Workflow Automation Simplifies School District Processes

Friday, June 1, 2018 - 3:18 pm

Oakland, Calif. — June 1, 2018 — Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) in Oakland, California, in the midst of a five-year plan to promote excellence, with the goal of students finding joy in their academic experience while, at the same time, learning the skills they needed to be successful in future academics and their adult careers, has begun automating operations using workflow automation platform from Integrify.

Serving 37,000 students in kindergarten through grade 12, the school district has embraced three core priorities: Fiscal Vitality, Access to Quality Schools, and Organizational Resilience. In doing so, the district chose to automate certain tasks that were bogging down our staff in paperwork and manual follow-up. In search of a simpler way to initiate vendor contracts, approve companies that do work for the district, and ascertain the necessary approvals from various levels within the district administration, they implemented Integrify as their workflow automation platform.

It Started with District Vendor Management

For years, OUSD had managed its extensive vendor clearance process through a paper-based system. It entailed manually filling out a contract, collecting a vendor’s resume/credentials and TB test results, processing the vendors fingerprints for clearance, filling out a statement of work, and then sending all the information to a number of offices within the school district for approval—the school’s principal, network superintendent, chief of schools, the school board, and possibly the state/federal funding and risk management offices.

The process was time-consuming and left much room for human error. This sometimes caused a vendor to start work later than ideal, delaying the delivery of services to schools and central office departments. While the district doesn’t have an unwieldy number of approvals, the nature of the paper process was that once something left anyone’s sight, there was no visibility into the process.

OUSD clears a few hundred vendors each year (and repeat vendors must be cleared again at the beginning of each school year), and some of them have more than one contract with the district. The school system has 86 schools and 56 central office departments, so the number of potential users (which includes its vendors) is between 100 and 200 each year.

Moving from a paper-based system to Integrify has made the contract and vendor approval process more efficient, especially due to the transparency of the process. Now, when a user launches the system, within moments they can see, for example, that the contract was cleared by the state and federal compliance office as well as the network superintendent, and that it’s now with the chief of schools, allowing them to follow-up with the chief of schools’ office as needed should there be an unexpected delay in the process.

Streamlined Internal/External Communication

The system has also eliminated the need to chase down a vendor for necessary information. By automating the process with the Integrify platform, users simply fill out a Web form to initiate the contract. An automated email goes to the vendor to complete the web form and attach their resume and TB test results (as well as any other credentials the contract might require), and then the package is sent to procurement for approval. If the procurement office requires more information from the vendor, the request bounces back directly to the vendor rather than being sent to the contract initiator to start over again. Clerical workers at the individual schools save a tremendous amount of time because they no longer need to track down paperwork through email and phone follow-up.

Compliance and Risk Mitigation

With a more efficient, timely, and accountable system for initiating vendor contracts and clearing the companies with which it wants to do business OUSD has seen further benefits around compliance and reduced payment cycles.

First and foremost, the system delivers efficient risk mitigation, streamlining the process to ensure that the vendors with which the schools work are reputable, insured, and not a safety risk to the district’s staff and students. Many departments benefit from the auditable nature of Integrify, from accounting to risk mitigation, as each step of the approval process is documented.

Reduced Time to Payment

The workflow also ensures on-time vendor payment by collecting all necessary paperwork directly from the vendors and automatically issuing purchase orders upon approval of the contract. Clerical and administrative staff members save time with every step of the process, as they can check the status of any outstanding payments 27/7.

Automating More Processes

Because Integrify is an automation platform rather than a specific point solution, there is no limit to what types of automated workflows can be built in the future, regardless of department or use case. That flexibility will allow OUSD to continue improving efficiency throughout the district.