Are your student information systems creating admin overload?
The tell-tale signs that it’s time to change
It must be said; a modern student information system is a joy to behold. And equally, a bird’s nest of poorly or partially integrated administrative systems, with little focus on the student experience, is a nightmare for all concerned.
While your solution may have been well designed ‘way-back-when’ to help you meet the administrative processes required to attract, onboard, register and track your students, it’s likely that even then, you supported it with myriad manual processes. That was probably fine at the time, but as times have changed and your organisation has grown, legacy systems increasingly impact the ability of your people to cope and diminish your capability to compete and comply.
How do you recognise the signs that you’re suffering from administrative overload and fatigue, letting your students and staff down, and endangering your ability to meet your compliance, reporting and security obligations?
Answer: When your admin feedback looks like this:
“We can’t do as good a job as we’d like during peak times. The sheer volume of applications is more than we can handle. Even the CFO had to come in during the weekend to help process applications (true story).”
“There’s no way we can provide personal attention to students. We just don’t have the bandwidth.”
“Compliance reporting is a nightmare. It takes weeks to find the data we need, then consolidate, check, balance and format it. It’s time-intensive and hard, and we’re not 100% confident it’s always accurate.”
“We’re buried in manual labour intensive business processes. Currently, this is the only way we can manage the collection and processing of information from various data sources. There’s so much room for human error.”
“We find compliance and checking student eligibility a real struggle. It’s a huge effort to get the documents we need to sight and verify.”
“We can’t confidently track or measure how individual students are engaging with us and their studies. So, we’re at risk of not getting the funding we counted on.”
“We’ve had a couple of close calls with potential security breaches and risk around who is accessing what in the cloud. We’re pretty stressed about our ability to meet our legal obligations to protect our data and documentation.”
All of which means your technology should work smarter and harder to reduce the burden for you, not create more work. If it’s not improving your ability to deliver a streamlined administrative process, what’s the point of it?
For many institutions, the root cause of not being able to balance time-intensive, essential administrative tasks with caring for students, stems from one of three things:
First, there’s that oppressive bird’s nest of systems - and how did it come about? Many educators started with an administrative system to handle the basics. Over the years, they progressively tacked on (often multiple) systems to overcome the limitations of compliance, reporting across different groups or sectors or regions. Then recruitment software has been added to the mix. And perhaps a CRM application to provide a student-centric view to manage the student relationship and communications. All of this is likely to be supplemented with various manual forms and paper processes. On top of this, there may well be students’ email applications received from the website – the contents of which need to be manually typed into one or more systems to kick off engagement processes. Then there’s invariably a host of inherently unstable Excel spreadsheets, a financial package, and attendance tracking system. And the list goes on.
While the resulting ‘solution’ may represent all the functionality needs to run an educational organisation, the effort and money required to keep everything connected (where and if possible) represents a substantial financial burden, and adds layer upon layer of administrative complexity and inefficiency. What’s under the hood is so compromised by a lack of integration and cohesion, that it doesn’t deliver even half the power it should.
Second, is the inability to automate. With a bird’s nest as your base, it’s challenging in the extreme to automate processes. Automation requires easy access to data, and if it’s not available, then someone needs to manually extract and integrate that data from multiple sources, enter duplicate data across several systems, or run a process which taps into all aspects of the student’s lifecycle. Adding to the problem is that data is often not linear. For example, applications for courses need information on course pricing, intake dates, availability, and prerequisites – so compiling data from multiple repositories is far from simple. What seems like a straightforward request can, in fact, require manual processes to generate an accurate, let alone a timely, response.
Lastly, is your ability to allocate resources. Without accurate insights into your day-to-day operational information, it’s almost impossible to make sound or informed on-the-spot decisions – let alone proactive planning - as to what resources are required when, and where. This leads to inefficiencies, duplicated work, and frustrated staff (and students).
We get it. It’s frustrating in the extreme to know that although you have all the components of a comprehensive student management system, its piecemeal construction and lack of integration will always undermine your ability to streamline your administrative functions.
Read my next blog "Lessons I've Learned..." which discusses how to find and prioritise your risks/weakness, and build a business case for a new student management system.
Book a complimentary SIS Assessment, which includes tools for assessing your situation and drops it into a business case template, ready for you to use.
Student Management System Consultant