Administration, Organization, Technology

Improving Departmental Efficiency and Organization with Workflow Automation

A school system is likely organized into a dozen or so departments and probably looks something like this:

  • Instruction
  • Administration
  • Athletics
  • Attendance
  • Finance and Business
  • Communication
  • Human Resources
  • Community and Parent Engagement
  • Special Education
  • Safety and Security
  • Transportation

But in all cases the departments would cover similar duties. The staff of each department may focus particularly on their domain but they coordinate daily with their counterparts in the others. Much of this daily work and daily coordination revolves around paperwork and forms from other departments, as well as vendors, teachers, parents, and of course, students. It’s a mountain of paperwork, quite literally if it involves physical paper. This workflow, even if something schools can’t do without to maintain accountability, can have many drawbacks. Let’s take a look at them.

Wasted Time

The nature of paperwork basically means that staff is perpetually operating at 60%, or in other words it is as if two out of every five workers call out sick every day. This is because almost 20% of the workday is spent searching for or gathering information and another 20% is spent on monotonous and repetitive computer tasks. That’s just the ideal cost of doing business in this manner, as with human error things can actually get lost and need to be recreated. It’s almost comical to think of this being the case while pictures of kittens have been backed up automatically on the iCloud since 2011. But, as it really comes down to people’s time and money as well as efficiency and the quality of education delivered it’s no laughing matter. Did we mention how bad some people’s handwriting seems to be these days? Egyptologists would have trouble decoding some documents. This is clutter that can be avoided.

Physical Waste

The workflow of many schools and school systems today likely involves some combination of manual paper processes alongside computerized solutions (though this also invites some of its own wasted time, with now at least two places to look). That being said schools account for nearly two pounds of paper waste per person, per day. Waste, not including what ends up stored. This figure does include students but the amounts associated with administration aren’t negligible. This wasted paper has both a carbon and physical footprint. It’s not like it just appears and disappears. This is waste that can be avoided.

Wasted Money

Besides the cost of perpetually staffing as if two out of five workers have called out sick there are other costs associated with outdated organization. Schools must spend to buy and store paper, not to mention the printers and toners that place the necessary information on the paper. With multiple departments at times needing the same information available but operating physically separate this means costs of redundancy as well. Not counting the cost of this physical space (which may be as high as $1,241 per filing cabinet per year) paper and printing can account for 10% of a school system’s budget.  This is money better spent elsewhere.

Avoid Waste with Workflow Automation

Thankfully there is technology that can help to automate the management of necessary daily paperwork and forms for departments within schools and school systems. This means

  • Far less manual and paper-based action by staff
  • More rapid review of requests
  • Approval tracking between necessary departments and personnel
  • Built in and standardized oversight for compliance
  • Vastly simplified document auditing
  • Vastly reduced, if not eliminated, document redundancy
  • Information is no longer misplaced or missing
  • Precision document routing and record keeping

In other words schools and school systems can save time, money, and all the while conserve waste. What is not to like? Just think of the mental space gained by removing this outdated clutter. Department heads will be able to focus more of their time and efforts on improving the actual experience suggested by their title. Community and Parent Engagement can focus on getting parents involved rather than deciphering parent’s handwriting. Instruction, Administration, and transportation can explore field trip possibilities instead exploring where they might find some missing field trip forms. Freed from paperwork administrators might actually get to know their students, imagine!

Really though, paperwork is a weight on staff that without a doubt trickles down to the classroom experience. Workflow automation not only serves to lift much of that burden but it even increases the accountability and oversight within schools and school systems. It’s a solution that solves real organization and efficiency problems without any projecting (of imaginary problems) or injecting (of new problems).