoption is made easier when the need for operational enhancement is more frequently evaluated. Some would call that “continuous improvement.” Whatever it’s called, the outcome should be, as Jason’s comment reminds us, a working environment in which change seems to happen more as a barely noticeable tweak than a drastic overhaul.

    Speaking of what things are called, Jason, the lyric you quoted from your old college professor’s mix tape is by the Pooh Sticks, and it’s the chorus of the last song on their excellent, circa ’93 release Million Seller. And, thanks for the reference to another barely known and mostly forgotten band, The Dictators. Had I thought of them, I might have re-tuned one of my suggestions from “Purge Paper” to “Search and Destroy.” Now, if you can work out some connection between ECM technologies and the music of Cheap Trick, I’ll be forever in your debt.

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