Today that goal has been achieved. Calvin College now has a reliable, efficient and cost effective report formatting and delivery system that uses byREQUEST® from Hillary Software, seamlessly with the DATATEL Colleague system. With byREQUEST® and DATATEL fully integrated, the College is already saving more than $80,000 per year!
Dan Pilarski, Systems Analyst at the College’s Information Technology department knew the importance of automating the delivery of departmental budget and expense reports and how it ultimately could save the College significant time and money. The College has DATATEL’s Colleague system in place. It was important to find electronic report formatting and automated delivery technology that would provide significant ROI (Return on Investment), be robust, proven, and most importantly, well supported in an already stable, successful, DATATEL Colleague environment.
“We had a project in which we sent about 13,000 pages of financial reports every month to more than 450 individuals. The reports were printed on special paper and manually collated, sorted and mailed,” Pilarski said. “We knew this one candidate would justify the cost for the system – plus we’re not killing so many trees.”
The department set a zero tolerance for errors. “The reports had to be bursted into hundreds of sections and delivered to the appropriate recipients. Someone getting someone else’s report was unacceptable. They had to all be delivered to the right person,” Pilarski said.
When representatives of Calvin College attended a DATATEL Users Group meeting, they weren’t even looking for tools that would improve the way they deliver reports from DATATEL’s Colleague system, recalls Dan Pilarski. However, after meeting a representative of Hillary Software and learning about byREQUEST®, they thought again. The IT department calculated the savings from this project alone would justify the purchase of byREQUEST® and were convinced the product was sufficiently proven to minimize any risk for them.
Today, the report processes that have migrated to byREQUEST® are fully-automated, and have significantly improved delivery time, efficiency and cost. The College found even more value after the byREQUEST® product was implemented and is planning to expand its use toward a paperless future!
byREQUEST® is able to capture reports directly from DATATEL’s Colleague system, enabling the IT department to redesign them in an electronic format and automate their delivery. The more IT staff familiarized themselves with byREQUEST®, the more functionality they uncovered. “For example, when byREQUEST® bursts a report, it is able to merge data with an image,” Pilarski said. “This enabled the College to automate the distribution of other documents like telephone bills to students and present them in a PDF format that looks like the paper bills they were accustomed to receiving. Now Calvin College provides electronic delivery of telephone bills for employees and students. The electronic delivery of student tuition and miscellaneous charges statements is also fully automated.”
Students now use the Web to access archives of the electronic versions of student statements bursted by byREQUEST®. Archives of internal documents have been created for employees as well. And though they have to set it up themselves through the Web, students can list as many as five other people to receive their tuition and miscellaneous expense statements. “So if a relative has offered to help with tuition, you can add your relative to the e-statement subscription list,” Pilarski said.
In addition, the IT staff linked key fields to employee phone extensions and student ID numbers so that the byREQUEST® distribution lists would be automatically updated. If the employee associated with a phone extension changes, or new student ID numbers are added to DATATEL’s Colleague system, the byREQUEST® distribution list automatically reflects the new information.
The IT department set up a two-pass process, through which it creates ASCII flat files residing in internal secure file servers for departments to review. Once the data files are approved by the business departments, the full mailing is triggered with different versions of reports bursted to budget directors, vice presidents and provosts. The reports are sent out on a “greenbar” background, similar to the greenbar printer paper that had been used for the inter-college paper mailings.
The list of reports that Calvin College has added to the system continues to grow. In addition to internal financial reports, student tuition bills, and telecom bills for students and employees, the system is used for archiving 1098T tax forms for all students who have attended the College in the past calendar year. It also distributes the General Ledger Entry Report, which serves as an archive for all general ledger entry information for the year.
The Bottom Line:
- Automating delivery of 80,000 student tuition and expense statements a year, with a conservative estimate of $1 savings per statement in postage, printing, paper and preparation costs is saving the College $80,000 per year.
- For the initial internal financial statements, savings of approximately 5 cents per sheet on 13,000 legal/landscape greenbar pages per month translated into immediate $650 per month savings on printing and paper costs.
- The financial reports project also resulted in eight hours per month in labor savings for the clerk who collated, stored and saved reports. This does not include labor that had been involved in manually addressing envelopes nor the savings of avoiding delivery through inter-college mail.
- The College now electronically delivers approximately 500 student telecom bills and statements a month. Plus it has added the electronic delivery of 1,029 telecom bills for employees as a new service because it now has the ability to do so.
More is planned. The College is looking to begin automating the distribution of academic evaluation reports, which are sent twice annually to students’ academic advisors. “We have 4,200 students and many of them have more than one advisor, so that could be anywhere between 4,000 and 10,000 reports,” Pilarski said. There are also plans to automate distribution of computer hardware/inventory reports.
As of this fall 2005, the student statement process at Calvin College will be paperless. There were several components involved in the College’s move to a paperless student-billing environment including a custom-built automated bill pay system. byREQUEST® plays a significant role in this process.
“We are only beginning to tap the functionality and usefulness of byREQUEST®. The efficiency it had brought us allows us to meet the demands of today and ensure we are well supported for the future, and Hillary Software has always been there when we needed them to answer questions and provide outstanding customer support.” Pilarski concluded.