The Transformative Power of Automation

Take a look at your workforce. Do you see tasks that take countless hours as employees manually collect and enter information? In many cases, automation – using technology to perform repetitive tasks – can improve efficiency and reduce errors in the work they perform.

Automation can transform a process from a labor-intensive juggernaut of time to an efficient, seamless operation. Check out what we did to shorten and streamline a crucial reporting process for one university.

The Challenge

Every year, colleges and universities who participate in a Title IV federal student financial assistance program must complete their Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act (EADA) report. In addition, all members of the NCAA must also prepare and submit a financial report which includes much of the same data. At one particular Division II school, a single person handled the preparation of these reports.

The process of creating the school’s EADA and NCAA reports took several weeks, thanks to all the information that had to be gathered, collected, prepared and entered into their system. To make matters worse, the person doing this work was getting ready to retire — taking her 25-plus years of knowledge about how everything works with her.

The university knew they needed a solution quickly, as the staff member’s retirement date was approaching, and the annual reports were once again coming due. So they reached out to James Moore Data Analytics for help.

The Solution

We reviewed their existing processes, inputs, and outputs. After scrutinizing their data processes further, we saw that hundreds of hours per year were being spent on tasks that could easily be automated. The employee had been manually aggregating and reviewing transaction-level details between the reports.

So we coordinated with the university’s IT department to extract data from their Banner financial system. Through interviews and review of their prior workpapers, we could create logic that captured 98% of the work that was being done manually. We then developed process automation in Alteryx (including logic to appropriately classify transactions en masse) and provided users the ability to manually adjust transactions on an as-needed basis. We also developed a series of control and validation reports and fully documented the process so anyone could come in and follow it.

The Results

The process of reviewing over 50,000 transactions – one that once took over 100 hours of manual work and had an error rate of plus/minus 5% – was reduced to just a few days and became less prone to error thanks to automation logic. It’s also more transparent, making it both easier for others to perform and more auditable.

Thanks to this increased ease and reduced time, the university can now perform the data collection process monthly or even weekly if they prefer. This allows them to better track key performance indicators and make adjustments to correct small issues before they become bigger problems.

“The process couldn’t have gone more smoothly,” said Chauncey Winbush, the school’s vice president for athletics. “Moving forward, this will be beneficial for Shepherd Athletics.

This university case study highlights the many benefits of automation:

  • Enhanced Accuracy – Minimizing manual data entry and manipulation helps ensure precise and reliable data.
  • Time Efficiency – Less time is needed to acquire, process and present financial information — resulting in faster report generation.
  • Cost Effectiveness – Over the long run, automation can lead to cost savings by reducing the number of manual labor hours needed and minimizing error-related rectifications.
  • Consistent Reporting – Reports will be prepared in a consistent manner, adhering to the same format and standards every time.
  • Scalability – As operations expand, an automated system can be scaled up effortlessly to handle the increased volume of data.
  • Standardization – Automation ensures that processes adhere to set standards and principles, leading to greater creditability and trustworthiness.
  • Resource Redirection – By minimizing manual tasks, staff can focus on more value-added activities like financial analysis, planning and strategy.
  • Compliance – Automation enables easier updates to adhere to changing regulations, ensuring compliance at all times.

Think you might have a process that’s ready for automation? Consult a data analytics and business intelligence professional to see what this technology can do for your organization.


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