How Workflows and Automation Can Improve Your School's Processes

Posted by Meagan Fitzsimon on Oct 29, 2020 1:19:10 PM

It is no surprise that in the era of smartphones we have adapted to expect things instantaneously – being able to simply order a meal, pay a bill or book a weekend away has taught us to expect quick, streamlined services and consequently has made tedious paper-based processes feel even more unbearable.


That is why automated workflows are becoming increasingly popular within schools. In fact, in 2020 our team experienced the most enquiries about workflows and automated efficiencies ever; highlighting the push from schools to simplify business operations.

In this month’s blog, we go over the benefits of workflows and list the top ten processes your school should look to automate.

 

Before we get started, what is a workflow?

A workflow is a sequence of predefined tasks that take a job from initiation to completion.

 

Workflows save time and resources

Perhaps the most obvious and important benefit of workflows is the time and resources they can save you. A 2017 study by Smartsheet found that 40% of participants surveyed spent at least a quarter of their workweek on repetitive tasks. Think about the time it takes for your Payroll Officer to receive, manually enter, and approve leave applications. What if this task could be completed online and automated? How much time and resources would that save you over the course of a school year?

 

The true cost of time

Let’s dive deeper and see how much time automation can really save you. The best way to do this is with a cost-benefit analysis. Below is a generic example of a leave application process – comparing manual and automatic processing time and costs.

 

Process

Manual Processing

Automatic Processing

Number of FTE to take a Leave Application from initiation to completion

3
(employee, supervisor, payroll officer)

3
(employee, supervisor, payroll officer)

Time it takes for employee to prepare a leave application

(find application form, check entitlements, calendar etc.)

15 mins

3 mins

Time it takes for supervisor/manager to approve each Leave Application

(check staff availability, calendar, sign etc.)

10 mins

3 mins

Time it takes for a Payroll Officer to process a Leave Application

(check entitlements)

10 mins

3 mins

Number of Leave Applications processed each year

100

100

Volume of paper used

100 x $0.0094

N/A

Average employee hourly rate

$50

$50

Cost of Processing 

$2,923.44

$751.50

 

Based on our example, automatic processing is 74% cheaper and quicker than manual processing. Think about how this time could be diverted and used elsewhere, lowering costs, and creating healthier profit margins.

It is important to note that this analysis does not account for the time it also takes for a Payroll Officer to reject a leave application or follow-up with an employee who does not have enough leave accrued. With automation, employees have the tools they need to forecast how much leave they will have accrued by a certain date.

 

Promotion for Payroll Inforgraphic

 

Workflows improve processes

Business processes become more refined when all parties are connected and everything is stored in a central, online location that can be easily accessed by the appropriate people. For example, when both teachers and parents have ‘live’ visibility over parent teacher interview schedules and bookings, you can cut out the middleman and improve efficiencies.

An automated process can:

  • support the initial configuration and details of a parent teacher interview conference by administration
  • provide teachers with an opportunity to request meetings with specific parents
  • present parents with a schedule and available booking options
  • keep teachers in the loop with a finalised schedule and the information that they need to coordinate their time and meetings.

  

Workflows can reduce the room for human error

Humans make mistakes. It is an incredibly obvious statement, however, when considering the benefits of workflows it is an important consideration. Human mistakes often occur due to time restraints, fatigue, stress, or a simple misstep in the process. However, unlike humans, software does not get distracted from the task at hand and it is hard for it to make a mistake. Software is not going to accidentally miss a sheet of paper in a large stack and it is also less likely to lose a document that contains sensitive information such as payment or medical details.  

 

Workflows can improve employee wellbeing

The Smartsheet (2017) study also found that 78% of participants believe automation allows them to spend more time on the interesting and rewarding aspects of their job. Repetitive data entry can wear employees down, leading them to become disgruntled with the process and eventually disconnect from their job.

Workflows tackle the routine administrative procedures, allowing your staff to have increased productivity, job satisfaction and subsequently, lead to more business profitability. 

 

Workflows can improve communication

People are seemingly busier than ever and don’t have the time to find things, rather they need to be told that something requires their attention. Workflows often contain three types of communications: notifications, reminders, and confirmations. 

 

For example, with a parent payment schedules workflow, the automation can recognise that a payment is due soon and send the parent a notification which is later followed up by a reminder to tell them that it will be processed in the coming days. Finally, they receive a confirmation that the payment was processed.

 

So, after all of that, what are the top 10 workflows your school should look to automate?

Online timesheets

Digitise your payroll processes by allowing employees to submit timesheets online. This will assist with the review and approval process, whilst providing the school with control over important deadline dates and a seamless import of approved timesheets into an active pay run.


Leave entitlements and applications

Leave entitlement and application workflows are a great way to eliminate paper-based processes.

Providing your staff with a facility to view their leave entitlements and project their leave, means staff can confidently submit leave knowing that they have accrued the time, and administrative overheads are reduced by minimising the volume of inquiries for personal leave information.

Secondary workflows can also be initiated by identifying teacher leave and automating the process of managing substitute teachers for classes.

Once applications are approved the ability to seamlessly import leave information into an active payrun will save your Payroll Officers valuable time.


Budgets and requisitions

Finance Teams can maintain budgets and track income and expenditure levels, while staff can view budget information, raise purchase order requisitions with budget checking and submit requisitions for approval.


Parent payment schedules

Streamline your school’s fee collections with automatic processing and communication of payments with parents. School Finance Teams can flourish with ‘set and forget’ billing runs and predictable, trackable income, while busy parents can relax knowing they won’t forget a payment.


Student attendance and absentee workflows

With student attendance and absentee workflows you can ensure that your school’s records are up-to-date and your staff are informed. Parents can log attendance information in a dedicated online platform and automation can notify teachers when a student in their class signs in late to school, allowing them to fulfill their duty of care to their best ability.


Extra Curricular registration and approval

Simplify extra curricular registration by allowing parents to sign-up for activities on behalf of their student or approve activities their student has expressed interest in. This allows you to streamline the process and ensure that all information such as availability, costs associated and tryout dates are in a centralised location.


Parent-teacher interviews

Improve efficiencies by giving staff and parents the self-service tools they need to book in parent-teacher interviews. Give teachers first access to the bookings before opening to all parents – helping to speed up the process and empowering parents and staff to manage their own schedules.


Tours and excursions – accept and pay

Digitise processes by allowing parents to accept and pay for tours and excursions online, with controls to ensure they acknowledge the school’s terms and conditions.


Professional development activities 

Save time and improve efficiencies by providing employees with a facility to request Professional Development online. Here important information and documents can be captured, and any approved Professional Development can be defined against an employee’s profile for total annual accumulated hours to be checked.


Accounts payable 

Improve accounts payable processes with automation software that automatically extracts invoice data, routes invoices through a custom checking and approval process, and seamlessly import invoice records into your Finance system significantly reducing time spent on data entry.

 

Topics: Automation, Workflows

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