By Rita Rosenthal. Dedication to making the student experience on campus easier to navigate is at the core of the work done by the creative and innovative people who support our Student Information Systems (SIS). The SIS team is responsible for implementing and operating UC Berkeley’s PeopleSoft Campus Solutions and CalCentral. These technology systems support mission-critical academic and administrative processes, including admissions, financial aid, registration, enrollment, course management, advising, billing and payment, records, and more.
Their work usually involves making things happen “magically” behind the scenes, which means their accomplishments can go unnoticed. But at the Oracle OpenWorld conference on Sept. 16, the SIS eForms team got a well-deserved moment in the spotlight when UC Berkeley was recognized as PeopleSoft Innovators for the team’s creation of electronic forms simplifying several student and instructor processes and saving tons of trees.
The electronic forms effort began in January 2016 as part of the SIS Implementation Project. Working within Berkeley Campus Solutions and a third party application, Gideon Taylor (GT) eForms, the team was able to dramatically expand student and faculty self-service options by introducing powerful, workflow-enabled electronic forms. The SIS eForms team brings together business analysts and developers who have a dedication to innovation, efficiency, and sustainability.
“It’s been inspiring to watch this team in action – and so gratifying to see the practical results of their expertise in action,” said Jane Valentine, SIS Support Services Associate Director. As the team lead, Business Analyst Andrea Lloyd brought a strong customer service record to the effort, and worked directly with students, staff, and instructors in the design and development of the forms. Application Developer Ken Hensel, taking on the role of technical lead, was the first developer at Berkeley to spearhead learning and innovating ways to utilize GT eForms to automate business practices. The team expanded to include Developer Rahul Shrivastava; Business Systems Analysts Deepthika Nallaparaju, Barbara Sowden, and Lisa Chang; with UX design by Chara Bui keeping everything customer-focused and user-friendly.
The team has created online forms to empower students to quickly and easily apply for emergency loans, to select and manage graduate committees, to add or change their academic program, to add and drop classes, to withdraw from the university, and to submit petitions for a variety of exceptions. Other eForms enable faculty members to submit workflow-enabled award recognitions, course credit requests, enrollments, and re-enrollment requests for graduates.
Through the implementation of eForms, the university has eliminated over 250,000 paper forms (approximately 500,000 pieces of paper) over the past two years. In tangible terms, each tree cut down for paper can produce approximately 8,350 – 12,000 sheets of paper. Over time, as SIS sustains eForms processing, this will help reduce the university’s carbon footprint, contributing to campus sustainability goals.
By creating an electronic form exchange system where there was not one in existence prior, the team has helped to significantly reduce the number of hours required to exchange documentation, which greatly enhances how students and staff experience campus administrative processes. The process time savings enable staff to focus on different touch points in the student experience. Beyond campus, the constant push for innovation by the SIS eForms team has resulted in significant changes to the GT eForm product, which benefits not only UC Berkeley, but any institution of higher education that uses them.
“Although most of our clients succeed at using GT eForms to improve the initial business processes they target, relatively few have managed to create a self-sustaining, internal eForms automation initiative,” said Paul Taylor, President and CEO of Gideon Taylor. “Organizational roadblocks, functional siloing, and the distractions of the urgent often prevent the “holy grail” outcome of an empowered team that consistently produces new efficiencies and business process wins for their organization.:
Taylor went on to say, “The Berkeley team has earned a rare place in the ranks of those who have succeeded. New mobile forms with intelligent workflow and automations keep rolling into production, elevating the employee and student experience and freeing Berkeley staff from tedious transaction-centric effort and data entry. Our tools and our consultants can help with such success, but we can’t make it happen; that takes a determined, invested, and innovative team like Berkeley has created. Our hats are off to the Berkeley team for their amazing achievements!”
This article originally appeared in Technology @ Berkeley, October 4, 2019, and is re-posted with permission in the UC IT Blog.
Rita Rosenthal is communications and outreach manager, Office of the CIO, at UC Berkeley.