Strange as it may seem, there are still opportunities available to organisations to help customers improve their efficiency by simply transitioning processes from the realm of paper-and-ink to the digital era, as Dimension Data discovered. MATTHEW SAINSBURY reports.
One of the largest TAFE campuses in Australia, Box Hill Institute is a Victorian-based provider of vocational education. The Institute provides around 400 full and part-time courses, with 35,000 enrolments each year and it has 15 teaching centres.
However, it was struggling with a remarkably inefficient process for course accreditation.
Each course taught at the Institute must be audited internally for quality and then accredited by the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority. Unless the accreditation process is completed, a course cannot be taught. However, the 15 teaching centres, responsible for co-ordinating the accreditation, marketing and provisioning the new courses, found the process of accreditation frustrating, requiring hand-written forms to transit via internal mail between numerous stakeholders in different departments. This frustration led Box Hill to engage Dimension Data to improve the processes around accreditation. The integrator then implemented a Microsoft Office SharePoint Server solution to control, direct and keep track of files during the endorsement process.
Dimension Data transposed all the course accreditation forms into electronic format using InfoPath Form Services, so they could be emailed between faculties and modified. The integrator also brought in independent software vendor, K2, whose blackpearl application helps non-technically skilled staff design their own workflows without assistance.
Dimension Data also helped the Institute map the recruitment process and transposed it into InfoPath workflows created within the K2 blackpearl application, allowing clearances to recruit, contracts, IT logons and accounts to be generated automatically, although sensitive material in some forms meant the InfoPath forms needed to be configured so some information would not be able to be seen by all departments. It’s the kind of solution that is bread-and-butter to Dimension Data, its general manager of Microsoft application and integration, Mark Miller, said.
“Business process management is a key go-to-market strategy for us, and I’d say that over 50 per cent of our projects involve workflow and business process management,” he said.
The entirely solution took a couple of months, involving a 6-8 week building phase. This was followed by another 2-3 months getting various stakeholders to sign off on the process.
It was that – getting the stakeholders’ approval – that was the biggest complication to this solution, Miller said, and it did slow down the overall rollout, although Box Hill Institute was not an unusually large-scale site.
“It’s a very classic example in the market at the moment – any time we try and create business efficiencies, we’ll often require cross departmental or cross functional group collaboration,” he said. “Getting the various stakeholders to agree to the process presents some difficulties.
“This is probably a mid-range rollout. We do see some get out much quicker, where you’d only have one partner or stakeholder involved, but this one wasn’t a huge solution for us either.
“When we work with some of the Government departments, they’re rolling out some pretty complex solutions where you’re talking about on-boarding, off-boarding, lifecycle management and so on – those can take around 6-8 months to rollout.”
In the end, Dimension Data, through the solution, was able to reduce accreditation workload by 20 per cent. SharePoint 2007 also improved file processing because the teaching centre managers who sponsor new courses can determine the progress of each file in the accreditation process. The new workflows now also assist with gaining clearance to hire new staff, arrange contracts and establish new systems – cutting recruitment time by 50 per cent.
And, for its part, Dimension Data has gained a new reach into an existing customer. Although the integrator previously worked with Box Hill, it was the first engagement for Miller’s business unit.
“We then did a phase two piece of work with Box Hill that involved some enhancements to the employing on-boarding process,” Miller said. “There are also talks of a stage three, as well.”
- With 15 teaching centres, getting courses accredited for teaching at Box Hill Institute was laborious and inefficient.
- Dimension Data was called in to introduce a SharePoint Server solution that would speed up the work flow and make a paper trail more efficient.
- With the help of ISV, K2, the integrator was able to reduce the accreditation process by 20 per cent, and in addition, improve processes in employee recruitment and the efficiency in establishing new systems.