New program helps Elon track records in digital format

Elon employees copy thousands of documents each year, from student applications to worker resumes to purchase receipts. All those photocopiers may soon get a lighter workload. The university purchased a program this month that allows millions of documents to be stored in electronic format, a move to both help the environment and increase staff efficiency.

With nearly 10,000 student applications to Elon University every year, a new document management program is expected to save the school time and money by allowing admissions officers to store records electronically.
Officials believe they will cover the cost of Fortis, a document management program scheduled to arrive in January, within two years based on paper savings alone. It complements a print management program implemented last year to reduce the amount of paper printed in university computer labs.
Here’s how it works: When a document arrives on campus – for example, a student admissions application – workers scan the paper into a computer file. As additional documents arrive, like a transcript, that too gets scanned into the same file.
University officials with permission to access the file can view it from their computers rather than search through rows of folders in storage rooms. The original documents are destroyed to maintain student privacy, and the database is backed up each night on another server to protect the records.
The same can be done for employee applications. “Think of how many people we hire each year,” said Chris Fulkerson, assistant vice president for technology at Elon. The human resources office receives 14,000 resumes and vita from prospective faculty, he said.
Fulkerson uses the insurance industry as an example of what the document management program could do for Elon. In most offices, insurance claims get scanned into a database, and the original document is shredded. From that point forward, all work is completed on the computer, which eliminates waste and makes file access more convenient.
The first three departments to use the program will be the admissions office, the School of Education and contract management. In admissions, Fortis will be used to track student applications. The School of Education plans to scan teaching certificates into the system, which should free space in the Mooney building.
Fulkerson said that contract management office can use Fortis to find financial records on a moment’s notice, rather than sort through vast amount of paperwork. The system cost the university about $100,000. The savings in paper should pay for the system by 2010.
“This is meant to make people’s jobs easier by saving time,” said Fulkerson said. “It also helps us meet our sustainability goals by using less paper.”