Innovative university selects Hyland's Alfresco platform to automate key business management processes.
For Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, managing accounts receivables, reimbursements and travel requests for over 2,500 teaching and support staff is a big job.
The university — which has over 35,000 students enrolled in higher education and an additional 18,000 enrolled in its vocational education track — was challenged with many complex and inefficient manual operational processes.
“We have a lot of manual processes for finance, HR and student administration that have different needs,” said Jacinta Savage, senior manager of business process solutions in Swinburne’s finance department. “We needed to link them together through an enterprise platform so that we could share information more efficiently across the core systems.”
The university wanted a single point of contact for end users and to increase the visibility of its various processes — many of which were carried out in manual form or managed via group email or individual staff inboxes. They also needed a standard, university-wide approach to request management.
“The aim is to provide a portal for end users where they can go to get what they need,” said Savage. “We wanted to eliminate manual processes where possible and give staff the ability to self-manage and track their requests.”
With Alfresco Activiti, we have done something we wouldn’t have been able to do with any of the products we currently have at Swinburne. It could potentially revolutionize how the university operates and really change the way the business works in many ways.
— Jacinta Savage, Senior Manager, Business Process Solutions, Swinburne University of Technology
After evaluating several solutions with Australia-based partner Sixtree, Swinburne selected Alfresco platform’s Java-based open source Activiti Business Process Management (BPM) engine because of its ease of use, open architecture, scalability and mobile app, which allows the system to be accessed online.
“We selected Activiti because it integrated with our existing IT infrastructure and also gave us the ability to expand the solution to student use in the future,” said Savage. “We wanted something modern and easy to navigate that could be handled by the business instead of relying on IT.”
The first phase of implementation encompassed multiple processes including the university’s accounts receivables, staff reimbursements and travel requests.
The university’s travel request form and approval process is one of its most complex because it is linked to Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the university’s financial system, travel agents and other external service providers.
“Because of its complexity, we thought if we could implement the travel process in Activiti that we could implement anything,” said Savage. “We did a lot of internal demos before going live four months ago, but expected the tool to be intuitive enough for people to use it without requiring a lot of training and it has been very successful. We have had over 750 people use Activiti.”
Today, the university’s travel request process is the highest volume process in the system, with more than 350 users relying on Activiti for submitting and approving as many as 4,000 travel requests each year.
Before Activiti, a travel request could take up to a week to be approved. Now, with the automated system, most travel is finalized, approved and booked within a day.
“It’s a significant timesaver from that perspective and gives us visibility into where our people are travelling, which we didn’t have when things were processed on paper forms,” said Savage.
Other processes already implemented in Activiti include accounts receivable invoicing, expense reimbursement and credit card applications totaling almost 6,000 transactions each year.
Moving forward, the university hopes to soon implement additional financial forms and processes into Activiti, making it easier to upload invoices and make payments. It also hopes to increase the system’s form-level reporting functionality to better track and manage tasks in the system.
“Once we were in the development process, the response from Hyland and Sixtree has been very positive. Lots of things are being developed in an agile kind of environment,” said Savage. “Feedback from managers has also been very positive. We want to capitalize on that and roll out additional forms and processes quickly.”
Other items on the horizon include adopting an enterprise content management system across the university and possibly expanding Activiti to students, as well as external vendors and service providers to automate and enable external collaboration.