Higher Education Use Cases & Results in Times of Uncertainty

by | Sep 11, 2020 | Automation

In the first blog in our series covering Hyperautomation in Higher Education, we discussed three key trends that are defining the industry.

  • Shifting customer experience expectations
  • Increase value provided to customers while simultaneously decreasing overhead costs
  • Reliance on other sources of funding outside of government and tuition increases

The global pandemic has only increased the tension between these competing priorities and the need for universities to leverage scalable and flexible solutions with immediate results. Hyperautomation provides a unique opportunity for the Higher Education industry to address the challenges faced before and after COVID-19. In this blog entry, we will focus on two specific use cases where a prestigious university used automation to achieve its desired business outcomes and overcame challenges presented by the pandemic.

Pivot from Unattended to Attended

The first use case relates to the use of attended vs unattended automation. First let’s briefly remind ourselves of the difference between attended and unattended automation. Attended automations are intended to act as digital assistants on the end-user’s machine and execute task-level automation. Unattended automation is used as a batch process to process a large volume of transactional data behind the scenes without human intervention required to begin or complete the process. Each presents unique benefits, however in this instance the flexibility of RPA hyperautomation allowed the university to overcome unexpected problems presented by the pandemic.

The University leverages Banner as their core ERP application and each day their accounting team processes end of day transactions such as grant encumbrances. The steps are repetitive, extremely linear, and involve over 10 different batch processes, which must be executed only when the previous process is complete. Given the high transaction volume and scheduled nature of this automation candidate, it made sense to build as an unattended automation. Removing this process from the hands of users would reallocate hundreds of hours back to the business, increase the reliability of the process, and allow for 100% auditability within a core application.

The onset of COVID-19 resulted in a drastic increase in online teaching and learning, and the IT resources responsible for the provisioning of new user account access suddenly found themselves occupied with critical priorities related to the students and faculty, vs creating access for a back office automation. To maintain the original project schedule and achieve the outcomes laid out, the university made the decision to pivot this candidate to an attended automation, which could leverage existing user credentials and still require very little manual intervention to execute. This required very little rework from a development perspective and maintained nearly all of the original design signed off on by the end-users.

Deficit Monitoring: Increase Visibility & Access to Data

The second use case relates to the monitoring of university restricted funds on a periodic basis. Applicable funds that run a deficit balance month over month require further inquiry and in some cases adjustment of spending practices. Additionally, the funds must be spent in very specific ways and failure to do so can result in legal action from the funding source or donor. To increase the communication between fund managers and visibility into spending practices, the university automated the deficit monitoring and notification process. The automation periodically identifies funds running a deficit balance and distributes a notification to the manager of the organization for inquiry.

The second part of the automation compiles the fund data, identifies trends, and delivers a report to the restricted fund team. Rather than having the university employees focus their time on data compilation and cleansing, their time will be spent analyzing the data and leveraging it to make educated decisions for the university and its funding sources. The restricted funds are intended to benefit university stakeholders such as students and faculty, and by automating the monitoring of the spending the university has put itself in a position to act upon data and improve continuously.

For more details on the challenges facing higher education and how Hyperautomation is helping the industry sign up for our upcoming Higher Education Webinar!

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