The Crow Canyon Request Manager for SharePoint transformed the way a U.S. government agency worked, empowering it to move away from outdated manual processes and embrace digitized and automated solutions that integrate seamlessly with its existing IT framework.
Two challenges: Regulations and Outdated Methods
When it comes to regulations, few sectors are as stringent as the public sector. Government organizations are renowned as being pillars of inefficiency — due, in large part, to the combination of two factors: regulations and outdated methodologies.
Every action taken in the public sector is affected by regulatory compliance legislation. From run-of-the-mill service requests to approval processes, government workers need to follow exacting workflows that were not necessarily created with efficiency in mind. This situation is magnified when the agency relies on old-school methods: paper forms, file folders, signatures, multiple copies, and a requirement to retain all paper-based records for years.
The former is beyond our control: there will always be regulations and, when done correctly, they do have the capability to bring order to chaos. The latter—outdated methodologies—is a different story.
SharePoint can replace outdated manual processes
One of our clients, a U.S. government agency, was faced with this exact problem. A number of its day-to-day tasks were reliant on manual processes that effectively slowed down its entire operational structure. Requests such as travel expense reimbursements, purchasing, and service requests all relied on paper forms that needed to be signed, copied, undergo an approval process, and then be filed away for recordkeeping purposes.
Some of the problems experienced using this approach included:
- Time-consuming: Non-electronic solutions require the handling of tangible assets. That is, physically picking up stacks of paper, walking to another location, handing off the papers, and then returning to a desk. A quick stop at the water cooler and a chat with a colleague are often included into the mix. The end-result? An activity that digitally would take 2 seconds now languishes into 10 or more minutes. This issue is magnified as the size of the organization or number of requests grows.
- Lost paperwork: In addition to consuming large quantities of time, manual processes all too often result in lost or misplaced documentation. This is especially pertinent during the approval process, where a document makes the rounds from approver to approver gathering signatures — and sitting on desks piled with stacks of other papers along the way.
- Error-prone: Some processes are more complex than others. For example, a purchase request may need to move through multiple departments (Finance, Operations, Administration, Procurement) before finalization. The effectiveness of a manual process is tied directly to the acumen of the person handling the request — if a mistake is made (particularly at a later stage), then the request needs to be shuffled back to the initiator and has to undergo re-submission. This merry-go-round results in thousands of hours of lost time and labor every year in both the public and private sectors.
Request management with Crow Canyon
Our client’s primary challenge was to replace its outdated manual methods with electronic solutions designed to dramatically increase productivity.
The three target areas in need of attention included:
- Travel Reimbursement Requests
- Purchasing Requests
- Requests for Outside Services.
Streamlined Data Entry with SharePoint
The first step was to transform our client’s data input processes from manual into digital format. We started with putting all of the agency’s paper forms into Microsoft SharePoint, the productivity environment of choice. This was not a mere digitization, however, but a complete change in how the agency collected requestor data.
Each target area required its own unique process for digitally collecting request data. To facilitate this, we created a series of SharePoint-integrated forms that negated the need to rely on manual processing.
Key features include:
- Easy to access online form
- Automated population of submitter information
- For travel reimbursement: Line item entry of each expense with total amounts calculated automatically
Automated Workflows within SharePoint
Workflows are used to determine the flow of requests from initiation to finalization. We worked with the agency to map out this flow and then customized our business applications to perform the defined processes with as much automation as possible.
Workflows always begin when a new request is made. As soon as a request is logged, approvers and all related parties are automatically notified. The approver can then view the request on SharePoint or via e-mail. Our SharePoint-enabled solutions support a wide variety of interactive options — in this case, approvers have the freedom to respond to requests directly via e-mail by simply clicking Approve or Deny. The response is automatically recorded by SharePoint and the request can then continue on its workflow path.
As mentioned, some workflows can be more complex than others. In the case of our Purchasing Requests solution, requests are automatically forwarded to the Finance department after initial approval. The Finance team can then record a status for each line item; options include Awaiting Approval, To be Ordered, Ordered, and Reconciled. This aids in reconciling items ordered and received with checks and credit card statements.
Our solutions can work on desktops, tablets, and smartphones, so approvers can easily receive notifications and address outstanding requests even when away from the office.
Regulatory Compliance with SharePoint
As mentioned, government agencies are bound by a wide array of regulations that prescribe how information is handled. One of the key target areas — Requesting Outside Services — required working within a strict regulatory framework. Whenever an outside service was needed, the agency had to send a government-mandated letter. In the old system, the agency did not have an editable PDF of this document.
We streamlined this process by automatically creating the letter as a PDF directly from the information input into SharePoint. This enabled workers to easily produce compliant letters in the correct format directly from their native work environment.
These letters, along with every other document created by the agency, needed to be filed away for regulatory purposes. Previously, this meant thousands of sheets of paper placed into file folders and then placed in a storage facility where they had to remain for years. Retrieving archived data was time-consuming and laborious, to say the least.
Crow Canyon’s Request Management solutions enabled our client to completely halt this process and replace it with an automated and digitized approach. Working completely in the background, our solutions automatically saved every single document and user action for safe-keeping. Retrieval was as simple as performing a search, effectively turning internal audits from a nightmare into a straightforward process.
Success with SharePoint
The Crow Canyon Request Manager for SharePoint provided a full, comprehensive view to all concerned parties as to the status, communications, and progress of each and every request. Our solution transformed the way our public sector client worked, empowering them to move away from outdated manual processes and embrace digitized & automated solutions that integrated seamlessly with their existing IT framework.
Crow Canyon Software delivers the power of a connected, digital workplace to your organization, helping you be more successful and competitive. We provide the tools that allow you to gain the maximum benefit from SharePoint and Office 365, Microsoft’s premier collaboration platforms.
Want to learn about how our business productivity applications for SharePoint and Office 365 can power up your organization? Give us a call at 1-925-478-3110 or contact us by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!