Executive Summary – RIT: Implementing a Best-in-Class GT eForms™ Project
- Transformative digital shift: RIT achieved a transformative digital shift by implementing mission-critical eForms solutions with Gideon Taylor.
- Enhanced user experiences and efficiency: GT eForms™ replaced RIT’s PDF-based digital forms system, improving the experience for students, faculty, and administrators.
- Reduced errors and increased confidence: Transitioning to eForms reduced errors and increased confidence in the student information system.
- Expanded user base and comprehensive documentation: Transitioning from paper-based forms to GT eForms™ increased confidence in the student information system, expanded user base, technical independence, and flexibility.
- Technical independence and flexibility: The recent GT upgrade granted RIT’s functional side greater technical independence and flexibility.
In addition to these key outcomes, RIT also highlighted the value of Gideon Taylor’s collaborative approach and expertise. They consider Gideon Taylor the “new gold standard” for consulting and vendor partnerships.
Challenges and Objectives:
– RIT sought a collaborative and experienced partner for a complex eForms implementation.
– They aimed to replace their PDF-based digital forms system, which had limitations.
– A critical priority was enhancing user experiences and efficiency.
– RIT needed a vendor that was professional, approachable, and aligned with their vision.
Selecting Gideon Taylor:
After extensive research, RIT chose Gideon Taylor as their partner. Gideon Taylor’s competence, depth of understanding, and collaborative approach stood out. The partnership empowered RIT to solve problems collaboratively, fostering a sense of empowerment.
Transforming Amid the Pandemic:
During the COVID-19 pandemic, RIT transitioned from paper-based forms to PDFs, but challenges remained. Issues related to form signatures, submissions, and server load necessitated a more robust solution. Gideon Taylor’s eForms became the answer.
Focus on the Leave of Absence/University Withdrawal Form:
RIT prioritized improving their complex Leave of Absence/University Withdrawal form. This form involved multiple departments and complex requirements. Converting it into an eForm promised to enhance the experience for students, faculty, and administrators.
The Value of Expertise:
Working with Gideon Taylor allowed RIT to think big and consider broader questions. The flexibility and security offered by GT eForms™ convinced RIT that this solution was superior to in-house alternatives. The relationship with GT was characterized by collaboration, transparency, and responsiveness.
Collaboration with Internal Tech Teams:
RIT emphasized the importance of aligning their internal tech and development teams with the eForms project. Clear communication and alignment between requesters and developers were crucial for success.
Change Management and Benefits:
Transitioning from manual processes to eForms reduced errors, increased confidence in the student information system, expanded the user base, and provided comprehensive documentation. RIT highlighted the importance of managing change and involving staff in the transition.
Technical Independence and Flexibility:
The recent GT upgrade granted RIT’s functional side greater technical independence. They could write their own queries and validations, improving efficiency and adaptability.
The Gold Standard:
RIT considers Gideon Taylor the “new gold standard” for consulting and vendor partnerships. They credit GT with their successful eForms implementation and recommend matching the GT experience when choosing future vendors.
RIT’s eForms transformation demonstrates the potential for other Higher Ed institutions. Having clear goals, plans, and a trusted partner like Gideon Taylor is essential for a successful digital transformation. Gideon Taylor’s collaborative approach and expertise have made them a benchmark for RIT and a model for future vendor selections.
Rochester Institute of Technology – GT eForms™ Case Study
“This is the new gold standard”
Is your Higher Ed organization considering an eForms implementation in the next 12-18 months? If so, what are your top priorities?
When Matt DeMayo, Senior Associate Registrar at Rochester Institute of Technology and his team were searching for a partner to help them develop and implement several mission-critical eForms at RIT, they did their homework. They wanted an experienced and collaborative partner—someone they could work closely with during what they anticipated would be a lengthy and complex process. Additionally, they wanted to work with a vendor who was both professional and approachable—not always an easy combination to find.
“After several years of research,” Matt shared, “we chose to partner with Gideon Taylor. Before signing a contract with GT, we asked a lot of questions to make sure they understood what was involved in every aspect of our project. This discovery phase was critical. The GT team clearly grasped the scope of our needs. We felt like we had 100% clarity on how our teams would work together. That’s a level of competence and depth, frankly, that we have not with any of our other vendor partners.”
Matt added that Gideon Taylor has also become the one vendor they actually look forward to working with. “We don’t have calls with GT to point out things they said they would do but aren’t doing. Instead, we can comfortably present a problem and ask, ‘Can you show us how to solve this?’ without worrying that GT will fix it themselves. We love feeling empowered to solve things. This has been one of the keys to our partnership working so well.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, RIT made the decision to move their forms to a PDF-based digital format. Although this was an improvement over their previous paper-based system, there were still unresolved issues, including who was using Adobe to sign a form, who was printing it, signing off on it, how forms would be submitted or forwarded, etc. RIT has a ticketing system designed to prevent users from sending forms through email, which put a heavy load on their server during peak events like registration. Matt and his team realized it was only a matter of time before this system would break. “We were slapping Band-aids on the solutions we’d built,” Matt said.
As RIT discussed their priorities with Gideon Taylor, they decided early on to focus on improving their Leave of Absence/University Withdrawal form, which was one of their most complicated and most audited paper forms. In addition to including elements from federal financial aid requirements, billing, housing, dining and more, this form also demanded the most time and oversight from several campus departments, including Registrar, Faculty, Advisors and others. Converting this form into an eForm had the potential to change the campus experience for students, faculty, and administrators.
Matt recounted how RIT’s Registrar viewed the significance of this one form being converted from paper-based to eForm. As the Registrar put it, “We converted to PeopleSoft in 2012. The introduction of eForms and the replacement of our forms could potentially be the biggest project since that conversion.” “We’ve done a lot of things over the years to move from a paper-based system,” Matt added. “We’ve automated diploma printing, we’ve done electronic transcripts and many other normal business changes, but this is the biggest one because we’re changing sign-off dynamics. We’re adding in this great technology, but more importantly, we’re enforcing what policy and governance groups have said all along–that only the department chair should sign the form. With the new eForm we built, there’s no other place for it to go, there’s no ‘Hey, can you sign this for me?’ It’s going right to the person that we said it should go to and the audit trail that we have is spectacular. It’s a beautiful thing.”
The Value of Expertise
For many organizations contemplating similar projects, their scope is sometimes limited by access to expertise. Working with Gideon Taylor has allowed RIT to think big. “The flexibility GT gives us has changed the type of questions we’re asking,” Matt shared. “Shifting from a paper-based to a digital system required us to assess what we needed to make a successful transition. We knew that PeopleSoft was our most secure environment. In reviewing pending PS updates that would introduce page/field configurator, forms and more, we realized that even if our internal development team spent hundreds of hours trying to customize for our needs, we still wouldn’t have something as repeatable and scalable as GT eForms™. It became crystal clear that Gideon Taylor’s bolt-on solution made the most sense because it fully utilizes the security we required within PeopleSoft, with a better interface, and with all the pieces we needed. We also no longer needed to worry about in-house solutions becoming obsolete when the developer who created it leaves the organization.” Matt added that in meetings where a problem is presented, he now regularly asks “Can this be solved with an eForm?”
He also shared how important it was for RIT to be a good partner to Gideon Taylor. One way this was accomplished was by not giving the company access to RIT’s PeopleSoft environment. As Matt related, “This helped us bring our problems to GT without worrying that they would say ‘We’ll take care of that and get back to you.’ During our weekly meetings, we were able to collaborate and find the best solutions together which we would then implement internally. That worked really well for us. These solutions are something we were able to document and reflect on as we build other forms.”
There were internal partnerships that were critical for success as well. The technical development team within RIT were key to the partnership with GT as well as the success of the implementation. “It was through their knowledge, flexibility, and enthusiasm for the project that we are seeing the success,” Matt added “I am confident that a solid relationship with your technical team should be a requirement before starting an eForms project.”
He added that the relationship between RIT and GT was so tight that when they were done working together, it felt to Matt as if they were saying goodbye to long-time team members. “GT knew so much about our team and our projects and were so invested in our success. There was a perfect mix of professionalism and relatability between us. This led to a lot of creative brainstorming and collaboration. As one form project wrapped up GT would ask how we could transfer any of the lessons learned to the next project. This isn’t something we experienced with other vendors. They were also so approachable and responsive. If we called or emailed them with questions they always responded quickly. We became so close we even shared recipes!”
During the onboarding process, one of the team members for GT indicated that RIT should plan on spending at least 30 hours a week to achieve the results they were expecting. RIT misunderstood that they were being told that each team member would need to allot 30 hours, when in fact it was 30 hours as an organization. This misunderstanding was quickly resolved, but it also made clear that RIT would need to devote significant resources to achieve a successful outcome. “We realized this isn’t a joke,” Matt said. “This isn’t a quick ‘go-live.’ GT shared what other institutions like ours had done to yield positive outcomes. That was really helpful for planning. We saw that just holding a lot of meetings wouldn’t cut it.” During subsequent meetings, the two teams developed a series of prompts and questions that guided their efforts.
- Here are the questions we’re going to go through.
- Here are the solutions we need.
- Here’s where we need tech help (internally or with GT).
- What is our homework per office?
- What can we do as a whole university before the next meeting?
- What can we do to improve our productivity even more than what we did this week?
Asking and discussing these and other questions created critical transparency and trust between RIT and GT. Hearing that they would need to commit at least 30 hours a week to their projects motivated RIT to be clear about where those hours would come from and accomplish. Since they finished their eForm implementation, they’ve opted to continue scheduling up to 20 hours a week of work from their tech team going forward. RIT is also following this new meeting pattern developed with GT with their developers and security teams. The same method has been used to implement changes since go-live as well as four other forms built shortly after.
A map for the journey
As Matt and his team at Rochester Institute of Technology reflect on their experience, there were several valuable insights for others considering similar projects that seemed worth sharing.
“When you are trying to sell leadership on the idea of implementing an eForms project, you want to sit down and explain the deep, big-picture benefits,” Matt said. “Don’t start by telling them how it can automate everything, or that it’s going to make life better for students. These are both important, of course, but too vague. What we discovered is that our leaders saw what we were doing through different eyes, and that we needed to frame the initiative accordingly. Here are four of the things we told them that transitioning to an eForms platform would lead to:
- It’s going to decrease the number of issues with this piece of institutional processing.
- It’s going to increase the confidence others have in our team and our student information system.
- It’s going to increase our user base in the system of record by requiring transactions within the student information system.
- It will give us the needing documentation and backbone for any questions internally and externally.
As for working with internal tech and development teams, Matt had these additional insights:
“You want your tech/development team to be as excited about the product as you are about the solutions it will provide,” Matt said. “You want them to be fully onboard. When you are making a request for new forms or configurations, as the requester you really need to think through what you are asking for and how you are asking. Instead of just thinking about one form and one field, you want to be thinking into the future – five terms, ten terms out. ‘What is the solution that is repeatable for my next five forms? Can I use this same model when approaching our next forms?’”
This is a transition from a world where users are often accidentally entering incorrect data. Gone are the days of attachments and emails and tickets and multiple other ways people are interacting with forms. “You should take a hard look at all of your forms,” Matt shared. “Not just what format they are in, but how they are similar and/or redundant, too complicated, outdated, etc. Can they be narrowed down? Can we reduce from five forms to one? Ask important questions to help get you to the right place. Even very complicated forms can be simplified to just a few questions once you remove redundant data that eForm populates.” This is what RIT is now getting out of GT eForms. Their focus is on change management. There will be challenges, but you can plan for those. The outcome of this change is that department chairs are now more interactive, their student information system is more interactive, and their advisors are now much more confident in the accuracy and relevancy of what they’re working on.
“If your staff are nervous about possible impact on their job, you can assure them there is still a critical role for them to play in this,” Matt added. “You’ll still need staff to review and approve requests and to answer questions. But what’s no longer present are those gaps of time between when you ask for validation and when you receive it. ‘Did you mean this student? Did you mean this class member? Did you mean this instructor because they don’t match the form?’ You can get rid of that frustrating, time-consuming process. The ability to enforce rules without sending out emails is a big benefit of this. For example, Add/Drop is something every university deals with. Instead of needing to manually send out that reminder email multiple times to multiple instructors, the forms can handle all of that automatically. This is a huge benefit that we’re really happy about.”
“Lastly, the recent upgrade the GT has pushed out has given the functional side even more technical independence,” Matt related. “We are able to write our own queries to populate data fields or form validations that may have required a few days of development in the past. This flexibility has allowed us to improve our LOA/UW form even more but also change our approach to our other forms. We are truly excited to see what is coming next!”
The Gold Standard
Doing something similar to what RIT has done is absolutely possible for other Higher Ed institutions. Having a goal and a plan for getting there is key. It also helps to have an experienced, trusted partner on your digital transformation journey. In Matt’s words, “I’m a big cheerleader of what Gideon Taylor does. I’ve talked with a lot of different consulting companies and with a lot of different vendors over many projects. GT is the new gold standard for us. We now make sure that the vendors we choose match the kind of experience that we’ve had working with GT.”