Integrify-based “BearQuest” initially streamlined hiring and budget requests, but seven years later, almost every department in the university uses the process management system
Baylor University in Waco, Texas, is a private Baptist university and a nationally ranked liberal arts institution. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in the state.
With more than 12,000 enrolled undergraduates and hundreds of academic and administrative professionals to support, Baylor operates under a centralized IT office that services its users on the main campus as well as satellite locations.
In 2007, in line with its goals of identifying and implementing effective technologies, Baylor University’s Information Technology Services (ITS) implemented a workflow and document management application with Integrify to centralize and streamline the data entry and approval of all departmental requests that impact the university’s budget, from hiring temporary personnel to requests for funding a new building or new department.
In Spring 2007, Pete Able, Manager of Human Resources and Financial Systems at Baylor, and Nathan Atkinson, Senior Programmer, recognized the need to improve the workflow associated with requests. Up to that point Baylor had worked with a Project Management Software vendor to create a custom/proprietary solution for financial requests, but that method became cumbersome. It had a poor user interface for end users submitting or approving requests, making end-user adoption difficult. The software customization required was pricey, yet limited ITS’ ability to scale existing processes across departments and to re-use or modify processes once they had been automated.
The ITS department set out to find a technology solution that would:
Baylor formed a Process Improvement Project team to evaluate commercial software solutions for their needs. The project team consisted of three members from ITS, representatives from the budget office, and key budget contacts from academic and administrative areas. The group evaluated multiple software packages based on training/consulting costs; track record with educational clients; simplicity of user interface; and cost compared to functional objectives met/exceeded.
In July 2007, Baylor selected Integrify as its workflow and approval process solution.
Baylor rolled out Integrify campus-wide, customizing its version as “BearQuest” with the Baylor logos. It experienced resistance-free end-user adoption from the start.
Baylor initially licensed Integrify, on its own on-site server, for hundreds of potential requesters and upwards of 100 defined “approvers.” Today, all of the university’s faculty and staff, more than 3000 in total, are designated users of the system, with a few hundred using it daily, and up to 50 using it concurrently.
ITS has added a variety of new requests and processes over the years, so that now anyone on campus making a budget, hiring, reimbursement, or travel request does so through BearQuest.
Upon selection of Integrify, Baylor immediately began development in the new system. Its goal with the Integrify solution was to build a process around a re-usable framework that would work for the first process and scale for additional processes down the road.
While processes are being defined, Integrify generates a visual workflow diagram that illustrates the steps, branches, loops, and milestones in a process. Using the workflow diagram was crucial for Baylor. In addition, Integrify allowed ITS to copy, version, or modify a process with just one click so the IT team didn’t need to start from scratch for each new process it added.
Baylor was able to simplify and in some cases reduce the need for human data entry, saving time and reducing the potential for mistakes. For example, Baylor integrated its proprietary .NET Employment Management System (EMS) with Integrify so that personnel changes initiated through Integrify used and validated against the EMS data. During the request process, Integrify launches EMS and pulls data from ERP systems. Once the requester submits the necessary data into the proprietary system, it then advances to the next step in the Integrify process flow. When the information has been updated in the proprietary human resources (HR) system, the data refreshes within Integrify.
The rollout of Integrify also allowed Baylor to evaluate approvals and optimize its automation accordingly. Integrify enables easy routing through multiple departments when a user requests a high-dollar item, while a request with little or no budget impact is accelerated and optimized with a collapsed approval flow requiring less data entry and fewer administrative departments involved in the review.
Just three months after initial rollout, Baylor had met all of the initial goals. In the beginning, BearQuest was used for human resources functions such as hiring requests, creation of new positions, and separation/termination processes. In the last few years, use of Integrify has been expanded to requests for academic departments such as creation of new courses or changes to existing courses in the catalog prior to registration periods. In another process, when Baylor students are planning a mission trip through one of the campus organizations, the request is made through Integrify and routed to the coordinator of missions and the center for international education, and a risk assessment of the destination is made before the trip can be approved.
The newest process, Baylor’s most extensive to date, is for submission and approval of expense reports for travel. Baylor uses the database push/pull utility to write out data to local reporting tables in their financial system, Peoplesoft, which provides administrative users better visibility to travel expenses by category or department. Once a request is approved for payment, the Accounts Payable office can run a job that takes that data and creates a voucher in the financial system to issue the payment.
According to Able, up to 400 departments are now using Integrify—close to all departments within the university—since at some point they all need to hire, terminate, promote, create new positions, request construction or premises improvement, and file expense reports.
For departments making requests, Integrify provides real-time and 360-degree visibility into the project life cycle for the request. From the time the user launches the browser to enter the request data, they can see what steps are involved in getting an approval and where their request is in the process, and they receive updates on the status through email notifications.
“Before moving to the Integrify solution, there was a lot of confusion on the back end of the budget process – we’re geographically and operationally distributed with different schools and deans all needing to make and manage requests. From the smallest academic request for a new faculty position to a major capital request for a new building, there is associated financial request data to be reviewed on the administrative side,” said Able. “Often the people making the request didn’t know who to contact or how to proceed. We needed a system that would help the administrators by giving them visibility into all the request data, but even more so, something that would help the requesters follow the right practice while making a request. In the past, we have had to reject requests because the person making the request skipped a step, failed to supply all the pertinent information, and the like. Now with Integrify and its easy-to-use, 100% web-based interface, we have greatly reduced these problems.”
Both department and institution budgeting processes have become better managed with reporting and real-time visibility. For any given project, the budget impact and the timing of the budget items are immediately available in Integrify. Reports can be run directly from Integrify or can be exported for further manipulation and analysis into Baylor’s reporting package. Baylor linked Integrify to Crystal Web Enterprise so that the functional users in the Budget, HR, and Payroll offices can access the data from Integrify along with their department-specific needs and run more detailed reports.
Not only do requests get entered and responded to in a timely manner, but everyone who considers making a change, from hiring a new resource to re-organizing their department, can see the full budget impact of their request before the request is completed and approved. Additionally, when a user goes into the system, they can see their open items and a complete view of their request history.
“The administrative areas see the more immediate benefits but the campus community sees the benefits over a longer time frame,” said Able. “For all the users on this campus, even those initially resistant to change, they can now see where their request is, rather than just think it’s a piece of paper laying on someone’s desk somewhere.”
The BearQuest system processes almost one thousand requests per month, several hundred of which are expense reports.
Just three months after rolling out Integrify, ITS started receiving positive feedback. Academic departments adopted the application and users were happy with the interface and the streamlined process flows.
Administrative departments found that Integrify made it almost impossible for requests to fall through the cracks. Requests are submitted correctly, no steps are missed, so decisions that carry a budget impact are happening in a more timely fashion and with 100% visibility.
Unexpected budget shortfalls and surpluses have been reduced. The institution is able to make better, timelier decisions about budgets across the board.
Seven years into its Integrify implementation, Baylor has far from exhausted its opportunities with the system. There is talk of expanding missions workflow to include any international travel with which the university is involved as well as adding a process for HR to identify early on the tax and legal implications when it hires someone who does not live in Texas.
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