Process Improvement

Process Improvement

Name

Institution

Course

Date

Enrollment Process Improvement

Introduction

To commence studies in any learning institution, students must undergo an enrolment process. The process involves a parade of forms, registrations, verifications, and authorizations. Enrolment process that is paper-based involves many steps. Enrolling one student involves filling out a dozen of forms. The process is usually very complex and stressful not just for the enrolling students but also for the school administrators and other staffs responsible for the IT systems. It is important to improve the process to meet the current students’ needs for an easier and convenient process. An improved process will also ensure that the institution saves time, effort, and money that can be invested in another productive activity. This paper focuses on the need for improvement of the enrolment process through Lean improvement principles. The paper starts by explaining why the process needs improvement, where improvements are needed, how the process can be improved, and recommendations for improving it. Improved enrolment process increases customer satisfaction.

Reasons for improving the process

The aspirations of Wittenberg University to be a recognized as among the leading institutions of Liberal Arts faced various challenges one being the enrolment process issue. The application of paper-based enrolment process was considered too manual, time exhaustive, and is characterized by delays and errors. The process also limited the University from considering highest quality applicants, and denied applicants a consistent user experience. Currently, education is facing a challenging era. Learning institutions are facing an increasingly global competition in attracting and retaining students. Students’ expectations are also changing with increased preference of convenient and easier process, information access, and convenient learning mode (Wittenberg University, 2017).

A complex enrolment process wastes time and efforts that can be useful in other productive activities. In addition, such a process would not be attractive to the current student in the competitive era (Wittenberg University, 2017). I remember when taking my brother to enrol in an undergraduate program and having a rough day. At first we thought that the process would take few if not one hour. However, there was a lot of paper work, required verification, movement from one building to another, confusion, and longer waiting time before moving to the next step. Such a process is not attractive to the very many students seeking learning opportunities. There are many institutions that are offering similar services in an enhanced way. This means that learning institutions have to improve the process to gain a competitive advantage. Therefore, it is important that the institution ensures that the enrolment process is improved to reduce time, and effort used, boost enrolment, and to attract outstanding students who possess a learning passion reflecting values of the learning institution (Wittenberg University, 2017).

Required improvements

The enrolment process requires various improvements. The amount of time spent in the process needs to be reduced. The many forms filled, the time required to verify information, registration, and authorization needs to be reduced. Students, their families, and administration staffs spend a lot of time in the long process. The saved time can be used for other productive activities (Wittenberg University, 2017). This will also help in attracting outstanding customers who prefer easier and convenient processes. Enhancing the process will also reduce the money used. Adopting an enhanced process, online enrolment, will reduce the funds used in the process. Learning institutions allocate more fund on paper, and printing. Choosing alternatives to paper usage will direct the funds to other developmental activities.  The process needs improvement on data collection. Collecting enrolment data is normally characterized by inaccuracy. An improved process will reduce the errors and reduce the effort required in interpreting the registration documents.

Students report frustrations with effort and time required in completing all the enrolment steps. Students admit to being confused on the number and sequence of steps of enrolment (Triton College, 2018), trouble locating offices and buildings, confusing terminologies, being shuffled from one department to another, and long waiting periods before advancing from one step to another.  Therefore, it is important that the school improves the process, on time spent in enrolling, reduce the effort required, reduce the steps involved in completing the process, reduce waiting time in transitioning from one step to another, and offer proper guidance on where to have questions answered. This will ensure that available resources are utilized effectively and that the school is able to attract and achieve the set target through the improved customer satisfaction (Oracle, 2013). This is important considering the challenges learning institutions are facing in attracting and retaining students.

Use Lean Principles of improvement

To improve the enrolment process, the various areas need improvement. These include improving the rate of completing the application, offering a more efficient application, improving customer experience through a transparent process, implementing process controls that are enhanced in data collection and standardization, and reduces overall steps involved in the completion of the process (Triton College, 2018). Application of Principles of Lean improvement is helpful in improving the enrolment process. Lean focus on maximizing value through the elimination of wasteful practices. The current enrolment process has various wasteful practices including a lot of time, money, and effort wastes. Applying lean would thus be helpful. The principles also help in streamlining processes, optimizing work flow, and providing services of high quality (Womack & Jones, 2003). Lean helps in identifying real causes of the identified problems and finding proper solutions. To improve the enrolment process, the focus will be on improving service quality through the elimination of wastes in accordance with lean’s principles of improvement.

The first principle is focusing on consumer-centricity. Customers expect that learning institutions offer an easier and convenient enrolment process. To improve quality of the process, customer expectations will be prioritised. This includes offering a process that prioritises customer expectations which include a process that requires less time, and effort. The second principle is the elimination of wastes. This requires focusing on eliminating sources of wastes. A lot of time, effort, and other resources are wasted in the current enrolment process. Eliminating a paper-based approach will help in waste elimination (Womack & Jones, 2003). The third principle is perfection which involves eliminating all wastes not just time which is the main waste in enrolment process but also the efforts wasted in the complex process. The vision of improving the process is increasing customer satisfaction to achieve set target.

Attempts to reduce all wastes will reduce complexity and costs beneficial to the institution as well as attractive to the current type of students. The fifth principle is empowering the entire institution. Including all elements of the institution will help in providing a process with value for the customers. Reducing wastes in the process in not only beneficial for the customer but also for the administration staffs. Engaging all layers of the institution will help in improving the process (Womack & Jones, 2003). The fifth principle is promoting flow. A short process that eliminates the need for consulting different departments will reduce confusion. The waiting time between transitioning from one step to another will be reduced by eliminating the very many steps involved in enrolling (Womack & Jones, 2003). This will increase customer satisfaction and reduce wastes with idle resources, and excess storage of batches. This will reduce interruptions in the flow of the process. According to lean, interruptions results into unevenness and overburden associated with customer dissatisfaction.

The sixth principle is adopting pull approach.  This promotes producing what is only needed. Through this principle, the enrolment process will be improved by standardizing it, having a proper schedule, and managing it to avoid long queues and in maintaining workflow. Just as Lean suggests, the improvement process will be continuous for perfection. To improve enrolment process, the first step is reducing time and effort which seems to be the value as per the customers. Reducing paper work and complex steps will offer a desirable process to the customers (Triton College, 2018). The second step is to standardize it. The third step is eliminating all wastes by adopting an alternative to paper use. Customers require easier and convenient process and this will be the fourth step of providing a just-in-time service (Womack & Jones, 2003). Lastly, the institution will continue using the enhanced process to promote perfection associated with high quality services. Focusing on minimizing complexity, elimination of wastes, and reducing resources used will improve the process.

The reason why Principle of Lean was considered over other tools of improvement is its focus on waste elimination. There is a lot of waste involved in the enrolment process. These include waste of time, money, effort, and a waste of potential customers due to process complexity. Lean helps in reducing the wastes improving the process. Waste elimination creates efficiency and effectiveness (Womack & Jones, 2003). Based on the 3M model developed by Lean scholars, the current enrolment process creates motion wastes with the increased movement that customers have to make by the time they complete the process, in inventory with many paper works stored, and waste in waiting before completion of the process. Lean helps in identification of the wastes and eventually elimination improving the process associate with improved customer satisfaction. The principles of Sigma would also be effective in improving the process however, its focus on variation in in maximizing quality is much wider compared to Leans’ focus on waste to maximize quality (Womack & Jones, 2003). This is why Lean was preferred over other improvement tools.

Recommendations

To improve the enrolment process, the following recommendations are considered effective. First is to create a student information system (SIS). SIS is a system that manages students’ information. The system helps in improving the enrollment experience. By developing the SIS, an integrated registration tool, the issue of guessing on enrollment requirements is eliminated. Customers are able to access necessary information concerning enrolment reducing confusion over the activity (Oracle, 2013). This enhances the experience both for the student and their family and for the administration staffs responsible for the process. Having an enrolment system integrated with is, helps in eliminating process stress, and saving time and money. Online registration eliminates the use of papers and funds can be used for other investments.

Second is to encourage all students to use online enrolment process. Having an online enrolment system ensures that students and their families save time spent in travelling and queuing. It reduces the effort used in filling paper work. Paper-based enrolment involves many steps such as completion of the admission application, applying for financial aid, submitting official documents, and registering for classes among others. These steps are conducted in different departments meaning that customers have to move from one building to another. This requires more time and effort (Oracle, 2013). However, through an online process, the process is mad easier and requires les effort (North Carolina State University, 2014). Parents do not need to travel to the school for the process. Such an experience would improve their satisfaction considering that customers prefer an easier and convenient process.

With an online enrolment, administration staffs can collect demographic information of the enrolled students and enter it automatically to database reduces time wasted in the process. In addition, developing an online process that allows requests for the transcript to be made online will speed the enrolment process. The school can request other schools for instance in a transfer case for transcripts electronically reducing time wasted while waiting for mails (North Carolina State University, 2014). Requesting online transcripts reduces time and effort used in delivering them or waiting for them.

Conclusion

Enrolment process involves many and complex steps before completion of the process. However the new education era characterized by students who prefer easier and convenient process. To meet students’ expectation, the institution has to improve the current enrollment process and Lean principles of improvement will be useful. The institution should provide support for the improvement of the process by providing funds for developing online systems and for implementation of the new process. It is important that the institution supports the project because, first, when customers are satisfied, more students will enrol into the school leading to achievement of population target, second resources spend in the current process will be re-allocated in other investments,  and administration staff responsible for the process will save more time and rededicate it to other productive activities. In addition, through online enrolment integrated with SIS, errors will be reduced leading to quality operations associated with enhanced performance.

References

North Carolina State University (2014). Enrollment Management and Services. Retrieved on            26 April 2018 from https://emas.ncsu.edu/2014/05/student-information-system- features-enhance-the-enrollment-experience/

Oracle (2013). Campus Solutions for Higher Education: Enrollment Services, pp.1-11.

Triton College, (2018). Triton’s Step-by-Step Enrollment Process. Retrieved on 26 April             2018 from http://www.triton.edu/Content.aspx?id=24186

Wittenberg University (2017). Improving Enrollment Performance, A Case Study, pp.1-5.

Womack, J., Jones, D. (2003). Lean Thinking. New York, NY: Free Press