6 min read

Practical Applications of AI/ML in Medical Affairs

By Alex Reinthal on Apr 24, 2024 9:27:19 AM

AI-ML-PubPro-Blog

Medical affairs leaders are ready to cut through the buzz and finally get a clear answer to “what can AI actually do for us?

Alex ReinthalI’m Alex Reinthal, and as Vice President of Product at BP Logix, I have a unique vantage point on how AI and machine learning technologies will develop in life sciences software.

In this article, I will share my insights into the future of generative AI and machine learning. I’ll also delve into practical examples of these technologies through demonstrations of an upcoming prototype that is currently in the works for our publication management solution, PubPro.

What I'm hearing from life science leaders 

Medical affairs leaders are eager to “be the change” in their organization alongside the R&D and commercial pillars of their organizations. Part of that means being ready to embrace new technologies that can take their work to the next level. 

That's why, with the recent flurry of excitement surrounding the potential of AI to transform the life sciences industry, it’s not surprising to see many medical affairs leaders keeping their ear to the ground to determine their next steps.

"I want AI to do the work so my team can focus on strategy."
- Life sciences leader at MAPS 2024 

Discussions about how best to harness this technology, however, tend to lean theoretical. With so many buzzwords and vague aspirations floating around, conceptualizing practical applications of AI and quantifying their impact is proving to be a real challenge for medical affairs leaders. 

There is clearly enthusiasm for adopting AI-powered solutions, but medical affairs leaders need more to go on than just buzzy jargon. They need a clear answer from software vendors on how artificial intelligence will: 

  1. Make their day-to-day lives easier

  2. Accelerate processes and time-to-market

Practical applications of machine learning and generative AI 

At BP Logix, we view investing in AI/ML as the logical next step for workflow automation technology. As we plan out the product roadmap for PubPro, we're making sure that medical affairs teams can fully leverage AI/ML capabilities.

And what exactly do these capabilities entail? I will lay out exactly what we’re working on and explain how it’s going to simplify and speed up your publication management processes.

Machine learning

First up, let’s talk machine learning. Machine learning is a subset of AI that enables systems to learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed. With its ability to analyze patterns and predict outcomes, machine learning is an incredibly powerful component of process automation that helps you continuously improve efficiency and accuracy in your day-to-day work.

Advanced machine learning already exists in PubPro — it’s an integral component and administrative feature of Process Director for Life Sciences, the scientific communication platform that PubPro is built on. To build upon the product’s AI/ML features already available to administrators, we’re in the process of making these analytic tools and insights more accessible and usable to everyday users of PubPro.

Through our planned enhancements, users will be able to look at how their processes are performing at a high level, easily identify bottlenecks, and optimize their workflows based on analytics.

Generative AI

Generative AI, distinct from machine learning, refers to AI that can generate new content, from text to images, based on the data it has been trained on.

At BP Logix, we want to use generative AI to help PubPro users find the information they need more easily — and with fewer clicks.

We’re starting with Pathfinder, a LLM-powered AI assistant designed to help users with all things PubPro. Here are three examples of Pathfinder capabilities that will make life easier for PubPro users and speed up publication processes.

1. Analytical capabilities

With Pathfinder, PubPro users will be able to perform conversational searches to quickly generate summaries or detailed analyses of specific publications.

If a user requests an executive summary for a publication, Pathfinder will provide concise, relevant insights instantly that aid the user in strategic decision-making.


Video description:
On the PubPro dashboard, the user opens up the Pathfinder chatbot and types in a request for an executive summary of a specific publication (via Pub ID number). Pathfinder conducts a literature analysis and generates an executive summary of this publication. Pathfinder asks the user if they would like to copy the executive summary to their clipboard, and the user says yes. This demonstrates Pathfinder’s ability to perform conversational searches, conduct literature analyses, and generate executive summaries of publications with a LLM integration.

2. Competitive research capabilities 

Pathfinder will enhance competitive research in PubPro by enabling users to efficiently query and gather specific market intelligence.

For example, if a user asks for a list of drugs in phase 3 trials for a particular condition, Pathfinder will deliver up-to-date, comprehensive data via an integration with clinicaltrials.gov.

This functionality will not only save time — it will provide a strategic advantage for medical affairs teams that want to maintain their understanding of the competitive landscape.


Video description:
On the PubPro dashboard, the user opens up the Pathfinder chatbot and types in the request to aid them in competitive research. Specifically, the user asks Pathfinder to list all drugs treating ulcerative colitis currently in phase 3 trials with their study and study completion date. Pathfinder responds with four drugs that meet the user’s criteria, along with the study info and completion date. This demonstrates Pathfinder’s ability to source data about publications and journals/congresses.

3. System documentation capabilities

With Pathfinder’s ability to reference software documentation, users can ask questions about how to accomplish certain tasks within PubPro and get immediate answers.

To make this feature even more useful, our product roadmap includes plans to eventually equip Pathfinder with the power to navigate users, at their request, to key screens related to their query.

For example, if a PubPro user asks how to adjust due dates for expedited reviews, Pathfinder could not only explain how to make these changes — it could seamlessly redirect the user to the appropriate configuration menu screen to begin carrying out that task.


Video description:
On the PubPro dashboard, the user opens up the Pathfinder chatbot and asks how to change due dates for expedited reviews within PubPro. Pathfinder references PubPro system documentation and responds that the setting for expedited review due dates can be found in PubPro’s System Configuration menu page. Pathfinder then asks if the user would like to navigate directly to this page. The user says yes, and then Pathfinder navigates the user to that page.

Looking to the future: Our long-term plans for generative AI

While we already have some exciting AI tools in the works for PubPro, we’re also thinking ahead to what’s next.

One use of generative AI that we’re envisioning for later down the road involves PubPro’s collaborative document editor. We want Pathfinder to help users catch errors and make suggestions for improvement. And we’re not just talking about spell check here. Eventually we could have Pathfinder checking for accuracy on a content substance level. Essentially, AI will provide you with an additional layer of review beyond manual reviewers.

For example, users could have Pathfinder review studies that they're pulling into PubPro and provide feedback. For example, Pathfinder might provide feedback like “When you look at what publications get cited the most, they have ABC characteristics in common. So, you should consider doing XYZ to your publication to make it more effective.”

Over time, this functionality will only get better and better at making sure that your publications are accurate and align with your study information.

Learn more about PubPro

Ready to see our powerful publication management software in action? Contact our team to request a free trial of PubPro.

Topics: publication management
4 min read

Process Automation: The Meaning of Complexity

By Catie Leary on Dec 5, 2023 10:14:00 AM

process-complexity-spaghetti-junction

Business processes are the lifeblood that keeps organizations thriving. Yet, not all processes are created equal. Some are straightforward and linear, while others resemble labyrinths with multiple twists and turns. Welcome to the world of process complexity, where the challenges of managing intricate workflows can lead to a cascade of issues that significantly impact operational efficiency and compliance.

In this article, we explore the world of complex processes and dive deep into one of the most frequent components of complex processes — approvals. Whether you're navigating the convoluted paths of complex processes or cruising down simpler workflows, our insights will help you make an informed choice when selecting an automation solution that aligns with your unique needs.

Complex processes vs. simple processes

Suppose you’re deciding between investing in a robust process automation platform or opting for an off-the-shelf SaaS solution. You must first determine whether your process is simple or complex.

Simple business processes are typically straightforward and linear, with minimal decision points and a limited number of steps. In contrast, complex business processes are characterized by their intricacy, involving numerous decision points, conditional pathways, and interactions across various departments or stakeholders.

Managing complex processes manually or through inadequate process automation tools can result in increased operational costs, higher error rates, compliance risks, and bottlenecks. Organizations can avoid these headaches by implementing a robust process automation solution specifically designed to handle complexity, like Process Director. Such a solution can streamline workflows, reduce error rates, ensure compliance, and mitigate bottlenecks, ultimately driving operational efficiency and cost savings.

Of course, while robust process automation solutions excel at handling complexity, they may be overkill for relatively simple and straightforward processes. When dealing with simple processes, opting for a less sophisticated Software as a Service (SaaS) solution could be a more cost-effective and efficient choice.

Four telltale signs of a process complexity

By accurately assessing the complexity of your workflows, you can ensure you are leveraging the right level of automation to enhance efficiency without tacking on unnecessary complexity. But how do you know if your processes are complex?

Here are four indicators that you're dealing with a complex process:

Responsible for sensitive information

You need a secure way to handle trade secrets, financial data, and personal information.

Rigorous regulatory & data integrity standards

You need to maximize traceability and quality control so you can prevent errors and close compliance gaps.

Sophisticated routing & integrations

You have intricate approval processes and must integrate data spanning multiple departments or parties.

Advanced conditional logic required

You need a smarter system with workflow options that change dynamically based on specific attributes.

Process complexity in approval workflows

Let’s zero in on how complexity actually manifests in processes with an example. 

As one of the most critical facets of business operations, approval workflows can make or break operational efficiency. That’s why it should come as no surprise to learn that approvals frequently exhibit all four signs of process complexity. Here’s how:

  • Sensitive information handling: Complex approvals often involve reviewing and authorizing critical documents and decisions, such as financial transactions or access to sensitive data. Ensuring a secure and confidential handling of this information is paramount to prevent data breaches or unauthorized access.
  • Regulatory and data integrity standards: Many approval workflows are subject to strict regulatory guidelines, especially in industries like healthcare and finance. Compliance with these standards is non-negotiable, requiring meticulous tracking, auditing, and quality control to avoid costly errors or compliance gaps.
  • Sophisticated routing and integrations: Approval processes can span multiple departments or even external stakeholders, necessitating seamless integration and data exchange. Ensuring that the right people or groups review and approve documents in the correct order is vital for efficient and compliant operations.
  • Advanced conditional logic: Complex approvals often involve intricate decision-making criteria. For example, approval may be contingent on specific attributes or conditions being met, such as budget thresholds or compliance with company policies. These rules require a sophisticated automation system to ensure accurate and consistent decision-making.

Complex processes often involve intricate approval workflows that can make or break operational efficiency. Approvals demand a level of sophistication and precision that standard automation tools may struggle to provide.

To accommodate complex approval needs, process automation solutions like Process Director can leverage a range of different approval types. Let's examine three approval types frequently encountered in complex processes.  

1. Conditional approvals

Grants approval based on predefined if-then conditions or criteria, allowing for automated decision-making and streamlining the approval process.

Example: Purchase requisitions

conditional-approval-process-type

 

2. Nested approvals

Allows for hierarchical approval structures, where multiple authorization levels are required sequentially.

Example: Marketing content review

nested-approval-process-type

 

3. Parallel approvals

Enables simultaneous review and approval by multiple individuals or groups, reducing approval time and increasing efficiency.

Example: Publication management

parallel-approval-process-type

 

Don't let chaos hold you back

Whether you're dealing with straightforward workflows or tackling the challenges of complexity, choosing the right automation solution for your business processes requires a keen understanding of their intricacies.

Contact us today to learn how Process Director can help you conquer complexity. 

Topics: business process automation
6 min read

How Manual Tools Fall Short for Regulatory Affairs Processes

By Catie Leary on Nov 3, 2023 12:51:09 PM

How Manual Tools Fall Short for Regulatory Affairs Processes

Efficient processes are critical for regulatory affairs teams aiming to bring new drugs to market. However, many organizations still depend on manual, decentralized tools like Excel and Outlook to navigate highly regulated and complex processes. While these tools may appear cost-effective and familiar, they pose practical challenges when applied to Investigational New Drug (IND) and New Drug Application (NDA) processes. These challenges can ultimately impede progress and lead to delays or regulatory consequences.

Discover the strategic pitfalls and practical obstacles inherent in manual regulatory affairs processes and uncover how automation holds the solution to unlocking growth, innovation, and compliance excellence in the life sciences industry.

High-level strategic risks of using manual tools for regulatory affairs processes

Clinging to outdated manual tools for facilitating regulatory affairs processes carries several profound strategic risks:

1. Missed opportunities

IND and NDA submissions are time-sensitive due to the intricacies of drug development and regulatory processes. Using manual tools for data collection, formatting, and submission can lead to submission delays, which, in turn, can:

  • Extend development timelines: Delays can push back crucial clinical trials, affecting the overall development schedule.
  • Affect market competitiveness: Timely approvals are vital in gaining a competitive edge in the pharmaceutical industry.
  • Impact patient access: Swift approvals mean quicker access to potentially life-saving drugs for patients.
  • Result in missed regulatory deadlines: Regulatory agencies enforce strict review timelines; missing them can lead to approval delays.
  • Shake investor confidence and funding: Delays can affect investor and stakeholder confidence, potentially impacting funding.
  • Disrupt clinical trials: Delayed IND submission can disrupt the recruitment and conduct of clinical trials. 

2. Data inaccuracy

Manual data entry and management are prone to errors, which can affect the quality and accuracy of submissions. Inaccurate data can lead to questions and requests for clarification from regulatory authorities, prolonging the approval process.

3. Compliance delays

Manual tools lack the structure and control needed for strict regulatory compliance.

For example, in the IND and NDA processes, specific documentation requirements must be met. IND documentation requirements may include comprehensive preclinical study reports, detailed manufacturing processes, and clinical study protocols, while NDA documentation requirements may encompass labeling information, clinical trial summaries, and rigorous quality control data.

These documents must adhere to specific formats, standards, and timelines outlined by regulatory authorities like the FDA to ensure compliance and facilitate the review process. Failure to meet these requirements precisely can lead to regulatory delays, setbacks, or fines.

Practical obstacles of using manual regulatory affairs process tools

Those strategic risks don't exist in a vacuum; they stem from the tangible issues faced during the daily grind. Let's explore how the practical, day-to-day obstacles inherent in manual process tools create and amplify these strategic risks.

1. Data disorganization

Excel and Outlook are not designed to manage complex regulatory affairs data comprehensively. Storing critical information across multiple spreadsheets, emails, and documents can lead to data disorganization and difficulties in retrieving essential data when needed.

2. Version control issues

Collaboration in Excel and Outlook often results in version control challenges. In the regulatory affairs context, multiple teams and stakeholders may need to review and contribute to documents. Manual tools make it difficult to track changes, leading to confusion and potential errors.

3. Lack of process visibility

Processes in the regulatory affairs department are intricate and involve coordination across various departments. Manual tools lack visibility features, making it challenging to track the progress of tasks, set reminders, and allocate responsibilities efficiently. 

Hypothetical case study

Wondering how these strategic risks and practical obstacles tend to manifest within an actual research and development department? Let's walk through a hypothetical scenario involving a fictional pharmaceutical company working to bring a groundbreaking drug called "Dimoufus " to market.

Throughout the R&D phase, this Dimoufus team encountered many challenges during both the IND and NDA processes. These challenges were rooted in their reliance on manual tools like Excel and Outlook, which are ill-suited for the complex, time-sensitive world of drug development.

From the start, data disorganization emerged as a significant problem during the IND phase. With critical documents scattered across different spreadsheets, emails, and drives, the Dimoufus team struggled to compile preclinical study reports, manufacturing processes, and clinical study protocols in a timely manner, causing delays in submission preparation. The impacts of data disorganization escalated during the documentation-heavy NDA phase — during which a crucial clinical safety report was inadvertently overlooked and nearly delayed the FDA review. 

Strategic consequences of data disorganization:

  • Missed opportunities: The delays caused by data disorganization extended the development timelines for Dimoufus, impacting their market competitiveness and patient access to the drug. Missed regulatory deadlines and investor confidence were also affected, representing missed opportunities for the company.
  • Data inaccuracy: Rushed work due to data disorganization increased the likelihood of errors, jeopardizing the quality and accuracy of Dimoufus' submissions and potentially leading to regulatory queries.
  • Compliance delays: The frantic search for data consumed the Dimoufus team's time and resources, resulting in rushed work and potential errors. This, in turn, delayed the submission process, putting them at risk of missing regulatory deadlines and incurring fines. 

Version control issues further complicated matters. Collaboration across teams was vital, but shared spreadsheets and email attachments led to version control chaos. Revisions were made simultaneously, making it difficult to track changes accurately. This problem worsened during the NDA phase. Multiple versions of essential documents circulated, causing confusion and miscommunication among teams. Critical updates were inadvertently overwritten by outdated versions, jeopardizing the NDA submission.

Strategic consequences of version control issues:

  • Missed opportunities: Version control issues led to inefficiencies in the review process, consuming valuable time and leaving less time for substantive review and improvement of the submission package. This could have affected the company's market competitiveness and patient access to the drug.
  • Data inaccuracy: Overwriting critical updates with outdated versions posed a significant risk of data inaccuracy in Dimoufus' submissions, potentially resulting in regulatory queries and approval delays.
  • Compliance delays: Version control challenges resulted in confusion and potential errors, which could have led to inaccuracies in Dimoufus' submissions. Regulatory authorities may require clarification, causing delays in the approval process. 

The lack of process visibility compounded these challenges. During the IND process, the absence of real-time progress tracking made it impossible to monitor task responsibilities and deadlines. Delays became inevitable, undermining the drug development timeline. In the NDA phase, the complexity of tasks involving different departments worsened the problem. Without transparency, the Regulatory Affairs Project Manager struggled to allocate responsibilities and ensure timely task completion. Manual reminders and follow-ups added to the inefficiency.

Strategic consequences of poor process visibility:

  • Compliance delays: The absence of real-time progress tracking made it challenging to monitor task responsibilities and deadlines, leading to delays in Dimoufus' drug development timeline. These delays could have resulted in missed regulatory deadlines.
  • Missed opportunities: The lack of process visibility caused bottlenecks, miscommunications, and missed deadlines, which could have impacted Dimoufus' market competitiveness, patient access, and investor confidence. Delays could also disrupt clinical trials.
  • Data inaccuracy: Inefficiencies caused by the lack of process visibility could lead to rushed work, increasing the potential for data inaccuracies in Dimoufus' submissions, which might prompt regulatory queries.

How automated solutions solve regulatory process headaches

As we've seen through the challenges faced by the Dimoufus team in our hypothetical case study, manual tools can create significant complications and stressors during crucial regulatory affairs processes. However, there's a way to streamline and simplify these processes, eliminating the need for scattered documents, version control woes, and visibility gaps. Enter automated solutions like Approvia.

Approvia helps regulatory affairs teams take control of complex document management, bringing together critical functions like document creation, review and approval, and audit and compliance.

By centralizing regulatory document management, Approvia eliminates the need for password chasing, enhances collaboration with external stakeholders, and significantly reduces errors and compliance risks through comprehensive audit logs. 

Approvia-Before-After

This powerful workflow automation tool offers a user-friendly experience, complete configurability to match your specific procedures, and affordability that sets it apart in the industry. With Approvia, you can structure your FDA submissions as dossiers, customize approval processes, and ensure seamless compliance with FDA guidelines—all in one cohesive platform.

How exactly does Approvia alleviate the strategic risks and tactical obstacles associated with manual tools like Excel and Outlook?

1. Compliance management

Approvia ensures regulatory compliance by providing structured templates for IND and NDA submissions, automatically formatting documents to meet FDA standards. It tracks compliance throughout the process, reducing the risk of compliance-related delays or fines.

2. Efficient data handling

Approvia centralizes data storage and management, eliminating the need for scattered spreadsheets and documents. It offers controlled access to authorized personnel, reducing data disorganization and streamlining data retrieval.

3. Version control and collaboration

Approvia offers collaborative document editing with version control. Teams can work on the same documents simultaneously, with changes tracked and easily reversible. This prevents version conflicts and ensures document accuracy.

4. Task and process visibility

Approvia provides a dashboard that offers a clear overview of the entire IND and NDA process. Users can set reminders, track task progress, and allocate responsibilities efficiently, enhancing process visibility and control.

5. Automated submission

Approvia simplifies the final submission process by compiling all approved sections into the required eCTD format. It conducts quality checks to ensure error-free submissions and offers integration with the Electronic Submissions Gateway for seamless FDA submissions.

From Excel to excellence

By harnessing the capabilities of specialized software solutions like Approvia, regulatory affairs departments within life sciences organizations can not only streamline their regulatory processes but also enhance compliance, accelerate drug development timelines, and ultimately contribute to the delivery of safe and effective treatments to patients. 

Topics: regulatory affairs approvia
5 min read

Manual Publication Management Tools Aren’t Enough: The Downsides of Excel & Outlook

By Alex Reinthal on Sep 12, 2023 9:36:26 AM

Manual tools for publication management

An efficient publication management process is critical for medical affairs teams tasked with bringing a drug to market. Yet, many companies continue to rely on decentralized tools like Excel and Outlook to manage key aspects of this process. While these familiar tools might seem low-risk and affordable, they come with practical challenges that can hinder growth and compliance risks that could result in delays or penalties.

Explore the strategic dangers and day-to-day hurdles of manual publication management and learn why automation is the key to unlocking growth, innovation, and compliance in the life sciences industry.

Strategic risks of manual publication management tools

Clinging to outdated manual tools for publication management in the fast-paced life sciences industry isn't just a matter of convenience – it carries several profound strategic risks:

1. Cost escalation

Inefficiencies and errors caused by manual processes can lead to higher operational costs due to increased labor hours and rework, not to mention potential fines stemming from compliance violations. The company may also need to invest in additional resources to manage the growing complexity of the publication process.

2. Missed opportunities

Inaccurate or delayed publication submissions can lead to missed opportunities to present research at conferences, submit articles to prestigious journals, or engage with key stakeholders. These missed opportunities can impact the company's visibility, influence, and ability to drive innovation.

3. Delayed time-to-market

Inefficiencies in the publication management process can lead to delays in getting research findings published. These delays can slow the dissemination of critical information to the medical community, regulatory bodies, and other stakeholders, potentially slowing down the development and adoption of new drugs or treatments.

A study by the University of Texas at Austin found that drug approval delays can cost life science companies an average of $1 million in revenue for each day a drug remains in limbo.

4. Reputation damage

Inaccurate or delayed publications, compliance issues, and inefficiencies can tarnish the company's reputation within the industry and among peers, potential partners, investors, and patients. A damaged reputation can undermine the scientific credibility and impact of the company's work, as well as impact the company's ability to secure future funding, partnerships, and collaborations.

Tactical obstacles of manual publication management tools

These strategic risks don't exist in a vacuum; they stem from the tangible issues faced during the daily grind. Let's explore how the practical, day-to-day obstacles inherent in manual publication management tools create and amplify these strategic risks.

1. Manual data entry 

The life sciences industry thrives on precision, accuracy, and timely dissemination of critical information. However, when manual data entry becomes the linchpin of your publication management process, you introduce an element of uncertainty and inefficiency that can have far-reaching consequences.

Why is manual data entry bad news for publication management? There are two key reasons:

  • Increases risk of error: Manual data entry and copying and pasting between tools increase the risk of errors. Even small mistakes in data entry can have serious consequences when it comes to the accuracy of publications.
  • Poor use of resources: Manual processes and tools are resource-intensive and consume valuable time and labor. Rather than research professionals spending excessive time on time-consuming administrative tasks (such as entering data into Excel spreadsheets or manually consolidating review feedback from multiple reviewers), this time could be better spent focusing on higher-value research tasks such as analyzing data, strategizing, and contributing to the content itself.

At LimFlow, an early-stage life sciences company specializing in treatments of critical limb-threatening ischemia (CLTI), Director of Medical Affairs Cecilia Petrella was grappling with just this very challenge. The manual, time-consuming effort of managing publication reviews was pulling Petrella’s attention away from higher-level strategic projects.

"If we had ten reviewers providing feedback on a single publication, that meant there were ten versions of the publication that needed to be reconciled," Petrella explains. "Manually combing through each version and reconciling all the feedback into one cohesive document requires a lot of time and effort on our part."

To solve this problem, LimFlow implemented PubPro, a publication management system that enabled multiple reviewers to work on the same document simultaneously.

2. Lackluster process visibility

Process visibility is vital at all levels of the medical affairs department — from the tactical day-to-day level of managing the back-and-forth of publication review to the bird's eye 10,000-foot view that provides leaders with insights and data to make informed strategic decisions.

Let's dive into the hallmarks and risks of a publication management process that lacks visibility:

  • No automated workflow routing: Reviewing and approving publications often involve multiple rounds of feedback and revisions. Manual tools lack automated workflows for routing documents to the right stakeholders, resulting in delays and potential oversights in the review process.
  • Rudimentary or non-existent version control: Managing versions of documents becomes challenging without a centralized system to track changes and maintain version history.
  • Creates data silos: Manual tools are often isolated from other systems used within the organization, leading to data silos and duplication of efforts. Information can be scattered across different files, folders, and email threads. These data silos make it difficult to keep track of important details such as publication status, deadlines, and author contributions.
  • Limited process insights: Managers and stakeholders need visibility into the publication pipeline to make informed decisions and allocate resources effectively. Manual tools offer limited reporting and analytics capabilities, making it difficult to assess the progress of different publications.
  • Limited scalability: As a life sciences company grows and handles more publications, the limitations of manual tools become more pronounced. Managing a larger volume of publications with manual tools becomes increasingly challenging and inefficient. 

3. No auditing features

Compliance is king in highly regulated industries like life sciences. Publication management processes that lack auditing capabilities pose serious risks:

  • Compliance violations: Regulatory bodies such as the FDA have strict guidelines for publication and data reporting. Non-compliance with regulatory requirements, industry standards, and internal processes can result in serious legal and financial consequences. Excel and Outlook do not provide the necessary security measures and audit trails to ensure compliance with industry regulations.
  • Data security risks: Decentralized tools lack the security measures of dedicated software solutions, increasing the risk of data breaches and loss of sensitive research data.

Why automated publication management solutions matter

While Excel and Outlook have their uses, relying on them for complex publication management in the life sciences industry is a recipe for setbacks and missed opportunities. The practical challenges of version control, auditing, data entry, process visibility, and workflow routing all have tangible impacts that can result in cost escalations, missed opportunities, delayed time-to-market, and reputation damage.

To overcome these challenges and reduce business risks, life sciences companies should ditch the use of manual, decentralized tools and invest in a dedicated publication management software solution such as PubPro.

 

 

PubPro is an automated publication management system equipped with outstanding version control, robust auditing features, automated workflows, and analytic tools that offer several key benefits:

  • Enhanced efficiency: Streamlined workflows and reduced data entry tasks free up time for high-value activities, accelerating publication timelines.
  • Error reduction: Automated data entry and version control mitigate human error, ensuring accurate and reliable publications.
  • Seamless collaboration: Dedicated software fosters smooth collaboration, allowing stakeholders to access, review, and contribute to publications in a centralized environment.
  • Risk mitigation: Compliance features and alerts ensure adherence to industry regulations, minimizing the risk of fines and reputational damage.
  • Resource optimization: By automating manual tasks, companies can reallocate resources to research, development, and innovation.

From Excel to excellence

By embracing the power of specialized software solutions like PubPro, life sciences organizations can not only streamline their publication management processes but also advance scientific knowledge and improve patient outcomes.

Request a demo of PubPro today. 

Topics: publication management
4 min read

Overcoming FDA Accelerated Approval Challenges with PubPro 

By Alex Reinthal on May 31, 2023 3:12:07 PM

accelerated-approval-fda-aduhelm

The world of drug development is evolving rapidly, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the realm of accelerated approvals.

Established in 1992 in response to the HIV/AIDS crisis, the FDA's Accelerated Approval pathway has been a critical tool for getting life-saving drugs to patients faster than ever before. However, recent controversies, such as the approval of the Alzheimer's medication Aduhelm in June 2021, have highlighted the need for stricter regulations around accelerated approvals.

To address this issue, the FDA is proposing new requirements for drug companies to conduct confirmatory studies and provide greater transparency around the results.

Let’s explore the implications of these new requirements and how publication management software solutions like PubPro can help with potential challenges.

FDA drug approval woes: How we got here

The FDA's Accelerated Approval pathway has come under fire in recent years due to concerns about the quality of evidence used to support accelerated approvals as well as the lack of timely follow-through on confirmatory studies afterwards.

Let's talk about one of the most recent controversies.

DownloadImagine a new drug comes onto the market that promises to change the game for Alzheimer's patients. Sounds great, right? But what if the evidence supporting this drug's approval was shaky at best, and the price tag was exorbitant? That's exactly what happened with Aduhelm, which received accelerated approval from the FDA in 2021. This drug removes sticky amyloid plaque from the brain, but because there was no proof that the ability to remove this plaque slows the deterioration of patients' mental faculties, insurers refused to cover its $56,000-per-year price tag.

The controversy surrounding Aduhelm brought the Accelerated Approval pathway into the spotlight and sparked a national conversation about the need for stricter regulations.

A recent report by NPR found that a staggering 42% of confirmatory drug studies required after accelerated FDA approval were either delayed for more than a year or hadn't even started yet.

This highlights the crucial importance of the FDA's new requirements for drugmakers to ensure timely and effective completion of these studies, as well as improved reporting to increase transparency around the pathway.

The role of technology in meeting new FDA requirements

While the FDA's new regulations for accelerated drug approvals are necessary, they pose a challenge for life science companies that must comply with them. These companies are now required to ensure timely and effective completion of confirmatory studies, as well as improved reporting to increase transparency around the pathway. These new requirements can be time-consuming and laborious, but luckily technology can alleviate some of these challenges.

Enter PubPro, a publication management solution that can help life science companies comply with the FDA's new requirements for accelerated drug approvals in two key ways:

Benefit #1: Ensure timely and effective completion of confirmatory studies

The FDA now has more leverage to hold drug companies accountable for their promises about conducting confirmatory studies as a condition of accelerated approval. Drugmakers must ensure they are completing their studies in a timely and effective manner or face potential consequences such as fines or even loss of approval.

PubPro can help drugmakers manage and automate this process, allowing them to easily track confirmatory studies and ensure they meet their regulatory obligations. Here are some of PubPro's key publication management features that can help:

  • Automated reviewer assignments ensure that the right people are assigned to review and provide feedback on the necessary documents.

  • With its collaborative document editor, PubPro provides a centralized platform for reviewers and authors to communicate and make revisions in real-time, reducing the time it takes to consolidate and implement revisions.

  • PubPro's automated reminders and notifications ensure that confirmatory studies are conducted and completed on time, preventing delays and noncompliance.

With these tools, drugmakers can streamline their confirmatory study process and stay on top of their regulatory obligations, ensuring that they comply with the FDA's new requirements and avoid potential consequences.

Benefit #2: Prove compliance and simplify reporting for confirmatory studies

The FDA's new transparency requirements mandate that drugmakers promptly report their confirmatory studies' results, which poses a challenge because drug companies must ensure they can meet these reporting requirements while also ensuring compliance with the FDA's regulations.

PubPro helps alleviate this challenge by providing companies with the tools they need to easily track and manage these reports in a timely and compliant manner. Here's how:

  • PubPro's audit tracking abilities allows drugmakers to provide evidence of compliance with FDA requirements, demonstrating that they follow the necessary procedures and processes.

  • With PubPro's configurable reporting, drugmakers can generate comprehensive reports for proving compliance, making it easy and quick to ensure all requirements are met.

With these features, PubPro simplifies the reporting process, allowing drug companies to ensure compliance with the FDA's transparency requirements while reducing the time and effort needed to do so.

Streamline publication management with PubPro

PubPro is the ultimate solution for life science companies struggling to comply with the FDA's new requirements for accelerated drug approvals.

By automating key tasks and streamlining the publication management process, PubPro ensures life science companies can stay on top of their regulatory obligations and maintain positive relationships with the FDA.

Stay on top of new FDA regulations

Get in touch today to learn more about how PubPro can help your life science company comply with the new FDA requirements and ease the burden of compliance efforts.

Topics: medical affairs publication management
2 min read

Configurable Publication Management Software: Make PubPro Your Own

By Alex Reinthal on Apr 18, 2023 8:44:15 AM

PubPro Configurability

One-size-fits-all solutions don't work when it comes to publication management software.

That's why PubPro from BP Logix offers organizations unparalleled configurability. Built on our low-code Process Director for Life Sciences platform, 80% of the solution already built and the remaining 20% configured within days to your company's specific requirements.

80/20 configurability
Here are four recent improvements we’ve rolled out on PubPro that make it easier than ever to configure and use the solution according to your organization's SOPs.

1. Automated reviewer assignments

PubPro's automated reviewer assignments feature makes it easy to ensure that the right people review your publications.

When authors submit new publications, PubPro automatically assigns the appropriate reviewer based on criteria such as subject matter expertise or workload.

PubPro-Automated-Reviewer-Assignments-demo

These automated reviewer assignments help streamline the review process and ensure that publications are always in the right hands.

2. Updated user interface

PubPro's new look is sleek and user-friendly. Our updated interface is more intuitive and straightforward to use than ever, ensuring your team can easily navigate the system and complete tasks efficiently.

3. Role-specific dashboards

PubPro's role-specific dashboards allow users to quickly see the tasks and activities most relevant to their role.

Whether the user is an author, reviewer, or administrator, PubPro's dashboard is tailored to their specific function. For example, here's a peek at a reviewer's dashboard and workflow:

PubPro-Action-Visibility-Reviewer-Dashboard-View

4. Variable user deadline settings

With PubPro, you can configure different turnaround times for reviewers based on your publication's unique requirements. This ensures that everyone works according to the same deadlines and that your publication stays on track.

Don't settle for "one size fits all"

Configurability is vital when it comes to choosing publication management software.

PubPro allows your organization to easily tailor processes to meet specific needs, from automated reviewer assignments to variable user deadline settings.

Contact us today to learn how PubPro can level up your publications team.

Topics: publication management
8 min read

Evaluating Publication Management Vendors: 8 Factors to Consider

By Will Gillespie on Apr 11, 2023 2:50:32 PM

Choosing-Publication-Management-Vendors

Publication management is a critical function intended to facilitate the timely and efficient dissemination of valuable research data. However, medical affairs teams often face significant pressure to streamline their publication management process, especially in light of the rapidly evolving role of medical affairs.

Due to the complexities of peer-reviewed articles and research papers, publication management processes can often become bogged down by information bottlenecks. These information logjams are hard to detect and even more difficult to resolve.

Some of the challenges that publication management teams will encounter while navigating these information backlogs include:

  • Keeping track of publication timelines and deadlines

  • Managing complex authorship and collaboration processes

  • Ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements

  • Dealing with a large volume of publications 

  • Balancing the needs of multiple stakeholders, including authors, reviewers, and senior management

  • Overcoming limited visibility and control over the publication process due to a lack of technology or tools

  • Working around limited resources and budget for publication management 

Publication management teams that can overcome these hurdles and optimize their processes will be able to:

  • Achieve a faster time-to-market for new drugs and treatments

  • Reduce costs and resource waste

  • Improve accuracy and compliance

  • Increase efficiency and productivity

  • Enhance collaboration among teams and stakeholders

  • Increase visibility and reporting capabilities

You should consider partnering with a publication management vendor to empower your publication management team to tap into these benefits. To help accelerate your search for a reliable vendor partner, we have outlined vital factors you need to consider so you can achieve a strong return on investment. 

What to consider when looking for a publication management vendor

When selecting a publication management vendor, make sure to consider factors such as:

1. Reputation

There are many factors to consider when evaluating a publication management vendor's reputation. First, ensure they have experience working with organizations in the same industry. After all, publication management is not a function that's exclusive to health sciences businesses. Therefore, you may encounter more generalized publication management solutions that were not purpose-built for this sector during your search. 

To determine whether a vendor has experience in your vertical, look at their list of past clients. For instance, BP Logix worked with LimFlow, an early-stage life science company that specializes in treating critical limb-threatening ischemia (CLTI), to automate their publication management process and accelerate the production of their medical publications. If an organization can effectively meet the needs of a leading organization in your vertical, it can undoubtedly assist with your publication management challenges. 

Any reputable vendor will also have case studies and other information about previous partnerships available to read on their website. If the list of clients does not primarily or exclusively feature entities within your industry, they're probably not the right vendor for you.

Another effective tactic for assessing a vendor's reputation is examining their attendance and participation at industry conferences. Vendors like BP Logix attend Mass East/Mass West conferences and events hosted by the Medical Affairs Professional Society (MAPS).

2. Configurability to SOPs

Your publication management processes are likely similar to those used by other entities within your industry. However, they are not identical. Therefore, it is vital that you select a solution you can adapt to the nuances of your organization's unique standard operating procedures (SOPs).

pharma-automation-processYou can configure many publication management solutions to align with your SOPs, but how long will making these customizations take? More importantly, what will be the cost? Most vendors use traditional software development processes, meaning these customizations will take time and money.

Conversely, BP Logix leverages Process Director for Life Sciences to rapidly and efficiently tailor our publication management software to your needs. Process Director offers unparalleled flexibility and enables us to make changes quickly, which cuts your development costs and decreases your time to value. 

The sooner you roll out your solution, the faster you can overcome publication management headaches. BP Logix outpaces other leading options in terms of deployment time, which enables you to put your publication management woes behind you for good. 

3. Intuitive UI

One of your most significant priorities is ensuring that your publication management vendor can support your long-term organizational goals and provide financial benefits. However, it is equally important to consider the quality of the solution's user interface (UI). Keep in mind that your team members are the ones that will be interacting with the platform on a daily basis. Therefore, it is vital that you provide them with an intuitive, user-friendly solution.

The ideal UI should enable medical affairs teams to seamlessly transition from task to task without disrupting their workflow. The interface must be easy to navigate, simple to learn, and organized in a way that supports overall efficiency. 

But how can you determine whether a platform provides an intuitive UI that will streamline publication management? The most pragmatic approach is to schedule a demo.

When arranging your demonstration, make sure to include members of your medical affairs team. They will be able to evaluate the solution from their unique perspective and provide insights that assist with your purchasing decision. Keeping them in the loop during the early stages of your search will also promote better buy-in down the road. 

4. Efficiency-oriented UX features

During your demonstration and assessment of publication management solutions, look beyond the interface and explore its features. Before setting up any demos, make a feature wish list. When creating this list, categorize items based on their must-haves or nice-to-have capabilities. The best solutions will check all the must-have boxes while also throwing in some additional features that will optimize your team's efficiency. 

Without question, automation tools should make it into your must-have category. By automating redundant aspects of your publication management processes, you can increase team productivity and reduce friction from your workflows. While you may not be able to automate everything, you should be able to automate many key tasks that can lead to bottlenecks.

For instance, BP Logix's publication management solution, PubPro, allows you to automate debarment checks and automatically assign tasks to team members:

PubPro automated reviewer assignments

Thanks to these features, our solution has received overwhelmingly positive client feedback. Specifically, they have credited our platform with making their processes more effective and efficient. 

5. Support responsiveness

To derive maximum value from your publication management solution, you must choose a vendor that provides responsive support. You should also ensure that the vendor offers more than post-deployment product support. Additionally, they should provide exceptional customer service during the purchasing process. The ideal partner will also support you during configuration, deployment, and rollout.

Working with such a vendor will set the stage for a more seamless implementation process. It will also empower your team as they adapt to the new platform.

Vendors that prioritize support responsiveness and are open to your product suggestions can be a massive benefit to your organization. These vendors will apply your feedback to refine their solutions and service model, which means you will have access to a product that provides both short- and long-term value to your organization. 

A vendor's responsiveness will be evident from the moment you reach out to their sales team. Conversations should center around the product, its capabilities, and how they align with your business goals. If a vendor makes your organization the focus from the outset of your interactions, they will likely do so when you voice product concerns or come to them for support. 

6. Seamless collaboration

Historically, collaboration during publication management processes has been exceedingly difficult. It has been particularly challenging for internal and external authors to collaborate, as they typically use disparate tools and software. 

To eliminate these hurdles, you need a robust publication management solution that facilitates seamless collaboration. It should come with tools that make it easy for internal teams, stakeholders, and external authors to work together on shared projects. 

For instance, PubPro makes it simple for both internal and external project participants to collaborate by seamlessly integrating with an organization's existing tech stack.

PubPro Submission Dashboard

As part of our continuous improvement initiative, BP Logix is also developing integrations to enhance collaboration and information sharing further. These improvements will include SMS and Microsoft Teams-based notification tools, which allow you to grant external authors access to projects.

Tearing down barriers preventing teams from working together is just one of the many ways PubPro promotes better publication management efficiency. Productivity increases significantly when project members can effortlessly communicate and share information. 

7. Competitive pricing

While searching for a publication management vendor, you will encounter many solutions at varying price points. Some platforms are designed and priced for large life science companies. However, these solutions are not economically viable for small to medium-sized entities. Even if the price point is something that your organization is willing to overlook, you will need significant internal IT resources to deploy the platform.

Beyond these enterprise-level solutions, you will find several platforms designed for smaller to medium-sized life science companies. But the cheapest options may offer minimal features or require a colossal back-end investment.

On the other hand, PubPro is a feature-laden publication management software that is ideal for smaller to medium-sized companies. Our platform is competitively priced, easy to customize, and supported by a world-class team. If you have been searching for an enterprise-quality solution without the enterprise price tag, BP Logix's PubPro platform is an excellent option for your business.

8. Reporting/analytics capabilities 

Medical affairs teams have been dealing with information bottlenecks as a proverbial thorn in their side for years. Unfortunately, these productivity disruptors can stem from many factors that are difficult to trace back to a single cause. So before publication management departments can eliminate these roadblocks, they must first identify where they are occurring and why they exist. 

If you want to make it easier to optimize efficiency and address these issues, you need a publication management solution that includes advanced reporting and analytics capabilities. Such a platform will provide actionable insights that you can use to reduce workflow friction and bolster productivity.

Streamline publication management with a reputable vendor

Overseeing your publication management functions in-house with no external support can be a tedious, labor-intensive, and costly endeavor. Furthermore, publication bottlenecks can limit the efficacy and reach of potentially groundbreaking research, slow your market speed, and hamper innovation.

Download the PubPro product fact sheetConversely, investing in a robust publication management solution from a reputable vendor like BP Logix can streamline every facet of publishing research and other high-level content. With BP Logix's PubPro solution, your organization can:

  • Slash publishing and management times

  • Expedite the time-to-market for new drugs and treatments

  • Improve compliance and records accuracy

  • Facilitate better collaboration among teams and stakeholders

  • Enhance visibility and improve reporting capabilities

Our solution lets you pinpoint where bottlenecks occur, identify why they are forming, and resolve these information logjams. BP Logix's technology is a true game changer for your organization.

To learn more, connect with BP Logix to schedule a demo. 

4 min read

PubPro: Publication Management for Growing Life Science Startups

By Cecilia Petrella on Mar 29, 2023 12:00:00 PM

Limflow-PubPro-Publication-Management-1

Cecilia Petrella, Director of Medical Affairs at LimFlow, explains why she turned to BP Logix for a powerful publication management solution that delivers the same core functionality as competitors at a more cost-effective price point.

Cecilia Petrellla of LimflowWhen I stepped into a leadership role at an early-stage life science company, I knew I’d wear many hats. I also knew I’d need to be strategic about where I devote my energy if I wanted to stay focused on the big picture.

Finding technology that speeds up the more time-consuming parts of my job was a priority for me because it would help LimFlow bring our life-changing therapy to patients and providers faster.

At LimFlow, we’re dedicated to improving the lives of patients suffering from critical limb-threatening ischemia (CLTI). This severe form of peripheral arterial disease (PAD) restricts blood flow to the legs, feet, and toes, which can lead to tissue damage and even amputation.

Limeflow-CLTIThe LimFlow System is a minimally invasive procedure that improves blood flow by creating a bypass around blocked arteries. Our unique approach to treating this debilitating condition offers new hope to those who have been told amputation is their only option.

One of my top priorities as LimFlow’s Director of Medical Affairs is to ramp up our publications and build out our department. However, we faced significant challenges with our publication management process that were hindering our ability to achieve these goals. As a smaller company, we struggled to find an affordable and accessible solution for automating our publication management process.

Here's how we’re overcoming those challenges by partnering with BP Logix.

Our publication review challenge

One of the biggest challenges of our publication review process was how much time we had to spend managing feedback from multiple reviewers. If we had ten reviewers providing feedback on a single publication, that meant there were ten versions of the publication that needed to be reconciled.

Manually combing through each version and reconciling all the feedback into one cohesive document requires a lot of time and effort on our part, and it increased the chances of errors creeping into the process.

To make matters worse, we were relying on email exchanges to facilitate the entire review process, which resulted in a lot of inefficient back-and-forth communication between the reviewers and our team.

Pouring so much time and manual effort into managing publication reviews meant pulling my attention away from other opportunities for growing the company, building our brand, and establishing a reputation within the industry. Overall, our publications were taking longer to produce, and we couldn't share important research as quickly as we would have liked.

To ensure our new medical affairs department can keep pace with the company’s growth goals, I knew we’d need to find a publication management solution that could free our team from tedious, time-consuming busy work.

Evaluating solutions

During our search for a publication management solution, we initially considered Pubstrat, a well-known option in the industry. However, after reviewing the pricing, it became clear that it was not feasible for our budget.

PubPro-product-pharmaThat’s when we decided to take a closer look at PubPro from BP Logix.

While larger companies with bigger budgets might be able to justify the cost of solutions like Pubstrat, we found that PubPro offered the same basic functionality at a much more reasonable price point — making it an excellent fit for the needs of a smaller, early-stage company like ours.

What really stood out to us during the evaluation and sales process was the BP Logix team's willingness to accommodate our needs. They worked with us to develop a solution that fit within our budget while still meeting our functionality needs. We appreciated the level of personalized attention we received. It was clear that BP Logix was invested in helping us succeed.

Implementing PubPro

Working with BP Logix has been an incredibly positive experience so far. They have made implementation a smooth, seamless process, working with us every step of the way to ensure that the solution meets our needs.

The functionality we're most excited about are the collaborative document authoring tools. We expect this to be a game-changer for us, as it will streamline the publication review process and reduce the amount of manual effort required to reconcile multiple reviewers’ feedback.

With the ability to have multiple reviewers working on the same document simultaneously, our medical affairs team will be able to save so much time:

PubPro-Publication-Reviewer-Tasks

While PubPro is a newer product, we're excited about the potential for future features and capabilities. We know that BP Logix is invested in listening to customer feedback and using it to shape the product roadmap.

We look forward to the continued development of PubPro, and we're confident that it will be a valuable asset for our team as we continue to grow and develop our medical affairs department.

Topics: publication management
7 min read

Adverse Event Reporting Challenges & How to Overcome Them

By Catie Leary on Mar 22, 2023 12:00:00 AM

Adverse Event Reporting Challenges

An adverse event report (AER) is a self-initiated medical report detailing an undesirable clinical outcome associated with a medication or medical device. The reports fall under the umbrella of medical information requests (MIRs), as both are initiated by providers or consumers and are then directed at pharmaceutical companies or medical device manufacturers.

AERs are typically generated by physicians, though manufacturers or consumers may also submit them. Regardless, adverse event reporting is critical to patient safety and the refinement of medications. Without the information provided by AERs, manufacturers would be unable to track the frequency of unfavorable events or monitor the severity of unintended clinical outcomes.

By leveraging adverse event reports, manufacturers can continuously improve their products, protect consumers, and remove potentially dangerous medications from circulation. However, although virtually every entity in the life science and healthcare industry understands the importance of adverse event reporting, many struggle to efficiently manage their AERs.

As part of our efforts to expedite adverse event reporting, we have identified some common forms of adverse events, outlined the challenges associated with their AER submission, and provided some strategies to circumvent these roadblocks. Care providers and other entities in the life science and healthcare sectors can use the insights below to promote compliance and expedite reporting.

Types of adverse events

Any unintended and undesirable clinical outcome caused by an administered medication can be categorized as an adverse event. Some of the adverse events that warrant an AER include the following:

  • Unexpected or harmful side effects brought on by drugs or medical devices

  • Overdoses or accidental exposure to unnecessary medications

  • Issues related to product quality, purity, or potency

  • Cases of medical errors or problems related to product labeling or packaging

  • Environmental or occupational exposure to chemicals or other substances

  • Incidents that fall into the above categories should be classified and documented via an adverse event report in most instances.

Failing to file an AER promptly and efficiently can expose a provider and their organization to significant liability while endangering patients and hindering manufacturers’ ability to improve their offered medications or devices.

Reporting unexpected or harmful side effects is particularly important and time-sensitive. Such occurrences must be reported as soon as possible to relay the information to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the product manufacturer.

When filing reports, providers must differentiate between side effects that were explicitly harmful to the patient and those that were simply unexpected. For instance, suppose a provider prescribes a new headache medication to some patients. One patient reports nausea and vomiting, whereas another finds the drug improved their sleep quality.

While the pharmaceutical company needs to know about each incident, reports are documented using distinct processes. Therefore, both outcomes should be properly reported; the negative effect through an AER and the positive result via a medical information request form.

The challenges of adverse event reporting

Adverse event reporting is a relatively straightforward process: Providers should promptly report any undesirable clinical outcome caused by a medication or device. Despite its relative simplicity, however, the reporting process is muddled due to a wide range of confounding factors, including the following:

Regulatory compliance

Adverse event reporting is a tightly regulated process, and companies that fail to adhere to these strict ordinances can incur hefty penalties and lawsuits. Additionally, non-compliant organizations will likely suffer long-lasting reputational damage, which could negatively impact consumer trust for years.

Unfortunately, a single governing body does not set adverse event reporting regulations. While the FDA does establish many AER protocols, companies must also contend with their state-specific regulations. Navigating a single set of regulatory guidelines can be challenging enough, so keeping up with multiple sets of continuously evolving requirements is undoubtedly even more difficult.

Data silos

Far too often, adverse event data is stored in multiple systems across different departments. When data is scattered and stored on disparate software solutions that don’t properly communicate, the details surrounding adverse events will get lost in the shuffle.

Data silos hinder the proper documentation of AERs and make it challenging to submit or manage any medical information requests. Organizations in such scenarios often struggle to track and analyze adverse event information, much less report it within established time constraints.

Therefore, businesses must proactively work to eliminate data silos while maintaining their AER and MIR compliance. Doing so will also promote better organizational efficiency and improved collaboration among team members.

Adopting a modern, fully-integrated reporting solution is the most practical way to tear data silos down. A platform like BP Logix’s MIR solution facilitates the seamless tracking and analysis of all outstanding medical information requests, including adverse event reports. Organizations can ensure they meet regulatory requirements and preserve their reputations.

Managing large volumes of data

Adverse events include a broad array of harmful and unintended clinical outcomes. As a result, organizations are bound to rack up a large volume of AERs, and keeping up with that data can prove quite challenging.

Entities not adopting streamlined data management workflows will struggle to respond to AERs within established time constraints, leaving the door open to compliance violations and penalties.

As part of their data management protocols, organizations must also be able to categorize and prioritize their AERs. More significant adverse events, such as hospitalization, need to be addressed before less pressing ones.

Responses must be timely

Delays in adverse event reporting can be highly detrimental to an institution’s reputation. More importantly, they can pose a serious risk to patients. The longer potentially dangerous or compromised batches of medication remain in circulation, the higher the chances are for a severe event, such as permanent injury or death. Even a single negligence-related death or injury can expose an organization to significant legal repercussions.

For instance, let’s say that a physician’s patient is hospitalized due to a severe reaction to a medication. The physician does their due diligence, immediately submitting an AER to the manufacturer, but that manufacturer does not have a means of prioritizing its AERs. Instead, it processes them in the order they were received, which means the original AER is not responded to for upwards of 30 days. During that time, two dozen other patients are hospitalized.

The above example might seem somewhat hyperbolic, but it illustrates the dangers of adverse event reporting delays in that they magnify an organization’s risk. Therefore, life science entities must make every effort to expedite their reporting and response processes.

Complex processes

Generating and responding to AERs can be an incredibly involved, complex process. Even a single AER may require input from multiple stakeholders, such as regulatory bodies, internal teams, and healthcare providers. The process becomes even more complicated when patients are directly involved in adverse event reporting.

While there is no way to remove stakeholders from the equation, organizations can facilitate better collaboration and information sharing by breaking down communication barriers between these entities. When stakeholders can efficiently provide and relay their insights, the reporting process becomes streamlined.

How to overcome these challenges

Adverse event reporting is an intricate procedure that involves dealing with several different hurdles. Still, although there is no singular solution for overcoming these challenges, organizations can simplify and expedite their AER processes by proactively eliminating points of friction.

Specifically, companies striving to facilitate more efficient adverse event reporting should do the following:

Establish clear internal procedures and guidelines.

Though they may seem obvious, some organizations do not have clear, repeatable processes for adverse event reporting. When reporting guidelines are unclear and easy to follow, errors are bound to occur.

Any organization interested in revamping its AER management strategies should reevaluate its internal procedures and guidelines, gathering feedback from employees that submit or receive AERs. Doing so will help stakeholders make meaningful improvements to existing protocols.

Use a centralized adverse event reporting system to eliminate silos/improve visibility

Adverse event reporting will always be an organizational pain point if data silos exist. In light of such, organizations must replace their antiquated, disparate reporting systems with a centralized alternative. Aggregating all adverse event reports into a single platform allows businesses responsible for processing or responding to AERs to promote better visibility and improve compliance.

Adopting a unified database will improve AER visibility, eliminate data silos, and promote enhanced medical information request management. Addressing MIR and AER management is critical to compliance within the life science and healthcare verticals. An organization that succeeds at both will be able to foster trust among its consumers and providers while also avoiding any regulatory penalties.

Implement process automation to reduce errors

Deploying a centralized AER management database is a significant step toward better efficiency and compliance. Still, if adverse event reporting workflows continue to rely on manual inputs, they will always be plagued by human errors. Organizations tasked with AER management should implement process automation tools like BP Logix’s MIR solution to combat errors and further mitigate risks.

Our dynamic platform enables entities to automate traditionally tedious, manual processes, in turn freeing up AER management teams to tackle more dynamic tasks while simultaneously reducing the frequency of errors and mitigating their risks. BP Logix’s MIR solution integrates into an organization’s existing reporting system and can be tailored to meet the needs of nearly any healthcare or life sciences entity.

Leverage predictive analytics to identify trends

When AERs are dispersed across an entire team, detecting and tracking trends among them can be tricky. The longer a concerning pattern of adverse events goes undetected, the more likely it is to result in reputational damage and patient harm.

With that in mind, companies must incorporate data analytics software into their AER management workflows. Analytics and machine learning tools can detect trends as soon as they emerge, allowing stakeholders to use real-time data to guide decision-making processes.

Provide training and support to employees

Although workflow automation technologies can improve reporting efficiency, employees will always be the backbone of any AER initiative. Adverse event reporting will remain a challenge without talented, well-trained, confident workers.

Therefore, decision-makers must invest in employee training and upskilling efforts to turn AER management into an organizational strength, all of which must be designed with the employee in mind.

Generally speaking, it is best to avoid long, tedious training blocks and break down programs into smaller, easier-to-digest sessions. Such an approach can improve information retention and help team members get the most out of each training session.

Ensure compliance with regulatory requirements with regular audits

The abovementioned strategies should significantly improve an organization’s adverse event reporting processes. Still, organizational leaders must ensure compliance with regulatory requirements by conducting regular audits and process reviews. These reviews will reveal which tactics are working and what shortcomings still exist within the AER management strategy of the business.

If possible, organizational leaders should outsource audits to ensure objectivity. Using a third-party auditing firm can also provide additional insights, as the outside source may be able to offer a fresh perspective on old business challenges.

Modernize adverse event reporting

While many challenges are associated with adverse event reporting, your organization must navigate each to ensure compliance and preserve its reputation within the healthcare community.

DownloadYou can create a dynamic strategy to facilitate streamlined reporting by leveraging the adverse event reporting tactics outlined above. When you pair that strategy with BP Logix’s robust MIR management solution, you can further expedite your reporting processes and achieve ongoing compliance.

BP Logix’s platform includes a suite of automation and visibility tools designed to help you track MIRs and adverse events throughout the reporting process. You can prioritize time-sensitive requests and avoid reporting mishaps that expose your business to fines or other penalties. Additionally, our solution reduces instances of human error and facilitates complete reporting of adverse events.

If you are ready to rethink how you manage adverse event reporting, explore BP Logix’s MIR solution to learn more.

Topics: medical affairs medical information requests
8 min read

Choosing IRMS Software for Effective MIR Management

By Catie Leary on Mar 13, 2023 8:41:00 AM

Choosing an IRMS software

Medical information request management is undoubtedly one of the most important functions of medical affairs teams that operate within the life sciences space.

Be that as it may, processing medical information requests (MIRs) has, historically, proven to be a challenging, tedious, and time-consuming task that ties up essential resources and exposes pharmaceutical entities to compliance issues, which can lead to fines, reputational damage, and other penalties that threaten profitability and business continuity.

Fortunately, organizations that produce pharmaceuticals and medical devices can mitigate these risks by implementing a versatile information request management system (IRMS) solution. Modern IRMS software empowers organizations to rethink how they handle medical information requests, promote efficiency, and facilitate compliance.

With that said, there is a sizable number of IRMS software solutions on the market today, which can make it difficult for life science entities to find the right platform for the needs of their organization. To help expedite your search, we’re walking through some must-have features and attributes to look for when exploring IRMS software for your company.

What are medical information requests?

MIRs are self-initiated, unsolicited requests made by a healthcare professional and submitted when a clinician or other healthcare professional needs to obtain technical, scientific, or medical information about a product that is not readily available in its instructions for use (IFU) or initial prescribing information.

There are several different types of MIRs, including adverse event reports (AERs), product complaints, general requests for information, and notifications about potential off-label effects or uses. Due to the broad scope of MIRs, it is important that all inbound requests are quickly reviewed, categorized, and assigned to the appropriate medical affairs team members.

Why manual MIR processing falls short

Medical information requests are commonly received via shared inboxes and subsequently tracked via spreadsheets, but any organizations that have used or are currently using such an approach can attest to its inefficiency.

When multiple team members are using the same inbox to receive and process inbound requests, it is all too easy for MIRs to slip through the cracks. Similar issues arise when medical affairs personnel are tracking dozens of MIRs at once, with spreadsheets that are scattered about their organization’s network.

For instance, let’s say that your team uses both spreadsheets and a shared inbox. When the medical affairs team returns to the office on a Monday morning, they have several dozen new MIRs in the joint inbox, which means that each team member is assigned to handle a specific type of request (adverse events, general requests, etc.).

As each staff member begins filtering out the requests that fall under their purview, the individual that is tasked with responding to general MIRs accidentally moves an AER to their personal inbox. They don’t notice their mistake until the following day, at which time they reroute it back to the shared inbox. However, since the message is already showing as “read,” the team member tasked with handling AERs does not see the message for several days, resulting in a delayed response to a time-sensitive MIR.

When your organization bases its MIR processing protocols around such antiquated technologies and procedures, even if they’re detail-oriented, talented medical affairs teams are bound to make these sorts of mistakes on occasion. Even a single oversight can lead to serious financial consequences and set the stage for irreparable damage to your organization’s reputation. Therefore, automating the MIRs of your life sciences entity with IRMS software should be a top priority.

Automating MIRs with IRMS software

Manually handling MIRs only serves to bog down medical affairs teams and limit their productivity. Additionally, inefficient manual MIR processes diminish the experience of healthcare professionals and their patients, creating compliance headaches and making it nearly impossible for teams to respond to requests in a timely manner.

Fortunately, organizations in the pharmaceutical and medical equipment sectors can circumvent these issues by adopting IRMS software.

These technology suites include tools that enable medical affairs teams to automate traditionally manual, tedious MIR-related tasks, such as report intake and analysis. The most robust IRMS software solutions also assist with categorizing, prioritizing, and responding to medical information requests, thereby streamlining every touchpoint of MIR processing.

With IRMS software, medical affairs teams will no longer be inundated with a seemingly endless list of pending MIRs. Instead, they can effortlessly respond to each request, generate detailed reports, relay information to healthcare professionals, and ensure compliance with relevant regulatory requirements.

Benefits of an IRMS software

The benefits of IRMS software are significant and far-reaching. By implementing such a solution, organizations in the pharmaceutical and medical equipment industries can achieve the following:

Improve efficiency

Using inefficient processes, like using a shared inbox to receive requests or leveraging spreadsheets to track outstanding MIRs, sets the stage for delayed responses and missed deadlines, which can cause frustration among healthcare professionals, endanger patients, and diminish trust in an organization.

An IRMS software solution can improve end-to-end MIR processing efficiency by providing medical affairs teams with the tools and technology they need to maximize productivity. They can automate intake processes, categorize and prioritize inbound MIRs in seconds, and distribute each request to the appropriate staff member, making missed requests and delayed responses a thing of the past.

Enhance compliance

The pharmaceutical and medical device sectors have long been, undoubtedly, some of the most tightly regulated industries. In recent years, state and federal authorities have enacted even more stringent regulations, which not only raise the bar for compliance but also include severe penalty schedules for violators.

IRMS software can help ensure compliance with state and federal regulations by facilitating timely, transparent, and efficient responses to medical information requests. Upon receiving a request, medical affairs teams can quickly begin processing the MIR and conveying the appropriate information to the submitting healthcare professional.

Furthermore, IRMS software supports additional compliance by providing teams with analytics tools they can use to monitor and improve the efficiency of their MIR processes.

Facilitate better data management

Tracking medical information requests with spreadsheets creates data silos and leads to a lack of MIR visibility. In other words, MIRs can end up overlooked, misplaced, or outright lost, and when that happens, medical affairs teams are bound to provide delayed responses or relay inaccurate or otherwise incomplete information to those requesting it.

Transitioning to a centralized IRMS software solution will facilitate better, more transparent data management. Medical affairs teams, compliance personnel, and decision-makers will be able to easily view how many MIRs are in the pipeline, what the status of each request is, and other important factors. They can then use that information to ensure that response deadlines are met while also monitoring the efficacy of MIR processes.

What to look for when choosing an IRMS solution

Investing in an IRMS solution is a major decision that will have a profound impact on patient and healthcare professional experiences. The platform that your team chooses to implement will also affect compliance, which is why you must carefully evaluate each prospective IRMS software before settling on a solution.

Therefore, as you search for IRMS software for your organization, you should consider a wide range of factors and attributes that include the following:

Customizability

While the general process of responding to MIRs is relatively standardized, the needs of every medical affairs team are unique. Therefore, it is important that you select IRMS software that can be tailored to align with your team’s structure, objectives, and needs.

The ideal IRMS software or platform for your organization will allow you to customize several aspects of the user experience. Specifically, you should choose a solution that allows you to modify workflows, create custom data fields, and augment the dashboard to provide a more seamless user experience.

User-friendliness

Speaking of the user experience, the best IRMS solutions are exceptionally user-friendly, though it’s important to note that some options out there are clunky, tedious to use, and downright complicated.

If you implement IRMS software that falls in the latter camp, you will experience diminished employee buy-in and a reduced return on your investment.

On the other hand, when your new platform is intuitive and easy to use, your team will experience a shallower learning curve, be more accepting of the software change, and will embrace the tools you provide them with. On a broader scale, adopting user-friendly IRMS software will decrease your time to value and boost your ROI.

Integrations

One of the biggest challenges associated with traditional MIR management is a lack of data visibility. When your medical affairs team uses disparate software to manage its MIRs, visibility is poor, and errors occur far too often.

With that in mind, tearing down data silos and promoting total MIR visibility are both vital if you want to streamline your medical information request management processes, and to achieve those goals, you need an IRMS software solution that seamlessly integrates with your existing technology stack.

Before you commit to a solution, though, make sure it is compatible with your customer relationship management (CRM) software and other database systems, as well as your email and collaboration tools. Such a solution will be able to share vital data with your other systems and empower your staff to optimize productivity.

Compliance

Your IRMS software should also support your compliance efforts. Choose a solution that provides various compliance and governance tools so that you can closely monitor and regulate your medical information request management processes. In particular, you should use IRMS software that features audit trails, permission controls, and a notification system that updates you on the latest regulatory changes so you can ensure adherence.

Reporting and analytics

Implementing an appropriate IRMS software solution and modifying your medical information request processing protocols will help promote compliance and improve efficiency.

However, it is important to closely monitor the efficacy and performance of your MIR processes on an ongoing basis, and selecting an IRMS solution that provides robust reporting and analytics capabilities will help you do exactly that. You can leverage the insights from these reports to identify potential pain points, further promote efficiency, and deliver a frictionless experience for healthcare professionals.

Security

In addition to responding to MIRs in a timely manner, your organization is also tasked with protecting sensitive medical data. Failing to do so can lead to severe reputational damage and hefty civil penalties.

Unfortunately, antiquated MIR management tools, such as shared inboxes and spreadsheets, not only leave the door wide open to security breaches but also increase your exposure to cyber threats.

A modern, cloud-based IRMS solution can support your cybersecurity strategy and help you avoid these challenges. Maximize your security by choosing a platform that offers features such as user authentication, access controls, and encryption, as each of these will help you ensure the confidentiality and integrity of the information you manage.

Transform your MIRs management processes with MIRador

MIRador screenshotsWithout the right tools in place, your medical affairs teams will become overwhelmed by the complexity and sheer volume of MIRs that they receive. If your pharmaceutical entity wants to position your teams to succeed while simultaneously promoting compliance, you need IRMS software.

DownloadInvesting in an IRMS software solution can help you streamline the medical information request management process and unlock other benefits, including:

  • Better data management
  • Enhanced compliance
  • Improved efficiency
  • Optimized visibility

However, if you want to get the most out of your investment and expedite time to value, it is critical that you select a solution that is customizable, user-friendly, and robust.

MIRador provides the tools and capabilities your medical affairs team needs to facilitate compliance and optimize overall MIR handling efficiency.

When discussing our IRMS software, a senior pharmaceutical executive had the following to say:

“Every company does MIR differently. Some companies have dedicated medical information teams, while small to midsize companies might not have a dedicated person in that role. Having established best practices and a technological foundation for collecting and processing this information is critical. Any organization that is looking for a medical information solution should consider BP Logix as an option.”

If you would like to learn more about the purpose-built solution that was delivered for this executive, and many other entities in the life sciences space, book a call with BP Logix today.

Topics: medical affairs medical information requests
13 min read

Medical Information Requests: Everything You Need to Know

By Steve Altschuler on Mar 3, 2023 8:00:00 AM

Medical information requests - blog

Medical information requests (MIRs) are a crucial part of the healthcare and life sciences industry, allowing healthcare providers to obtain the information they need to provide the best possible care for their patients. However, without an efficient MIR management process, delays and inaccuracies can jeopardize patient safety, regulatory compliance, and a company's reputation.

In this guide, we'll explain what MIRs are, why they matter, and share best practices for handling them. We'll also cover the benefits of using a centralized management strategy and process automation tools, such as BP Logix's MIR solution, which can alleviate common MIR management challenges and ensure prompt, accurate, and compliant handling.

Whether you're a medical affairs professional, healthcare provider, or pharma executive, this guide will help you navigate the complex world of medical information requests. Already well-versed in MIRs? Skip ahead to MIR management best practices!

Types of medical information requests

Types of medical information requests

MIRs can take many forms:

Let's delve into what these MIR types entail and what role they play in the lives of healthcare providers, patients, and medical affairs teams.

Adverse event reporting

Adverse event reporting is a critical component of medical information requests. In this type of request, healthcare providers submit information about any undesirable or unexpected health events experienced by patients while using a particular medication or medical device. These events could range from mild side effects to severe allergic reactions or even fatalities.

For instance, imagine a patient is prescribed a new medication and then experiences an adverse health event that they suspect is caused by the medication. The healthcare provider would then create an adverse event report to submit to the company that manufactures the medication. This report would contain detailed information about the patient, the medication, and the adverse event experienced.

Pharmaceutical companies must carefully track and promptly respond to all adverse event reports they receive. Failure to do so can have severe consequences, including patient harm, regulatory sanctions, and reputational damage. Effective management of adverse event reporting is essential for maintaining patient safety and ensuring that products remain compliant with regulatory requirements.

Product information requests

Product Information Requests (PIRs) are a common type of MIR that medical affairs teams handle. PIRs seek general information about a product such as its indications, dosages, contraindications, and clinical trial results.

For example, a physician might request PIRs to understand whether a medication would be a suitable option for their patient with a specific condition. Another provider may want more information on a medication than what is listed on the label.

Handling PIRs requires the ability to provide comprehensive information about the product to healthcare providers while ensuring regulatory compliance. It is essential to handle these requests efficiently as they could impact providers’ decision-making process and, ultimately, patient outcomes.

Medical inquiries

Medical inquiries are a specific type of medical information request that requires a detailed response from a medical affairs team. These requests are often initiated by healthcare providers seeking guidance on a specific medical issue or question related to a product.

Let's say a provider inquires about the appropriate dosage for a patient with a specific medical condition, or the potential drug interactions of a product with other medications. As with other types of MIRs, it is important for companies to respond to medical inquiries in a timely and accurate manner to provide healthcare providers with the necessary information to make informed decisions.

Clinical study data

Clinical study data requests are another common type of MIR. Healthcare providers may request access to detailed clinical study data, such as results from clinical trials, to help them make informed decisions about treatment options for their patients.

For instance, a physician may request clinical study data on a new medication before prescribing it to their patient. This request may include information about the drug’s safety, efficacy, and potential side effects.

Handling clinical study data requests requires companies to provide accurate and comprehensive data while adhering to regulatory requirements for data privacy and protection.

Off-label information

Off-label information requests are a specific type of MIR that requires companies to respond to requests for information about the use of a product outside of its approved label indications. These requests could include information about the potential benefits and risks of using a product off-label.

Let's say a healthcare provider inquires about using a medication to treat a condition not listed on its label indications. In these cases, companies must ensure that their responses are accurate and do not promote the off-label use of their product.

Handling off-label information requests requires companies to carefully evaluate the information they provide and ensure that their responses comply with regulatory requirements.

Product complaints

Product complaints are a type of MIR that companies use to collect and address customers' concerns about their products. These complaints can range from product quality to issues with packaging, labeling, or other components of the product.

Imagine a patient files a complaint about a medication they took because they believe it's causing them harm. A company must investigate the complaint thoroughly and respond in a timely manner to address any issues with their product.

Handling product complaints requires companies to have an effective complaint management process in place to investigate and address concerns raised by patients.

Why medical information requests matter

Why medical information requests matter

MIRs have a significant impact on providers and patients, as well as medical affairs professionals and the organizations they represent. As such, it is essential for life science companies to establish clear MIR submission protocols and develop an efficient system for processing incoming requests.

While larger companies often have a dedicated team to handle MIRs, smaller organizations may have limited resources and rely on a smaller team to manage these requests. Regardless of the size of the organization, it is crucial to handle MIRs efficiently and respond to them promptly in order to:

Let's take a closer look at why mastering medical information request management is vital in these areas:

Regulatory compliance

Pharmaceutical and medical device companies have a legal obligation to provide timely, accurate information about their products to the general public, patients, and healthcare professionals. Failure to comply can result in severe consequences, including legal actions, fines, and damage to your company's reputation.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandates this reporting and outlines pharmaceutical companies' responsibilities in its authoritative guide, “Responding to Unsolicited Requests for Off-Label Information About Prescription Drugs and Medical Devices.”

Under these guidelines, pharmaceutical companies must respond truthfully to unsolicited medical information requests. Misleading information and off-label promotion of product uses are prohibited in these responses, and the company must maintain detailed records of all MIRs and their responses.

Regulatory requirements for MIRs are becoming increasingly stringent. Non-compliant organizations risk penalties and other punitive measures. By ensuring regulatory compliance, you protect your business continuity and profitability.

Patient safety

Prompt and accurate responses to medical information requests are crucial to ensuring patient safety. When healthcare providers have access to the information they need about medications and devices, they can make informed decisions that promote positive health outcomes.

However, when pharmaceutical companies are slow to respond to MIRs, patient safety can be compromised. Providers may be hesitant to prescribe a particular medication, potentially resulting in delayed or inadequate treatment for patients.

MIRs also provide healthcare providers with a way to report concerns or adverse events, which pharmaceutical companies can use to improve products and protect patients from the risks associated with faulty devices or medications. By prioritizing the efficient management of MIRs, companies can maintain a strong focus on patient safety and improve overall healthcare outcomes.

Reputation management

In today's age of social media and online reviews, negative news can spread rapidly, potentially harming a pharmaceutical company's reputation. To stay ahead of any rumors or concerns, it's crucial to respond quickly and effectively to medical information requests.

Swift, accurate responses to MIRs can help put out any potential fires before they spread too far. This proactive approach can help maintain public trust and protect a company's reputation from the fallout of adverse events.

On the other hand, slow or inaccurate responses can have the opposite effect, damaging public trust and causing patients to seek out competitor products. Mishandling MIRs can ultimately lead to decreased product usage and revenue loss.

Competitive advantage

In the fiercely competitive industry of life sciences, companies must go the extra mile to maintain an edge over their rivals. Responding to medical information requests promptly is an excellent way for companies to gain a competitive advantage.

A streamlined MIR process shows healthcare providers that a company is transparent, trustworthy, and patient-focused. These factors are crucial in building long-term trust and relationships with providers and patients.

By developing an efficient MIR process, pharmaceutical companies can help providers make informed decisions about prescribing their products. This proactive approach can alleviate prescription hesitancy and increase the likelihood of a provider choosing their product over a competitor's.

Ultimately, having an efficient and effective MIR process can set a company apart from its rivals and contribute to its long-term success.

Continuous improvement

In order to provide better outcomes for patients, life science organizations must be able to stay ahead of the curve. This is another area in which MIRs shine — they can provide valuable insights that may help companies innovate and drive continuous improvement in their products.

For example, imagine there is a medication indicated for pain relief that could also help patients overcome sleep issues. By bringing this information to organizational decision-makers, the company could obtain funding to explore other uses for the medication — ultimately helping them stay competitive in the market, generate more revenue, and improve patient outcomes.

Best practices for handling medical information requests

MIR best practices

Managing medical information requests can be challenging, but life science companies can simplify the process and promote transparency by following a few established best practices.

Specifically, organizations tasked with handling medical information requests should:

1. Develop a clear, standardized process

The first step to mastering medical information request management is developing a clear and standardized process.

A well-designed process will act as a blueprint for the medical information team to follow and should cover the intake, response, tracking, and record-keeping aspects of MIR. It should also align with FDA guidelines to guarantee compliance and prevent any monetary repercussions.

Without a clear process to follow, the medical information team may miss key steps in the process, leading to delays in responding to requests, inaccurate information, and even noncompliance with FDA regulations. Inconsistent processes can also lead to confusion among team members, making it difficult to track and manage requests efficiently. A standardized process is essential for ensuring that all medical information requests are handled promptly, accurately, and in compliance with regulations.

To create a robust and comprehensive process, it's essential for decision-makers to gather feedback and input from the people who are most familiar with the day-to-day management of medical information requests. This feedback can help ensure that the process is clear, comprehensive, and easy to follow for all team members. The end result is a well-designed process that meets the needs of the organization while also ensuring compliance and efficiency in managing MIRs.

2. Create a dedicated medical information team

All organizations, regardless of size, should establish a dedicated medical information team to manage MIRs. This will ensure that requests are promptly and efficiently processed, and nothing falls through the cracks. If responsibilities are delegated to other teams, such as sales or marketing, it can lead to delayed responses, compliance issues, and damage to a company's reputation.

Creating a dedicated MIR team will require effort, but the benefits will be worthwhile. This team will be better equipped to handle requests, maintain compliance, and ensure that information is communicated transparently.

While some smaller companies may not have the resources to create a dedicated medical information team, there are ways to overcome this challenge and still manage MIRs effectively.

One option is to assign MIR responsibilities to a small group of individuals within the organization who have transferrable expertise and knowledge to handle these responsibilities.

Another option is to harness process automation to help streamline MIR management and reduce the need for a large team. Automated systems can be used to track and manage requests, respond to routine inquiries, and flag urgent requests for immediate attention. This can help smaller organizations manage MIRs more efficiently while maintaining compliance and ensuring prompt responses to healthcare professionals.

3. Use a centralized system to manage MIRs

Managing medical information requests through email or shared files can be risky and cause unnecessary confusion. Without a centralized system to manage MIRs, time-sensitive requests can get lost or overlooked, leading to delayed responses and a risk of noncompliance. This can cause friction among healthcare providers and ultimately damage the organization's reputation.

Additionally, managing MIRs without a standardized process can create confusion among team members about their roles and responsibilities, leading to inconsistent responses and inaccurate information being disseminated to healthcare providers.

Implementing a centralized system to manage MIRs will simplify the process, prevent any mishaps, and ensure that all requests are responded to promptly. Storing MIR data in a single location will help the MIR team leader oversee the management of requests and verify that the team responds to them appropriately based on their priority and urgency.

4. Implement a prioritization system

Pharmaceutical companies should prioritize MIRs to ensure that urgent requests are handled before routine inquiries. Developing a prioritization system will help the medical information team manage their workload and address requests based on their urgency.

For instance, consider a medical information team that receives two MIRs on the same day: one is a routine inquiry about dosage information, while the other reports a potential adverse event associated with one of the company's products. In this scenario, the team should prioritize the adverse event MIR, addressing it promptly to mitigate potential risks to patient safety. MIRs that are of equal urgency should be handled based on the order they are received.

Having a clear prioritization system in place ensures that the team is efficiently managing their workload while addressing the most pressing issues first.

5. Monitor MIR response performance

Want to ensure that your medical information request management program is continuously improving? Consider monitoring the the performance of your organization's MIR responses. You can gain valuable insights to make data-driven decisions by tracking metrics like response times, request volumes, and other relevant data points.

For example, let's say a pharmaceutical company notices an increasing trend of requests regarding potential off-label uses of their product. By monitoring this trend and analyzing the data, the company can conduct further research into the potential off-label uses, test the product's efficacy in those areas, and potentially apply for FDA approval for new indications.

This type of data-driven decision-making leads to product innovation, new opportunities in the market, and increased revenue.

On the other hand, neglecting to monitor MIR response performance could lead to missed opportunities for growth and potential noncompliance with regulatory requirements. For example, let's say a pharmaceutical company receives an MIR regarding the use of their product in a specific patient population. Monitoring MIRs may help the company identify potential gaps in how they are labeling or indicating their product. Failing to address these gaps puts the company at risk for being noncompliant with FDA regulations, resulting in fines, penalties, and PR nightmares.

By monitoring MIR response performance, companies can avoid regulatory issues and protect their reputation from negative PR. The insights gained from monitoring response performance can also help companies continuously improve their MIR process as a whole by allocating resources more effectively and going the extra mile to meet the needs of healthcare providers and their patients.

Automating your centralized MIR system

Implementing the best practices and centralizing your MIR system is essential for compliance and efficient management of medical information requests. However, not all centralized systems are equal, and rudimentary ones such as shared email inboxes lack the tools and management capabilities necessary to ensure compliance.

To meet FDA requirements for adverse event handling and auditing, it's crucial to route inquiries to the appropriate team members. Failing to do so can result in difficulty obtaining treatment approvals and even revocation of previously approved treatments, as demonstrated by the cases of chloroquine phosphate and hydroxychloroquine sulfate.

DownloadTo ensure compliance and efficient MIR management, consider implementing a powerful management system that includes sophisticated process automation tools. Leveraging tools such as BP Logix’s MIR solution enables you to tap into the power of predictive analytics, facilitate centralized data management, automate workflows, and integrate your database with existing systems.

Process automation tools not only streamline your MIR system but also reduce manual errors, speed up response times, and enable proactive management of requests, leading to a more efficient and compliant system.

Optimize MIR management with BP Logix

Medical information requests are a critical aspect of the healthcare industry, with the potential to influence patient outcomes, regulatory compliance, and revenue generation. As such, it's imperative to have a robust and streamlined process in place to manage them effectively.

By embracing process automation and optimization tools, you can revolutionize your approach to MIRs and achieve a more efficient and compliant management system. With BP Logix's MIR solution, you can leverage cutting-edge predictive analytics, centralized data management, and customizable workflow automation to streamline your MIR process and reduce the risk of errors and compliance issues.

MIR-screenshots

Our advanced platform also enables seamless integration with existing systems and workflows, making it easy to adopt and implement into your existing infrastructure.

With BP Logix's MIR solution, you can ensure that your organization is equipped to manage MIRs effectively, promote compliance, and protect your reputation in the healthcare industry. Contact us today to learn more and take the first step towards optimizing your MIR management process.

Topics: medical affairs medical information requests
10 min read

Facility Space Management Strategies in Higher Education

By Catie Leary on Feb 2, 2023 10:00:00 AM

Facility Space Management Strategies Higher Education

Space management refers to optimizing productivity within an organization by maximizing the efficiency of space utilization. Space management strategies provide a framework for assessing the availability of space, planning resource allocation, and ensuring that current space utilization practices support an entity’s objectives and goals.

Without an effective space management strategy in place, an organization will experience a host of logistical challenges. Some spaces may be underutilized, whereas others may be crowded or overused, causing friction between various teams and hindering collaboration.

All types of facility spaces should be managed with a cohesive plan, including:

  • Office buildings
  • Warehouses
  • Retail stores
  • Higher learning institutions

Historically, facility space management has been especially challenging for higher education organizations, as the institution’s leadership is tasked with managing various spaces while juggling the needs of dozens of faculty members and thousands of students.

Fortunately, higher education facilities can simplify this task and optimize space utilization by leveraging facility space management software.

Facility space management in higher education

There are numerous challenges associated with managing facility spaces in a higher education setting. Most notably, these learning institutions are responsible for managing a huge diversity of spaces, including:

  • Classrooms
  • Labs
  • Study rooms
  • Residence halls
  • Student centers
  • Libraries
  • Parking spaces
  • Fitness centers
  • Conference rooms

When creating space management strategies, the institution’s leadership must ensure that they meet the needs of faculty, student organizations (i.e., sports teams and recreational groups), individual students, and entire classes or programs.

The process of space management in higher education is further complicated because these institutions must also manage an inventory of shared and rentable assets, including A/V equipment, laptops, tablets, and other devices.

The organization must ensure that the right assets are available and deployed to the appropriate spaces or groups and must frequently allocate staff to help set up equipment for the groups that reserved it.

How to implement effective facility space management in higher education

Creating winning space management strategies in higher education requires a systematic approach. When creating or revamping a space management plan, organizational leaders should:

1. Identify and analyze the needs of the facility and its users

Step one is to figure out how many different groups, professors, classes, or programs need access to space and equipment. In other words, who is using what, and when?

Once organizational leaders better understand their user base, they should then conduct an assessment of available resources. During this assessment, organizational leadership should identify any potential deficiencies.

For example, if a higher education institution plans to offer 10 science courses that include a lab component during a single semester but only have one serviceable lab, scheduling issues are bound to arise. In this instance, the institution may need to invest in a second lab or reschedule some courses for the following semester.

2. Develop a space utilization plan that factors in fluctuating demand throughout the academic calendar

The next step involves the development of a space utilization plan, which must account for fluctuating demand throughout the academic calendar.

For instance, when several teams’ sports seasons overlap in late fall or early spring, the demand for the fitness center and the gym will be at its peak. As such, organizational leaders must take a proactive approach to space management and start looking for potential scheduling conflicts so they can be quickly remedied.

The space utilization plan must address spikes in demand for other types of space. This may include the library, labs, conference rooms, and even parking spaces. Ideally, space management strategies will also include a future demand planning component.

Demand planning will help organizational decision-makers continue to meet the needs of faculty and students as the institution grows.

3. Implement a space management system

Having a great plan is only part of the equation. Next, organizational leaders will need to implement a space management system to support the strategy they’ve devised. The space management system may entail software like a class scheduling platform, room reservation technology, or some combination of the two.

Space management systems vary greatly in terms of sophistication, usability, and other qualities. With that in mind, higher learning institutions should seek a solution that was purpose-built for educational organizations.

Using a generic, off-the-shelf solution might help simplify space management, but it won’t optimize the allocation of available facility resources as effectively as an industry-specific platform.

4. Utilize technology to optimize space usage

To truly optimize space usage, higher education institutions should implement custom facility space management software.

Such a solution can provide real-time insights into the status of all spaces and AV resources. Facility space management software can streamline scheduling tasks, prevent human errors like double booking, and help the university precisely track space usage.

Higher education institutions can further enhance space management by deploying internet of things (IoT) sensors.

These sensors can be used to track the status and location of AV equipment or monitor the state of available spaces. Using IoT devices like smart thermostats can also enhance space management by enabling facility leaders to automatically adjust temperatures when rooms are in use and minimize HVAC usage when they’re not.

Using technology to streamline facility space management

Facility space management software is designed to streamline the process of finding, renting, scheduling, and monitoring space usage on your campus.

The best facility space management software solutions also provide advanced reporting to track usage trends, identify which resources are in high demand, predict future demand, and meet the evolving needs of faculty and students.

Investing in the right software can turn space management into an organizational strength that enhances the student experience and minimizes friction between faculty members and departments.

Benefits of using space management software

There are numerous advantages of levering the right facility space management software. By implementing such a solution, you’ll gain instant access to the following:

1. Better visibility

The key benefit associated with facility space management software is enhanced visibility.

Put simply, a solution for higher education institutions will provide facility staff with an administrative-level bird's eye view of all reservable campus spaces, including classrooms, labs, library meeting rooms, and more. These users can configure space availability and make  scheduling conflicts a thing of the past.

Facility space management software also increases visibility for end users, such as students and faculty, because they can easily see what spaces are available and book the desired room or area using an intuitive interface.

2. Real-time data

Booking a space using traditional processes is often tedious and sometimes downright frustrating.

A faculty member has to contact the person tasked with scheduling spaces. Then, that person has to verify that the space is available and hope it wasn’t accidentally double-booked. Facility space management software simplifies this process by providing schedulers with real-time data.

The technology takes the guesswork out of scheduling classrooms, labs, and other spaces. When students or faculty members book a space with modern software, they can be confident that it will be available when they arrive at the scheduled date and time.

3. Actionable reporting

Facility space management software provides robust reporting tools that administrators can leverage to gain meaningful insights into utilization through comprehensive and eye-opening reports about current utilization rates or historical usage trends. These reports can help administrators predict future demand or pinpoint underuse issues.

For instance, let’s say you have three conference spaces located at different points across the campus. After generating a utilization report, you determine that two are almost always booked, but the third is rarely used.

With this insight, you can survey users and determine why the third space is used so much less. You may find that the layout isn’t conducive to your faculty’s needs and decide to revamp the lab or replace the existing furniture or equipment with modern alternatives.

4. Automation 

Managing facility space at a larger higher education institution is a complex, labor-intensive task. Facility space management software can make things much easier by providing powerful higher education automation tools and self-service solutions.

These tools can automate processes like scheduling, notifying users of their upcoming time slot, and tracking which spaces are currently available. Empowering students and faculty with self-service tools will further reduce the burden on your administrative staff and give them more time to engage in dynamic tasks.

Facility Space Management  Room Reservation

Room reservation systems

Let’s look at a detailed example of the challenges associated with managing room reservations on your campus. Specifically, these issues can arise when doing something as simple as reserving classroom space for a school club’s meetings or events.

We’ll examine four hurdles you likely encounter on a regular basis and outline how facility space management software can help you overcome each of these challenges.

Challenge #1: Complex scheduling requirements

As you’re no doubt aware, managing space scheduling at a higher education facility can be incredibly challenging.

One of the things that makes it so difficult is that the demand for space on a college campus is constantly in flux. For example, you may experience low demand the week after a semester ends and peak demand during final exam periods.

During lulls in demand, ensuring that your space is being used efficiently can be tricky. On the flip side, you may struggle to get staff and students what they need during periods of peak demand.

Facility space management software can help you automate scheduling by allowing users to easily request and reserve spaces. Faculty members can even set up recurring reservations if they need a specific space throughout a term.

The platform will automatically track existing reservations and take the academic calendar into account to prevent double bookings.

Challenge #2: Lack of visibility into room usage

Another challenge that arises when using outdated space management strategies is a lack of visibility into room utilization. Conflicts and inefficiencies will abound when you don't have a clear picture of what rooms are occupied or how frequently.

Room reservation software provides real-time visibility into how your rooms are being used.

Your facility management team can use this data to track usage patterns, identify inefficiencies, and, if needed, make recommendations for adding new spaces. Additionally, facility management can rework existing spaces to make them more appealing and versatile.

Challenge #3: Error-prone manual processes

Performing room reservation management with manual processes takes time, which is something you won’t always have in abundance. Manual practices also set the stage for problematic data entry errors. Ultimately, these errors will lead to confusion and frustration for faculty members that need to reserve spaces.

Facility space management software safeguards against human error by automating the bulk of the reservation process. A leading solution can automatically send confirmation emails, generate usage reports, and save your facility management team valuable time.

Room reservation tools also provide the space management staff with a single source of truth, which prevents double bookings or scheduling conflicts.

Challenge #4: Poor communication

Traditional space management strategies are notorious for hindering communication between faculty, staff, and students.

When there's a lack of clear communication about space usage and availability, conflicts are the inevitable result. This friction can disrupt the learning experience, negatively impact participation in clubs or school organizations, and decrease staff morale.

Room reservation software provides availability information that enables faculty members to verify whether a space is vacant or in use. If the room they need is already reserved, they can explore alternative solutions, such as claiming a different space or pushing back a lab session to another date.

By improving communication between staff, groups, and students, room reservation software reduces the likelihood of conflicts.

Best practices for ensuring effective ongoing facility space management

Facility space management software will lay the foundation for optimized space utilization. However, if you want to ensure that your space management strategies support your organizational objectives, you should also take the following steps.

Conduct regular reviews and analyses of space utilization data

Implementing facility space management software allows you to tap into all your utilization data, but it’s up to you to put it to use. To do so, you should conduct regular reviews and analyses of space utilization trends. You can closely monitor weekly, monthly, seasonal, or even semester-long trends to identify periods of peak demand.

Conducting these reviews will enable you to make better use of all of your facility’s space. From classrooms to labs and even parking spaces, you can make sure none of your precious resources are going to waste.

Collaborate with stakeholders

You should routinely collaborate with stakeholders as part of your space management strategies.

Each month or quarter, gather feedback from faculty, support staff, and students about your space management efforts. Find out what challenges they encountered when reserving spaces on campus and assess whether there’s a need for additional space on your campus based on current usage trends.

While every higher education institution would like more space and resources, you may find that your current ones are adequate but simply underutilized.

Gathering feedback from your stakeholders will help you determine how to make the most of your existing spaces. Their input will guide furniture purchasing decisions, remodeling efforts, and other efficiency-promoting measures.

Be flexible and adaptable to changing needs

Facilities like classrooms, labs, and conference areas are often viewed as static resources. While this is partially true, the most effective space management strategies promote flexibility and adaptability. A great plan will identify ways to make every space more versatile so it can meet the ever-changing needs of your campus.

While you may not be able to easily expand the square footage of a room, you can make each space more user-friendly and appealing. For example, you might install multi-purpose furniture, compact equipment, and ample storage to take advantage of the space you have.

Designing rooms with flexibility in mind will give faculty and students more options in case their desired rental space is unavailable.

Use data and analytics to inform decision-making

Although you can restructure or repurpose existing rooms in short order when necessary, you can’t create new space overnight. It’s therefore important to take a proactive approach to space management at your higher learning institution.

Facility space management software can provide you with detailed usage reports and powerful analytics tools that you can use to plan ahead. You can predict the space requirements of your campus years in advance so you can budget accordingly, invest in additional resources, and ensure that your students and faculty are being served.

It's time to get serious about your facility space management strategy

Space management strategies rooted in traditional practices and manual processes can produce untold amounts of confusion, frustration, and unnecessary expense for your institution and its faculty and students.

When your organization relies on outdated facility space management software — or worse, paper-based practices — double bookings and other errors will run rampant. Fortunately, you can modernize your space management strategies by leveraging leading-edge technology that provides real-time insights into space utilization.

The right solution will help you optimize resource usage, avoid errors, and automate traditionally tedious booking processes. The result will be a more sophisticated institution, more orderly internal processes, and a better experience for everyone. Hasn’t that been the goal all along?

Want to learn more about automating space management at your higher education organization? Contact BP Logix today for a demo of our space management solution.

Topics: higher education
5 min read

5 Reasons to Use Low-Code Platforms in Higher Education

By Andrew Kelly on Aug 1, 2022 7:00:00 AM

low-code-higher-education-blog

COVID-19 accelerated the transition to remote learning at a pace that is impacting the quality of education at higher education institutions.

Poor student experiences can lead to enrollment decline and add to the financial burden already facing these institutions. A growing number of institutions are turning to low-code platforms like BP Logix to accelerate their transition to remote learning.

In this blog, we introduce low-code platforms and discuss some of the benefits of adopting this innovative technology in higher education institutions.

What is a low-code platform?

A low-code development platform is a software development approach that uses a graphical user interface in place of native coding.

Low-code empowers non-programmers to create applications in a visual, drag-and-drop environment while leveraging reusable components' full power. The speed of low-code development is dramatically faster (5 to 10X), while still delivering the same results as hard-coded applications. A low-code platform can also help reduce risks related to data privacy and information security.

At a time when software developers are hard to find or expensive to afford, this technology has the potential to keep the pace of digital transformation. In addition to an intuitive front end, a low-code platform comes with pre-built templates and out-of-the-box integration capabilities. Research by Gartner estimates that 65% of all applications will be delivered through low-code platforms by 2024.

Let's dive into five reasons why your institution should use low-code platforms in their software development lifecycle.

1. Cuts the cost of development

Universities and colleges have tight budgets, but they need to make critical investments to stay competitive at a time when they are competing for a shrinking pool of students. The traditional options can be both resource intensive and time consuming.

Many schools have an aging portfolio of core enterprise applications like Student Information Systems, Learning Management Systems, HR/ Payroll Systems and an ERP for Finance.

To stay competitive and introduce new programs, they need to make changes to these systems which can be challenging due to high cost and lack of availability of software developers proficient in their respective platforms.

Building custom applications from scratch and buying off the shelf SaaS solutions can be equally expensive and resource intensive. Meanwhile, a low-code platform can plug into the ERP at the back end and provide a much more intuitive front end to make the required enhancements. No coding required equals dramatically lower delivery costs.

Coupled with low maintenance and easy integration with third-party applications, low-code platforms offer modern and futuristic solutions for institutions to significantly reallocate their IT budgets.

2. Speedier delivery

Hard-coded applications lack the component reusability capabilities of low-code platforms. It can take months or sometimes years to code, test, and deploy applications using the high code development lifecycle process. On the other hand, a university IT team can deliver a flawless app or site within weeks using state-of-the-art AI-powered low-code platforms like BP Logix.

Wondering how these platforms achieve such a quick turnaround? Low-code platforms have pre-coded templates, reusable components, and click-and-drag capabilities that shorten the time that would otherwise be used to write code. Essentially, you need only to customize the templates and features, and the platform automatically generates the code for you.

3. Improved experiences for students, faculty, and staff

Most schools have built their workflow automation gradually over time using a range of options including buying off the shelf and building bespoke. As needs have changed, these applications have been fixed with patches. The typical student or faculty members touches multiple applications in the process of going through their academic and campus life. The result is a fragmented discontinuous experience in many cases requiring data reentry and logging in and out of multiple systems. This fragmented experience can result in lost productivity, data integrity issues, and an overall poor end user experience.

A low-code platform functions as the glue that seamlessly connects across different systems in the background while providing a simple unified front end to end users.

Higher ed low-code in action

Working with BP Logix, an Ivy League university implemented a first-time remote system to let 6,000 students update course and grading preferences without being on campus. Professors can efficiently meet and teach students virtually via a remote learning system developed using low-code platforms. Moreover, students can automatically get notifications from a remote e-learning system for what previously required an in-person presence on campus. 

4. Better data and insights

Staff and faculty at higher education institutions use data to make decisions. If the application portfolio at the institution consists of a large spaghetti of disparate systems, data can get fragmented and unreliable.

Accessing actionable information can become a challenge. A robust low-code platform will capture key data and allow you to slice and dice to provide actionable insights.

BP Logix has advanced AI and ML capabilities which allow the platform to capture in process data and provide advanced predictive analytics. For example, you may be able to predict that a key process (enrollment, payroll, grants application, etc) is likely to get delayed, which can trigger an automatic email escalation to the appropriate user.

5. Reduced complexity

Traditionally, there is a tradeoff between speed and complexity. Meaning, you can get a software platform that can help you build applications quickly, but is unable to handle complexity.

With a low-code platform like BP Logix's Process Director, you get the best of both worlds. The right platform has an in-house team that understands your domain and creates pre-built components tailored to address even your most complex use cases.

Higher ed low code in action

ucf logoUniversity of Central Florida (UCF) is responsible for over 3000 international students from over 130 universities across the world. UCF Global was seeking to double their enrollment over a three-year period while enhancing the onboarding experience for its students.

UCF chose BP Logix low-code platform to automate complex processes across immigration, employment authorization, visas, and international taxation.

Read the full UCF Global case study.

Explore low-code in higher education

The number of higher education institutions seeking to use low-code platforms continues to grow. However, not all low-code platforms are tailored to the higher education sector and come built in with relevant templates.

Pursuing low-code means you get to become part of a community of collaborative higher ed colleagues that are committed to embracing the next generation of digital transformation in higher education.

 

Schedule a demo today to learn how BP Logix can help your higher education institution be responsive to the changing needs of the next generation of students and faculty.

 
Topics: higher education
8 min read

The Evolving Role of Medical Affairs in Pharma Companies

By Girish Pashilkar on Jun 21, 2022 11:37:02 AM

The future of medical affairs

Pharmaceutical organizations must constantly evolve in order to stay competitive in the market and compliant with regulations.

Recent years have seen significant change in the role of medical affairs teams in the pharmaceutical industry. COVID-19 accelerated these changes. As a result, many medical affairs departments now face a pressing need to meet shifting expectations.

Technology is in a unique position to alleviate some of the growing pains that medical affairs teams experience as they take on greater responsibilities. Process automation, in particular, can play a valuable role in streamlining and improving the efficiency of medical affairs workflows.

With process automation solutions, medical affairs leaders can:

  • Deliver actionable insights to key decision makers
  • Reduce administrative overhead to enable team members to spend more time on stakeholder engagement
  • Digitally engage HCP’s and KOL’s increasing the capacity of the team to engage these key stakeholders
  • Streamline collaboration across departments to speed up the new drug development
  • Contain costs, by introducing new efficiencies

The role of process automation is becoming more critical as the field of medical affairs continues to grow. In this article, we’ll walk through why and how medical affairs is changing (including the role played by the COVID-19 pandemic), and dive deep into how technology must adapt to meet the needs of this growing sector.

How medical affairs is changing

Historically, medical affairs provided support to the research and commercial pillars of pharmaceutical and medical device companies, but that's changed drastically over the past decade.

These organizations are faced with increasing regulatory pressures, rising drug development costs, and a faster-paced competitive market. To meet the increasing market demands, medical affairs departments are facing greater expectations and workloads without a proportionate increase in budgets. 

To address this challenge, companies are turning to process automation solutions to help medical affairs teams do more with less. By automating routine tasks and optimizing resource utilization, medical affairs teams can focus on delivering high-quality, credible information to physicians and patients in a timely and efficient manner.

Medical affairs is brought to the table earlier in the drug development process to foster more seamless collaboration with other departments and contribute to strategic decision-making.

COVID-19's impact on medical affairs

covid-19 vaccination

The changes to the medical affairs industry have been in the works for the past decade, but the COVID-19 pandemic galvanized the situation further by rewriting the script on (a) how pharma develops and brings drugs to market, and (b) how the HCP/MSL engagement model functions.

Developing and bringing drugs to market

When we talk about how the pandemic changed the way drugs are developed and brought to market, there’s no way not to mention the impact that Operation Warp Speed (OWS) had on the time-to-market speed for pharmaceutical products.

OWS was initiated by the United States government in spring 2020 to help accelerate the development and distribution of testing, vaccines, and therapies for COVID-19.

In addition to saving millions of lives and helping gain better control over the pandemic, the operation demonstrated that it was possible to move pharmaceutical products through the development and approval process much faster than previously thought.

Of course, developing a vaccine to combat an active pandemic is a unique situation. Most drugs do not warrant emergency use authorization, nor are they backed by the whopping $10 billion budget granted to Operation Warp Speed by the CARES act.

Even so, it’s an incredibly valuable case study for medical affairs teams and their colleagues to consider in medical planning. The process for developing and approving drugs often takes between 10-15 years. Imagine a pharmaceutical market that reduces that timeline estimate by half.

That's not only a game changer for patients – it's a competitive advantage for businesses in the pharmaceutical industry.

While the conditions for developing drugs under a pandemic are not replicable for most other drugs, investment in automation technology can emulate some of these fast-paced outcomes. Upgrading medical affairs software with automated solution can not only help teams move faster and more efficiently, but they also provide a better experience for users.

Shifts in the HCP/MSL engagement model

The first year of the pandemic marked a significant increase in digital engagement interactions between healthcare providers (HCPs) and medical science liaisons (MSLs).

Due to pandemic-related travel restrictions, MSLs were now conducting the vast majority (or in some cases, all) of their work remotely.

This new mode of working meant that they could easily engage with multiple HCPs in a single day.

But how did HCPs feel about this change?

According to a June 2020 EU5 report, 55 percent of HCPs said they preferred transitioning to virtual engagements with MSLs. However, only 30 percent of HCPs expressed satisfaction with the quality and value of these digital interactions.

These stats illustrate that the demand for digital MSL engagements is there, but there is still work to be done to ensure these experiences are useful for HCPs.

In the white paper, “Beyond the Field: Evolving Field Medical Engagement and Talent for the Future,” the Medical Affairs Professional Society (MAPS) suggests that the increase in digital MSL engagement presents a golden opportunity for the medical affairs industry to take steps to improve their processes:

“The move to virtual conferences and meetings, where data is not consumed in real-time, has highlighted an opportunity for the industry to revisit compliance, review and approval processes to keep pace with information needs. The timing and consumption of information changes significantly when it’s available online for a clinician to download at their convenience. […] This amplifies the need for the accurate and accelerated review/approval of materials to accommodate the speed that data is consumed virtually.”

The most effective way for pharmaceutical organizations to grasp this opportunity and satisfy the needs of KOLs is to prioritize technology investments that can improve the quality of digital engagements.

Oversight and compliance challenges 

oversight and compliance in medical affairs

Another critical way medical affairs is changing comes down to compliance and oversight. As scientists and pharmaceutical leaders seek innovative treatments as quickly and safely as possible, the regulatory environment grows more complex by the day.

A significant reason for this complexity has been the outgrowth of pharma applications to more technical, niched scientific areas. Today, pharmaceutical companies are making important advancements in the realms of biologics, mRNA technologies, gene therapies, and more.

These advancements necessitate greater scientific rigor and oversight for medical affairs processes across the board – which is important for safety and validation, as well as for ensuring the sponsoring organization can remain competitive and reduce their legal risk.

The challenge is that as regulations grow more robust and complex, an organization’s SOPs must evolve to meet those requirements. This is another area in which technology must play a critical role.

Investing in purpose-built technology can lessen the challenge of updating SOPs to match the complexities of the moment, as well as help teams work faster because automation makes it easier to meet compliance requirements and check for debarments.

Medical affairs technology needs are also changing

In addition to the impact of COVID-19 and the pharmaceutical industry’s ever-changing regulatory requirements, medical affairs faces greater pressure to provide better customer experiences (CX) and user experiences (UX) to physicians, payers, regulators, journals, and congresses that must access and review drug information digitally.

There are a variety of different tools and technologies that medical affairs professionals can use to improve efficiency and productivity both within their organization and outside of it. These technologies range from custom applications to licensed outsourced solutions, but choosing the right ones is not always simple.

Pharmaceutical companies face three main challenges when researching and selecting technologies:

1. Identifying functionality that can evolve with them

With how quickly medical affairs teams are growing and changing, it’s imperative that the technology they use can evolve with them. That is why any technological solutions under consideration should:

  • Meet the emerging needs of the medical affairs professionals.
  • Offer the flexibility to customize solutions within its architecture.

For example, in our discussions with medical affairs leaders about their publication planning systems, one of their primary motivations for seeking out a new technology is frustration with the functionality of their existing solutions, including out of date user interfaces, failure to keep up with changing business or regulatory requirements, and insufficient customer support. These incumbent solutions are often longstanding in the industry but have grown complacent, neglecting to prioritize innovative improvements.

Download the PubPro product fact sheetAs the role of medical affairs grows more complex and wider in scope, these mission critical teams are chafing against the confines of technology that can no longer meet their needs and expectations.

That is why our team of process automation experts created a new publication planning solution, PubPro.

PubPro is designed to improve the speed and efficiency of publication planning processes for medical affairs and medical communications teams. Customers can reduce their publication planning costs by as much as 50%, in addition to solving high stakes compliance issues.

2. Overcoming the perceived burden of switching technologies

Another major hurdle to overcome involves all the perceived barriers associated with switching technologies.

When an organization has used the same system for managing a process for many years, it can feel daunting to make a switch to a new solution. Even if the new solution promises outstanding improvements in efficiency, accuracy, and user experience, organizations may feel tethered to their existing systems and processes for "sunk cost” reasons or they may rationalize that it’s simply “not the right time to shake things up.”

There may also be concerns about the transition itself. Will the implementation and training period cause disruptions to critical projects? How difficult will it be to migrate from the old system? How challenging will it be to train employees on the new system?

The fact is, medical affairs leaders do not have the luxury of taking their time to onboard software slowly, which is why technology partners must prioritize delivering a fast and seamless transition to their customers.

3. Ensuring seamless integration with existing technology

One of the functions of a medical affairs team is to help connect various departments at their organization with external stakeholders, such a HCPs, KOLs, and patients.

In order for medical affairs teams to work effectively, the organization's data must be able to move seamlessly across departmental and organizational boundaries while maintaining privacy and compliance standards.

That is why it is imperative that technology buyers at these organizations ensure they are making investments that can easily integrate with existing tools and legacy systems. The end result should be a streamlined, cross-functional workflow that provides clear visibility into any bottlenecks.

The ideal choice of technology to meet these needs should provide multiple options to enable single sign-on and multiple formats for exchange with the existing technology platforms.

Maximizing competitive advantages

With how rapidly the medical affairs landscape is changing, it’s important for pharmaceutical leaders to bring in technologies that can match the gait of this fast-paced growth and be ready to adapt quickly to new developments and requirements.

Ready to level up your medical affairs team? Contact our team of process automation experts to learn more about implementing one of our process automation solutions at your organization.

Topics: publication planning publication management
4 min read

Improving the Debarment Check Process in Publication Management

By Alex Reinthal on Apr 26, 2022 4:30:00 PM

debarment-check-drug-approval-publication-planning

With all the hard work that goes into the complex and delicate process of medical innovation, the last thing pharmaceutical and biotech companies want is to see publications delayed by an incomplete or unnecessarily lengthy debarment check process.

The good news is that new technologies can now automate and introduce new efficiencies into checking for debarments. 

Let’s dive into a comprehensive refresh about what debarment checks are, how they work, and how to work them into your pharmaceutical publication processes so that you can more readily identify the advantages of refreshing your company's approach to this regulatory responsibility.

What is an FDA debarment?

In regulatory terms, a debarment is when an individual, organization, or any affiliates are excluded from conducting business with a federal agency.

In the case of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there are two types of debarments that apply to the development, approval, or regulation of food and pharmaceutical products:

  • Mandatory debarments are the result of a felony conviction for the individual in question. These debarments are typically permanent.
  • Permissive debarments usually result from an individual's misdemeanor conviction or a conviction of accessory or conspiracy charges. Corporations can also be debarred for a period of time for direct or indirect violations of FDA law. Permissive debarments can last up to several years.

The FDA maintains a list of individuals who have been convicted of felonies (permanent debarment) and misdemeanors (permissive debarment) related to the development, approval, or regulation of a pharmaceutical product.

What are the business risks of collaborating with debarred individuals?

Working with debarred individuals or entities could have serious ramifications on the development of pharmaceutical products. For example, if a debarred individual is found to have contributed on the planning or development of a new pharmaceutical drug or device, the company and team associated with the project could face fines, delays, and potentially even the temporary debarment of organizations that have neglected to terminate debarred individuals in their employ.

Failure to identify the engagement of debarred individuals or entities can have serious repercussions on the publication and on the company at large. Fines can reach levels of $250K per debarred individual or $1M per organization.

Consider how the failure to screen for or terminate a debarred person would impact your competitive edge in the market. Years of hard work and investment could be jeopardized by a few bad faith collaborators.

With so much at stake, how do medical affairs teams in the pharmaceutical industry ensure they are working above board? By performing thorough debarment checks.

The importance of debarment checks

A debarment check ensures that you have not hired debarred individuals or contracted with debarred entities at any point in the process of bringing a drug to market. When applying to the FDA for approval of a drug, medical affairs professionals at pharma and biotech companies are required to certify that they have not and will not engage in such a hire.

Regular debarment checks are necessary to avoid regulatory penalties, not to mention the bad press or approval delays that could also result for your business if you fail to catch a debarment issue.

When it comes to publication management, the debarment check protects your company against liabilities financial, reputational, and even social. Thorough and regular checks help medical affairs professionals avoid costly fines, protect against damage to company credibility, and prevent go-to-market delays. They also protect consumers and help to maintain the integrity of the FDA as it works to protect consumers as well. When debarment checks work as advertised, it benefits everybody.

Ensuring ongoing compliance with the FDA debarment list

Of course, with the FDA debarment list being continuously updated, ensuring compliance requires ongoing debarment checks. This does not mean that the process has to remain laborious, or turn into a cost that you “just have to eat.”

This is where automation comes in. With the power of low-code automation, medical affairs professionals can build a solution designed with their complex SOPs and compliance requirements in mind — all without having to spend an unreasonable amount of time and money on manual or outsourced debarment checks. 

Automated debarment checks in publication management

The benefits of automation in the publication management process, including debarment checks, are numerous.

First, consider the sheer number of administrative tasks that medical affairs teams need to complete to support the development and approval of a new drug, in compliance with regulations both domestic and international. 

Extending to debarment checks and beyond, smart automations that fit to your existing processes and workflows are sure to introduce new efficiencies that save time and money, resulting in better margins on R&D as well as greater speed-to-market.

Download the PubPro product fact sheetPubPro by BP Logix was created with these specific goals in mind. With PubPro, medical affairs directors and managers can:

  • Manage publication process timelines, including via metrical data for identifying efficiencies and bottlenecks
  • Intelligently route and approve tasks
  • Collaborate across document authoring, to conduct quality checks and manage feedback
  • Customize reviewer assignments
  • Resolve high-stakes compliance gaps, including debarment checks and training verifications
  • And more!

This robust automation system produces many efficiencies, including ensuring compliance more quickly, so that you and your team can focus less on administrative work and more on the remainder of the publication management process. PubPro can conduct automated debarment checks for not only the FDA database, but also the OIG (Office of Inspector General) and SAM (System for Awards Management) databases.

Improve compliance and speed up your publication process with PubPro.

Contact us today to learn more about our solution built for medical affairs teams.

Topics: publication planning publication management
6 min read

How to Improve Your New Employee Roadmap

By Catie Leary on Apr 11, 2022 7:45:00 AM

new-employee-roadmapA new employee roadmap can be an effective way to get your HR onboarding processes “on paper,” so that you can then review both their effectiveness and their fit to the current needs of various stakeholders within your organization.

Let’s explore how and why such a roadmap is good policy, as well as the many ways to optimize the process using thoughtful planning and cost-saving HR automations.

The importance of the employee experience

As has been greatly underscored by the current, hot job market, the success of your organization in pursuing its financial and business goals depends in large measure on how your employees view their experience(s) working for and with you.

Employees who benefit from a clear, thoughtful, and efficient new employee roadmap will contribute towards greater retention in your organization. This reduced turnover will have a net positive impact on recruiting costs.

Additionally, employees who are happier, more informed, and feel valued  – all byproducts of smart and thorough onboarding, in addition to general company policy and culture – generate increased productivity.

Taken together, these two benefits of smooth onboarding (decreased turnover and increased productivity) help improve workplace culture.

So, let’s explore how to ensure that you’re doing everything you can with your new employee roadmap to optimize for such benefits and improvements.

How to improve your new employee roadmap

Remember that metaphorical “piece of paper” we start with, that outlines your current onboarding process?

Hopefully, it’s digital by now. But a more important question is whether you’re taking full advantage of all the opportunities to develop the best roadmap for your new employees.

1. Sync related processes

In a word, we recommend client’s “sync” related and overlapping HR processes with smart automations. This commonly manifests as a streamlined system that identifies and removes redundancies – or introduces new efficiencies – into your recruiting, preboarding, and onboarding cycle.

The main benefit of this approach becomes immediately apparent once implemented: a seamless experience, visible end-to-end, of the entire initial employee experience. In addition to cost-savings and the good impression it makes on new hires, HR leadership is able in this way to identify areas of future improvement within your evolving new employee roadmap.

2. Develop a standardized provisioning checklist

Imagine you’re a new employee. It’s your first day. You have everything you need to hit the ground running. Sounds perfect, right?

Except this is still a rare scenario, in too many organizations.

With the right groundwork, and smart automations, your HR department can stand out in this key area to new employee onboarding.

Here are some examples of what can be included in a standardized provisioning checklist:

  • Computer
  • Office supplies
  • IT accounts
  • VPN access
  • Other equipment
  • Facility access
  • Parking pass
  • Welcome package

Standardization doesn’t mean inflexible. With solutions like those offered by BP Logix, provisioning can be customized to your organizational needs, no matter the industry or administrative structure.

With everything listed in one place, HR leadership can enable management and departmental leadership to automate as much provisioning fulfillment as possible, leaving more time for important tasks like job fulfilment and company growth.

3. Engage with new hires before their first day

While a relatively simple and straightforward recommendation, pre-engagement merits a special mention when it comes to your new employee roadmap.

After the offer and acceptance, and before the official start date of your new hire, consider systematically equipping your new colleagues with the option of getting a head start. It helps both parties to clear some paperwork before engaging in the exciting but potentially overwhelming task of getting started in a new role.

Engaging with new hires before their official start can help smooth out the earliest days of a new business relationship, to the benefit of everyone.

4. Digitize new hire paperwork

Not every organization has digitized their new hire paperwork yet. Often, this is just something that’s gotten kicked down the road. That’s okay. But revisiting or rebooting your new employee roadmap should start with digitization.

As in – everything. There’s no need to fill in any gaps with paper forms, anymore.

Digitization makes everyone happier. Critical for remote-first and/or hybrid workplaces, but arguably just as or more important for physical office spaces, digitization reduces clutter (and your carbon footprint), speeds up form-filling, and enables data sharing across departments.

5. Assemble a welcome package

Perhaps you’ve seen them in snapshots posted to LinkedIn. A welcome package can be an opportunity for more than simple data collection, for forms and regulatory requirements.

Welcome packages impress employees, help them to feel connected at the onset of their work with your company, and they contribute to retention increases of up to 82%.

Some items you might include in a welcome package:

  • Welcome letter
  • “Getting to know you” survey
  • Welcome gift
  • Business cards
  • Company swag (mug, notepad, koozie, etc.)
  • Employee handbook
  • Org chart/directory
  • Info on company tools, office amenities and perks, nearby eateries and cafes

It takes just a little bit of upfront effort to plan and fulfill welcome packages, with high dividends paid back to you in the form of boosted retention and productivity.

6. Assign an onboarding buddy

Before remote and hybrid work became more common, many organizations large and small would often consolidate new employee onboarding processes into an orientation day. While this can still work, in today’s workplace this same motivation to build culture and speed up onboarding can be achieved by assigning onboarding buddies or cohorts digitally (and/or IRL).

An exhaustive new employee roadmap will focus on softer benefits like this along with other more tactile solutions. Help new hires acclimate by pairing them with others who might know more directly how they are feeling in their first days.

7. Home Run swing – knock your "day one" agenda out of the park

If we’re mentioning retention goals again, it’s because we’ve seen firsthand how valuable it is to our clients. On top of streamlining as much as possible, and as a supplement to other efforts to provide your new hires with a warm welcome, knocking your employee’s day one agenda out of the park is a great way to impress them and make onboarding more comfortable.

A strong first day agenda might involve:

  • An office tour (bonus points for creativity)
  • Meet-and-greet with team/leadership
  • 1:1 with direct manager
  • 1:1 with onboarding buddy
  • Welcome lunch or other social event

Much of what we’re discussing around your optimized new employee roadmap is about clear, direct, thoughtful communications with new hires – and a winning day one schedule sets the tone in this regard.

8. Develop a 30/60/90 plan

Make it clear, document goals and milestones, establish expectations at the onset.

With things like automated onboarding helping to clear the busywork at the start, a firm and clearly communicated 30/60/90 onboarding plan will see so many positive returns for both your organization and its new hires.

Productivity will benefit from such a structured plan, as will morale.

9. Streamline training and orientation with online learning

Especially when paired with many of the above strategies and tools, employing online learning for new hire training and orientation can provide additional onboarding efficiencies. It also documents regulatory compliance efforts and makes them easily reportable.

Finally, especially for trainings that are important but don’t require you or other leaders to necessarily be “in the room”, online learning provides a speedier process for employees eager to go at their own pace – and then get to work on their day-to-day responsibilities.

10. Get feedback from new hires

Last but not least, a comprehensive new employee roadmap will create space for many feedback touchpoints. Automation can help again here, but whether you use it or choose to check in manually, it’s worth engaging new hires at regular intervals to see how things are going for them. Take advantage of their perspective to identity improvements or new additions to your roadmap.

Process automation: The core of your roadmap

As has hopefully been made clear, process automation for your employee onboarding can introduce many efficiencies and benefits into your new hire roadmap.

At BP Logix, we’ve designed products that maximize these efficiencies, while also leaving room for custom solutions built to the unique needs of your organization.

To more closely explore how process automation can take your new employee roadmap to the next level, set up some time with BP Logix to demo our software.

Better retention, higher productivity, a happier workplace culture – all these and more can be won by smarter, faster, error-resistant new hire data collection and processing.

Topics: hr automation
7 min read

How to Automate Your Employee Onboarding Process

By Catie Leary on Mar 31, 2022 11:15:00 AM

employee-onboarding-hr-automation

Automating your employee onboarding consolidates and reduces redundancies in HR processes, saves you time, and improves the accuracy and security of organizational data. In even better news, it also contributes to greater productivity and retention among new employees.

In this guide, we’ll dive deep into how and why implementing an HR automation solution for onboarding proves so powerful for future-forward organizations.

Why should I automate in the first place?

Manual onboarding or partially automated onboarding processes can leave a lot to be desired for both HR leaders and employees. 

With all respect for the challenges of managing employee data in a complex and/or growing organization, legacy processes often suffer from a number of inefficiencies:

  • Siloed data, both within HR departments and between shared departmental resources
  • Disconnected recruiting, hiring, and onboarding processes
  • Human error

Automated onboarding enables greater leveraging of the same data points across departments and functions in your organization. By identifying areas of overlap, or revealing new opportunities for data sharing – all while proving more secure than manual processes – automated onboarding introduces a greater fluidity to existing processes.

With AI-enabled technology leading the way, errors are reduced, compliance is made simpler, and employees are left impressed by your organization. This not only fosters greater satisfaction in their first days at the job, it also improves retention in the long term and ensures more productivity at the onset. 

In this way, employees can jump into their new job functions with confidence, while you report to management that the help they needed is on the way, faster than ever before.

How to automate your employee onboarding process

At BP Logix, we do not advocate for a one-size-fits-all approach to automated employee onboarding. Every organization has unique needs, and your automated onboarding process should meet those needs better than your current manual or partially-automated processes.

In most cases, you and your team will know best which processes could benefit from automation. You probably have a list of headaches and bottlenecks from processes that either need a complete update, or could stand to be made more efficient.

When identifying how to automate more holistically, you’ll want to audit current processes to discover which (and how many) need to be retired or integrated with other solutions.

Examples of onboarding processes and HR tasks that are frequently improved through automation can include:

  • Recruiting and hiring
  • Employee referrals
  • New employee forms
  • Benefits enrollment
  • Equipment provisioning and/or reimbursements or expenses
  • Facilities access
  • IT setup
  • Vaccination attestation
  • Training and compliance

Many of the data inputs and outputs inherent to these processes can be shared, and organized in such a way that they both align with your unique organizational structures and meet the essential needs for internal reporting, regulatory compliance, and employee engagement.

What to look for in your automated employee onboarding solution

While there are many onboarding solutions on the market, several options seek to force the disparate needs of various organizations into one, broad approach. 

This can help to marginally improve things, but such an approach often shortchanges HR departments on some of the very promises that automation offers in the first place.

Instead, look for software that promises a robust set of capabilities that matches your organization’s unique needs.

  • End-to-end visibility: Track progress and identify bottlenecks with a high-level view of the entire employee onboarding cycle, from recruitment, to day one, through to 30/60/90 day analyses.
  • Customizable workflows: Automated onboarding systems should fit your company’s particular HR needs – not the other way around.
  • Pre-built workflow components: Customization doesn’t mean you can’t hit the ground running, or that you can’t implement a new automated system quickly. Smart onboarding automations provide templates and pre-built modules for common tasks like requests/approvals, document submission and filing, and provisioning checklists. This allows HR managers to swiftly improve core processes even as bespoke integrations are being implemented (these can also be built quickly, with the right software).
  • Intelligent routing and approvals: Ensure the correct review/approval tasks are delivered to the right hands, at the right times, with automations that account for the busyness and imperfection of humans in the loop. Automations are meant to make lives easier. They aren’t just a means of simply duplicating manual processes in digital form.
  • Predictive analytics: Be warned when a task is going to be late, or if there’s another similar challenge looming. Analyze organizational trends to target new efficiencies.
  • Seamless integrations: Plugging into existing IT systems should be as easy as possible. Low-code, AI-enabled technology will reduce friction in matching new automated solutions to existing data architectures.
  • User-friendly dashboards: HR managers want automations that help them do their jobs, which should include reports and interfaces that are as easy-to-use as the underlying automation technologies they are built upon. Extended to users and onboarding employees, this easiness should reap many more positive benefits within the organization, once rolled-out.

A great way to see just how crucial features like these can optimize your employee onboarding processes is with a tour of BP Logix's solution:

Employee onboarding tour

Spotlight: Automated employee onboarding success in action

Let’s look at how customers are using BP Logix to automate and improve their employee onboarding process:

University of Wisconsin Eau Claire

UW Eau ClaireWhen the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire was looking to replace a legacy onboarding system that was no longer meeting their evolving needs, and costing too much money for a fixed cohort of licensed users, they did a lot of homework

After looking at over 100 products, a few key factors in particular led to them to shortlist Process Director, from BP Logix.

UW-Eau Claire needed an onboarding solution that:

  • Favored cross-compatibility
  • Didn’t cost more than made reasonable sense
  • Was easy to develop to internal needs
  • Was easy to use
  • Did not charge per-seat for licensing
  • Did not have any barriers to development
  • Featured better responsiveness and support

According to UW-Eau Claire, they ultimately selected BP Logix as their partner for automating employee onboarding based on the strength of their demo of Process Director. 

In line with the professed advantages in speed, simplicity, customization, compatibility and cost-reduction, UW-Eau Claire found that Process Director  for BP Logix delivered on the promise of automation to make their HR processes better and more modern.

The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP)

UTEP BP Logix case studyHuman resources leaders at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) wanted to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the organization’s decision to go green, to also streamline employee onboarding and other processes through more advanced automation.

Ultimately, they chose BP Logix as their partner in this, with the end result being the elimination of 200 paper forms and counting. 

On top of this, UTEP cited the following benefits to automating their documentation:

  • Easy to install, use and customize BP Logix software
  • Time saved – the UTEP IT team saved countless hours with low-code implementation
  • Less frustration, no more missed deadlines, thanks to greater visibility and smart notifications from the BP Logix dashboard

UTEP ultimately felt they found a perfect match in BP Logix, considering that they also needed more advanced functionality with their new automated employee onboarding solution, such as user authentication and dynamic documentation routing.

With this blend of streamlining and custom modification, UTEP was able to leverage automated onboarding to make user experiences more pleasant for employees and students alike.

Smart automation makes for happier humans, too

While perhaps less easy to quantify in the past, in recent years researchers have begun to see how the right automations can lead to happier, more productive employees

We’ve already touched on such benefits a bit, but let’s dig in more fully, considering the importance of employee engagement to organizational success.

The employee advantages to implementing an automated onboarding system are numerous, and often include:

  • Removing tediousness from the process
  • Bridging the gap, and speeding up the handoff, between recruiting and onboarding
  • Empowering and impressing new hires from the onset
  • Positive impacts on workplace culture

Automated onboarding represents the sort of technology organizations will want to adopt, as they continue to focus more on the human in human resources – towards results that will also impress leadership, when costs are reduced and productivity grows.

Take employee onboarding into the future with BP Logix

Examples like the above highlight just some of the ways by which BP Logix seeks to deliver automated onboarding solutions that strike the appropriate balance of efficiency and customization for an organization like yours.

If you’re reading this and wondering if a new automated employee onboarding solution could make your life easier, and your organization more productive and happy, let’s get you a demo and dig in on what particularly BP Logix can do for your HR team.

Happy onboarding!

Topics: hr automation
7 min read

HR Automation: The Essential Guide to Streamlining Business Processes

By Catie Leary on Feb 14, 2022 7:45:00 AM

HR-automation-essential-guide

HR automation software can streamline recruitment workflows and enhance the employee onboarding and offboarding experience. Here's our guide for businesses looking to streamline their HR processes with technology.

What is human resources (HR) automation?

Human resources (HR) automation is a process of streamlining repetitive human resource functions, including employee onboarding and offboarding, payroll, benefits administration, and more. HR automation uses technology to digitalize and automate time-consuming and repetitive tasks that fall under the scope of the HR department.

Statistics from Gartner’s Artificial Intelligence Survey showcase that the businesses who are implementing automation tools powered by artificial intelligence (AI) to streamline repetitive HR tasks improve employee experience and make informed decisions. In fact:

  • 51% of businesses implement HR automation tools to capture cost savings.
  • Over 56% of those deployed AI-powered HR automation tools are looking to improve customer experience and automate repetitive, time-consuming, or manual tasks.
  • 62% of those deployed AI-powered HR automation tools are looking to improve the accuracy of decision-making.

Automating HR processes is a paramount for organizations of all sizes as it helps in reducing employee turnover rates and increasing organizational productivity. We put together this guide to help businesses understand the benefits of HR automation and identify the common HR workflows to automate.

Common HR processes and workflows to automate

A few common HR functions and workflows to automate are recruitment, development, payroll, employee relations, employee retention, tax compliance, health and safety, performance management, and offboarding. Let’s take an in-depth look at a few of these below.

Recruiting efforts

The recruitment process comprises several steps, including recruitment planning, strategy development, searching for ideal candidates, screening of candidates, and evaluation.

An HR automation software can reduce the cost-per-hire and improve recruiter productivity by eliminating the need for human interference in the following recruitment tasks:

  • Candidate sourcing and engagement.
  • Screening resumes based on various predetermined parameters such as experience, qualifications, salary expectations, and skill sets.
  • Applicant’s status updates throughout the recruitment journey.
  • Scheduling interviews.

Employee onboarding

Over 36% of HR leaders in a recent survey blamed insufficient technology for their inability to streamline employee onboarding programs. An HR automation software can enhance the onboarding experience for new hires by eliminating the need for manual interference in activities such as:

  • Pre-boarding workflows, including sending welcome emails and creating user accounts.
  • Scheduling orientation meetings.
  • Employee onboarding documentation.
  • Collecting feedback on recruitment and onboarding process.

Not sure where to start? Don't miss our guide for how to automate the employee onboarding process.

Employee offboarding

Employee offboarding is a process that involves several activities leading to a formal separation between the employer and the employee. Organizations need to streamline the employee offboarding process to meet compliance standards, minimize legal risks, and provide the best possible experience for the departing employee. An HR automation software can automate offboarding activities such as:

  • Resetting shared passwords.
  • Creating backups of data or documentation.
  • Revoking access controls.
  • Getting non-disclosure agreements signed.
  • Conducting exit surveys.

Payroll and employee benefits

Manually managing payroll is time-consuming, error-prone, and labor-intensive. The lack of automation often results in employees receiving salaries and benefits at a later date than expected, or identifying mistakes that take great lengths of time to resolve.

A few payroll and employee benefits tasks that can be automated are:

  • Timekeeping and time tracking.
  • Calculating wages based on working hours, overtime, and holidays.
  • Processing direct deposits and sending notifications to employees about their salary deposits.
  • Managing deductions for employee benefits.
  • Completing and filing relevant paperwork.

Expense claims

Expense claims are reimbursement requests submitted by employees to claim back the costs they paid on behalf of their employer. Every month, HR team members receive expense claims in the form of mileage, food, and travel expenses. However, a recent survey found that 43% of businesses are still managing expense reports manually. Of those who implemented automation software, 82% have said they aimed to simplify the expense reporting process for employees and managers.

An HR automation software can simplify the expense claims process by:

  • Eliminating the need for physical reports/paper documents.
  • Enabling employees to scan and upload claim reports.
  • Getting the approvals from managers through e-signatures.
  • Automatic and timely pay-outs.

Routine data entry

Did you know that HR professionals lose over 14 hours a week on manual and repetitive data entry tasks that could be automated? In most organizations, HR teams are forced to do routine data entry tasks with regards to HR processes such as attendance, payroll, employee data recording (personal and medical), and taxes. An HR automation software can eliminate human interference in routine data entry processes such as:

  • Entering employee data.
  • Identifying the incorrect, irrelevant, incomplete, and duplicate data.
  • Verifying and validating data.
  • Updating the database.

Tax filing

Staying compliant with employment tax requirements is one of the biggest concerns for businesses. With manual HR processes, it is very difficult for HR teams to keep up with tax laws and deadlines.

According to Deloitte, organizations have a 15-90 percent cost reduction opportunity depending on the taxation activities they select for automation.

HR automation software can help businesses streamline the following activities within the scope of filing taxes and help them stay compliant with tax laws:

  • Gathering and validating data from employees.
  • Running reports and calculating adjustments.
  • Filing income tax returns.
  • Keeping tax reports to meet the compliance standards.

Performance reviews

91% of companies that adopted continuous performance management are making informed-people-decisions and removing biases in promotion and advancement. With automation software, HR teams can streamline the feedback collection process and spend less time on administrative tasks related to performance appraisal such as:

  • Gathering self-feedback from employees.
  • Gathering feedback from peers and managers.
  • Sending reminders to employees/managers.
  • Implementing Objectives and Key Results (OKR) framework (OKR is a tool used by organizations to determine SMART goals and track their outcomes.)

Benefits of automated HR systems

There are a myriad of benefits to implementing automation in your HR systems and processes, including:

Improved efficiency that positively impacts operations

HR teams often waste time on unproductive and repetitive tasks such as screening candidates, scheduling orientation meetings, and manually entering employee data into spreadsheets and timesheets.

Software that automated processes in HR systems can improve the efficiency of HR teams by letting them focus more on strategic tasks such as recruitment planning and succession planning than unproductive and repetitive tasks. This level of efficiency can trickle down to other parts of the business, positively impacting revenue-generating departments of an organization.

Less dependence on paper documents

HR is a document-driven department. However, paper-based processing is highly time-consuming and costly. In fact, U.S businesses waste over $8 billion managing papers every year. Additionally, they spend an average of $120 to find a misplaced document and $220 to recreate a lost document. An HR automation software reduces the dependence on paper documents and increases the productivity of HR teams by digitalizing activities such as onboarding, offboarding, tax filing, and feedback collection.

Reduced clerical errors that cause financial loss

An overwhelming 97% of the workforce, in a recent survey, stated that automation can help their organization in reducing human errors and improving productivity. An HR management software may help organizations reduce clerical errors that cause financial losses.

Improved experience for job candidates

Job candidates often feel anxious about the company when they don’t receive updates on the status of their recruitment journey from the HR department. When manual processes are in place, HR staff struggles to provide updates to job candidates on a regular basis, risking the loss of potential new employees. This often results in dismal recruitment experience for job candidates and reflects poorly on the organization as a whole.

An HR automation tool can improve the experience of job candidates through following ways:

  • Providing regular updates on the status recruitment journey.
  • Answering repetitive questions about the job through chatbots.
  • Streamlining the employee evaluation through push notifications.
  • Streamlining pre-boarding workflows.

Put your people first! Better experience for existing employees

An HR automation software enables you to put your people first and provide them with a better working experience. This often results in higher employee retention rates and better organizational performance. To add, organizations in which HR departments facilitate a positive employee experience report 1.3 times higher organizational performance.

Effective HR and business process automation with BP Logix

Automation can help HR managers eliminate redundant, time-consuming, and labor-intensive tasks in areas such as recruitment, onboarding, payroll, offboarding employee benefits, expense claims, tax compliance, performance management, and more.

A human resources automation software can improve the efficiency of HR teams and make them less dependent on papers.

Ready to accomplish the same?

Streamline your human resource management processes with the help of BP Logix HR Automation Software. Request a demo to see how it can assist your organization today.

Topics: hr automation
3 min read

Cal/OSHA ETS: California Employers' Guide to Return-to-Work Criteria

By Steve Altschuler on Feb 1, 2022 9:25:00 AM

calosha ets california employers

OSHA may not be enforcing their ETS at a federal level, but that isn't stopping some state and local governments from moving forward with their own guidelines requiring employers to track employee vaccinations and enforce testing.

In California, employers must comply with the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention ETS, which was updated in December 2021 with changes that include the adoption of California Department of Public Health (CDPH) guidance on isolation and quarantine recommendations.

These revisions, which went into effect on Jan. 14, include things like updated standards for acceptable face coverings and new definitions for the term "fully vaccinated." However, the changes that are likely to have the biggest operational impacts on employers revolve around return-to-work requirements and testing protocols.

In this article, we'll summarize these changes and explain how California employers can reduce the administrative burden of complying with them.

Return-to-work requirements

One of the most impactful revisions to the Cal/OSHA ETS concerns the timelines and requirements for allowing employees to return to work following a positive test or close contact. The return-to-work criteria in the revised ETS are as follows:

Employees who test positive for COVID

Any employee, regardless of their vaccination status, must isolate for a minimum of 5 days if they test positive for COVID.

An employee may return to the workplace after day 5 if symptoms are not present or are resolving and a diagnostic test collected on day 5 comes back negative. If they return to the workplace after day 5, they must wear face covering around other for 10 days following the positive test.

If the employee does not undergo testing or if their symptoms do not resolve, they may return to work once their symptom resolve or until after day 10. The one exception is a fever – an employee may not return to work until their fever resolves.

Employees who are exposed to COVID

Unvaccinated

Employees who are not fully vaccinated are required to quarantine for a minimum of 5 days if they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

The exposed employee must take a COVID test on day 5, and if no symptoms are present and the specimen tests negative, the employee may return to the workplace. If the employee does not undergo testing and does not have symptoms, they may return to the workplace after day 10. If they test positive, they must follow isolation requirements.

Fully vaccinated

If an employee is fully vaccinated with a booster or they are fully vaccinated but not yet eligible for their booster, they are not required to quarantine after exposure to someone with COVID.

However, they must test negative on day 5 following exposure, as well as wear facial coverings around other for 10 days following exposure. If they develop symptoms, they must be excluded from the workplace pending test results, and if they receive positive test results, they must isolate.

Vaccinated but not boosted despite eligibility

If a vaccinated employee is booster-eligible but has not received their booster yet, they are required to quarantine and obtain a negative tests 3-5 days after being exposed to someone with COVID-19.

Regardless of test results, they must wear facial coverings around others for 10 days following the exposure.

Testing standards and availability

Additional revisions to the Cal/OSHA ETS seek to improve the standards and availability of COVID testing in the workplace. These changes include:

Improving the integrity of self-administered tests

The definition of "COVID-19 test" now includes specific instructions for workers using a test at home with self-read results.

According to Cal/OSHA ETS, "over-the-counter (OTC) tests may not be both self-administered and self-read unless observed by the employer or an authorized telehealth proctor."

Making testing widely available during outbreaks

In the event of an outbreak, employers must make weekly COVID-19 testing available to all employees, regardless of their vaccination status. For major outbreaks, employers must make testing available to all employees on a twice-weekly basis (or more frequently depending on local health department recommendations).

A vaccination and COVID test tracking solution for California employers

All of the requirements in the Cal/OSHA ETS are designed to make workplaces safer, but that leaves employers holding a bag brimming with logistical and administrative headaches.

From juggling all the complex variables of the return-to-work process to arranging for independent observation of employee testing, there's an awful lot of moving parts employers need to consider.

That's why employers in California are turning to BP Logix's Vaccine Tracker App to manage their workplace vaccination/testing policy. With this solution, employers can ensure compliance with the Cal/OSHA ETS, keep employees safe and fit for duty, and reduce potential impacts to revenue during an outbreak.

Ready to learn more about vaccine tracking for employers in California? Book a free demo today.

 
Topics: vaccine tracking
9 min read

HR Automation Guide to Employee Offboarding

By Catie Leary on Jan 28, 2022 2:00:00 PM

HR-employee-offboarding

Employee offboarding is a process that leads to a formal separation between employee and employer. The offboarding process involves several activities, including deactivating access rights, returning equipment, collecting feedback through exit surveys, and transferring job responsibilities. Let's walk through how employee offboarding works and how HR automation can streamline the process.

When to start offboarding an employee

The offboarding process begins immediately after the employee tenders the letter of resignation for the job. A few common reasons for kickstarting the employee offboarding process are:  

Voluntary resignation

Voluntary resignation takes place when an employee chooses to leave the organization voluntarily. Employees opt for voluntary resignation for various reasons, including a better offer from another organization, personal conflict with managers, health issues, and relocation.

Retirement

Retirement takes place when an employee permanently leaves the job as he/she attains the full retirement age. For instance, the full retirement age in the United States ranges between 66 years and two months and 67 years.

Furloughs and layoffs

A furlough is a temporary mandatory leave given to human resources in special situations such as an economic recession or a pandemic like COVID-19. A furloughed employee may be called back to work when the situation returns to normalcy. 

Layoffs are a temporary or permanent termination of employment of a worker or a group of workers.

Involuntary termination

Involuntary termination refers to the dismissal of an employee from employment by the employer. A few reasons for involuntary termination may include poor performance, willful insubordination, fraud, and dishonesty.

Onboarding vs. offboarding

Onboarding and offboarding aren’t the same. Here is a table that identifies the differences between employee onboarding and offboarding:

Onboarding

Offboarding

1. Integrating new hires into the organization and its organizational culture.

2. Onboarding documentation. This may include enrolling the employee in payroll, benefits, and taxation. 

3. An induction program enables the employee to understand administration must-haves, meet co-workers, and take an office tour.

1. Making arrangements for the seamless withdrawal of employment.

2. Documentation for termination. This may include signing non-disclosure agreements, benefit transfers, and tax documents. 

3. An exit interview enables the employer to collect feedback from the resigned employee.

Most employers don’t give as much priority to offboarding as they give to the onboarding of employees. The below statistics showcase the importance of the formal offboarding process for organizations:

  1. According to Intermedia SMB Rogue Access Study, 89% of employees were able to access sensitive corporate applications after they completed offboarding formalities.
  2. 72% of CEOs, in a recent survey, admitted that they have taken important intellectual property (IP) details, ideas, and sensitive data with them from their former employer.

Moving forward into this article, we’ll explain more about why proper employee offboarding is important for the organization and provide a checklist that helps HR teams to improve the effectiveness of the offboarding process.

Why is proper employee offboarding important?

Organizations may need to implement a proper employee offboarding process to:

1. Meet compliance standards and regulation

Data leakages by former employees may result in compliance violations and attract huge penalties from regulatory bodies. For instance, the penalties imposed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) for data breaches can go up to $1.5 million per violation.

Automation helps the organization avoid costly data breaches and meet compliance standards by preventing email forwards and resetting passwords without any manual intervention.

2. Minimize legal and security risks

Around 50% of IT leaders, in a survey conducted by TechRepublic, said that the outgoing employee’s accounts remain active for longer than a day after they left the organization. This poses a huge security risk to the organization.

By automating the employee offboarding process with the help of HR Workflow Software, the HR team can deactivate the access rights to sensitive information immediately after the employee’s resignation is accepted.

3. Collect critical feedback for the department/organization

Employees are the best source of information for the organization. Since employees interact with various stakeholders, including co-workers, suppliers, customers, and creditors daily, they will be in a better position to provide honest feedback about both department and organization-wide operational practices.

An employee offboarding process, powered by automation software with a user-friendly interface, can collect and interpret the critical data from employees through:

  1. Detailed and well-thought-out template questions.
  2. Best-in-class analytics.

4. Part ways on the best terms

Former employees can make or break the employer brand. A poor offboarding process may spread negative word of mouth about the employment practices of an organization in the market. This negative word of mouth makes it difficult for the organization to attract qualified employees. Therefore, the organization should always try to part ways with employees on good terms.

By automating the offboarding process, the HR teams can streamline the activities such as getting the documentation signed and issuing the final paycheck on time.

The two major benefits of automation here are:

  1. Hassle-free offboarding experience to employees.
  2. On-time relieving of the employee.

5. Helps with future onboarding processes

Offboarding and onboarding go hand-in-hand. An ineffective offboarding may negatively impact the onboarding processes of the organization.

For example, if the knowledge transfer is not properly done during an employee offboarding, the organization may need to train the new employee separately by spending additional resources. Therefore, HR teams should focus on streamlining the offboarding if they want to improve the effectiveness of the onboarding processes.

A quick employee offboarding checklist for HR teams 

Here is a nine-point checklist that helps HR teams to complete the employee offboarding process successfully:

  • Notify all key stakeholders of the employee leaving
  • Get all relevant paperwork and documentation signed and filed
  • Plan an official knowledge transfer
  • Issue final paycheck and update payroll
  • Update your organization charts
  • Recover all company assets and hardware
  • Revoke or cancel systems access
  • Conduct an exit interview 
  • Stay in touch!

1. Notify all key stakeholders of the employee leaving

Employees regularly interact with various stakeholders including co-workers, suppliers, and customers. When an employee leaves the job, the first thing the HR team should do is to notify all key stakeholders about this development through email, phone, or any other relevant means of communication.  

This communication may include the following details:

  • The last working day of the employee.
  • Details of the person, who handles the work until a replacement is found.
  • Details of the successor, if already a replacement has already been hired.

2. Get all relevant paperwork and documentation signed and filed

Documentation is a vital step in employee offboarding. The employee needs to sign a few documents and receive several forms from the HR team while leaving the organization.

  1. Get the non-disclosure agreement signed, if applicable. This agreement ensures the employee does not use the company’s sensitive information for his personal use or third-party’s benefit.
  2. Get the Change of Address form filled, if the employee is relocating. This ensures the employee receives his/her Form-W2 without any delay.
  3. Gain the employee’s written permission to release the employment records for future reference checks.
  4. Give out the letters related to the status of health insurance, retirement benefit, and other benefits the employee might have received from the company.
  5. Provide details about Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).

3. Plan an official knowledge transfer

Knowledge transfer is a process of transferring the skillsets, job knowledge, and behaviors from the relieving employee to the one who replaces him/her. An effective knowledge transfer, at the time of employee offboarding, may involve several steps, including, but not limited to:

  1. Explain the job responsibilities.
  2. Identify the outstanding tasks and give knowledge on how to address them.
  3. If possible, facilitate the work shadowing for a week (work shadowing is an on-job training wherein a new employee observes an expert performing the job).
  4. Use knowledge measurement tools to assess the success of knowledge transfer.

4. Issue final paycheck and update payroll

HR teams may follow the organizational policies while issuing the final paycheck to employees. If the organizational policy states that the employees receive their final paycheck on the last day, HR teams should stick to the same and make appropriate arrangements.

HR teams should consider the following aspects while issuing the final paycheck:

  1. Deduct the salary advance from the final paycheck.
  2. Add bonus, commissions, and reimbursements, if any, to the final paycheck.
  3. Add the money the employee had accrued through paid time off (PTO) to the final paycheck.

Once the final paycheck is issued, HR teams should remove the employee's name from the payroll. According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the organization may need to maintain the payroll records of employees for at least three years. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) asks employers to maintain the records of employment taxes for at least four years.

5. Update your organization charts

An organizational chart represents the hierarchical structure of roles, responsibilities, and relationships within the entity. The organizational chart plays a vital role in seamless communication flow and internal reporting at the workplace.

Employee termination or resignation creates a void in the organizational chart and obstructs the information flow within the organization. Immediately after an employee departs from the organization, the HR team should update the organizational chart and ensure there is no disruption in the information flows and internal reporting.

In large-scale companies, HR teams may need to update the organizational charts both department and organization-wide.

6. Recover all company assets and hardware

HR departments need to recover all the company’s assets and hardware from the employees when offboarding them. The following are the assets the HR team may need to recover from employees:

  1. ID badges
  2. Computers, laptops, and chargers
  3. Hard drives and pen drives
  4. Drawing pads
  5. Phones
  6. Car or other vehicles
  7. Credit cards

Though it is a bit rude, the HR teams are advised not to give final clearance until the employee returns the company property that they may have in their possession.

7. Revoke or cancel systems access

Considering the increasing number of data breaches, revoking system access is a vital step in the offboarding process. While revoking the systems access, the HR team should focus on four aspects:

  1. Reset shared passwords
  2. Prevent email forwarding or sharing files.
  3. Revoke access to corporate applications.
  4. Create reliable backups.

8. Conduct an exit interview 

An exit interview is the best way to collect honest feedback from the departing employee. It helps the HR team to identify areas of improvement in employment practices.

A few exit interview questions that can be asked to a departing employee are:

  1. Why do you choose to leave the job?
  2. Which aspects of our organizational culture you did not like?
  3. What could we have done to retain you?
  4. What did you like the best and least of the job?
  5. Were your accomplishments recognized throughout your employment?

The “check the box” type of feedback collection is ineffective. The HR manager should engage in face-to-face interaction with the exiting employee to gather feedback.

9. Stay in touch! 

Never get disconnected from your former employees. Stay in touch with former employees, learn about their career progression, and offer compliments for their professional achievements even after they exit from the organization. HR teams can make use of social networks such as LinkedIn and Twitter to maintain a relationship with ex-employees.

Simplify and automate the employee offboarding process with BP Logix

There is no better way to simplify the employee offboarding process than by automating it. A proper offboarding process is important for the organization because it helps to meet compliance standards, minimize legal and security risks, collect critical feedback for the department/organization, and part ways with employees on the best terms.

HR team members may need to create a checklist for the employee offboarding and make sure each point in the checklist is marked before giving a formal send-off to the employee. An HR workflow software enables the organization to streamline the activities involved in the employee offboarding process and ensure employees are relieved on time.

Automate the employee offboarding process with the help of BP Logix HR Workflow Software. Request a demo to see how it can assist your organization.

Topics: hr automation
6 min read

How the CMS Vaccine Mandate Applies to Healthcare Employers

By Steve Altschuler on Jan 24, 2022 2:54:41 PM

cms-mandate

With all the recent legal challenges to federal vaccine requirements, there's a lot of confusion about the status of not only the OSHA ETS but also the CMS mandate.

While the OSHA ETS has likely exhausted its chances of passing, the Supreme Court has allowed the CMS mandate to move forward per a recent ruling on Jan. 13 that overturned stays of the CMS mandate that had been applied to 25 states.

There are still court cases pending, although given the ruling, it would appear that those legal battles will face a significant challenge in getting the CMS mandate overturned.

In this article, we explain everything you need to know about the CMS and walk through what healthcare organizations need to be doing right now to prepare.

The CMS mandate, explained.

cms-medicare-medicaid-logoThe Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) vaccine mandate was first announced in September 2021 as component of President Biden's sweeping vaccination plan that also included the OSHA ETS and federal contractor mandate. Broadly, this mandate would require vaccination of any staff working in healthcare facilities that participate in Medicare/Medicaid.

Let's explore some common questions about the CMS mandate:

1. What healthcare facilities are covered under the CMS mandate?

The CMS mandate applies to healthcare facilities regulated by Medicare, including:

  • Ambulatory surgery centers (ASC)
  • Clinics
  • Community mental health centers
  • Comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation facilities (CORF)
  • Critical access hospitals (CAH)
  • End-stage renal disease (ESRD) facilities
  • Home health agencies (HHA)
  • Home infusion therapy suppliers
  • Hospices
  • Hospitals
  • Intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Medicare federally qualified health centers (FQHC)
  • Programs for all-inclusive care for the elderly organizations (PACE)
  • Psychiatric residential treatment facilities (PRTF)
  • Public health agencies as providers of outpatient physical therapy and speech-language pathology services
  • Rehabilitation agencies
  • Rural health clinics (RHC)

The CMS rule does not apply to most physician groups, even if they participate in the Medicare or Medicaid program.

2. How is the CMS mandate different from the OSHA ETS vaccine-or-test guidelines?

Unlike the OSHA ETS, the CMS mandate is a full vaccination mandate. There is no option for testing, although there are still provisions for accommodations based upon disability, medical reasons or sincerely held religious beliefs. Also, the CMS mandate applies to all staff in covered healthcare facilities, not just employees. This includes licensed practitioners, students, trainees and volunteers. The mandate also applies to any individual who provides care, treatment or any other service for the facility or their patients.

3. What are the compliance deadlines for the CMS mandate?

There are two sets of deadlines for states, depending on whether the state was one of the 25 where the stay had been in place or not.

For providers in the District of Columbia, U.S. territories and the 25 states where the stay was not in place, the deadlines are as follows:
  • By January 27, CMS will expect covered facilities to have developed and implemented policies and procedures to ensure that all staff are vaccinated and that 100% of staff have received at least one dose of the vaccination, or have a pending request for, or have been granted a qualifying exemption.
  • By February 26, those facilities must also ensure that 100% of staff have completed their vaccine series or have been granted a qualifying exemption.

The 25 states subject to these deadlines are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

For the 24 states in which the CMS had been stayed (until being lifted by the SCOTUS ruling), the deadlines are as follows:
  • By February 14, covered facilities are expected to have developed and implemented policies and procedures to ensure that all staff are vaccinated and that 100% of staff have received at least one dose of the vaccination, or have a pending request for, or have been granted a qualifying exemption.
  • By March 15, those facilities must also ensure that 100% of staff have completed their vaccine series or have been granted a qualifying exemption.

The 24 states subject to the deadlines above are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

What about Texas?

Texas is a special case in which the compliance deadlines have not been determined yet.

4. What happens in the event of non-compliance?

CMS has stated that within 90 days of the issuance of applicable guidance (on December 28, 2021 or January 14, 2022, depending on whether the state had been stayed or not), facilities that fail to maintain compliance may be subject to enforcement action.

That enforcement remedy for non-compliance is termination of the provider’s ability to offer Medicare and Medicaid services, although for nursing homes, home health agencies, and hospices, CMS may impose civil monetary penalties or deny payments. For CMS, however, the primary goal is to bring facilities into compliance. Termination or penalties would only occur after a facility is provided with an opportunity to make corrections and come into compliance.

vaccine-gloves-covid

What should healthcare employers be doing about the CMS mandate?

There are 4 things that healthcare providers need to consider when evaluating their next steps.

1. Confirm whether they are a covered facility.

Simply receiving Medicare or Medicaid funds does not by itself mean that a facility is covered by this rule. The rule only applies to certified providers which involves an application and surveying process, adherence to conditions of participation and being subject to period follow-up surveys. There is a list below that identifies the types of facilities that would qualify as a covered facility.

2. Roll out a facility vaccination policy aligned with CMS requirements.

If they are a covered facility, they need to be tracking vaccination status and issue a policy by January 27 (or February 14). The facility should determine and continue to track the vaccination status of its staff. Covered facilities should have developed policies describing how applicable tracking has been implemented along with compliance, recordkeeping documentation and training requirements. Also, procedures should have been implemented to ensure confidential consideration and responses to requests for accommodation, which would include any additional precautions that would be applicable to individuals who are granted accommodations. The facility needs to be prepared for CMS inspections, which will likely begin in the next few weeks or months.

3. Understand how the CMS mandate intersects with other orders.

They need to be aware of state laws or executive orders which conflict with the CMS mandate. Those states are primarily Florida, Texas, Tennessee and Montana. Usually, a federal law would prevail but with the litigation environment, facilities should be prepared for further legal challenges.

4. Have a plan to handle employee requests for accommodations.

As providers who may have already mandated vaccines are aware, employees will make requests for accommodations based on medical or religious reasons. Prompt and appropriate processing of those requests is crucial to complying with both the CMS mandate as well as other federal laws. It is critical to directly engage with employees in this interactive process and documenting that process and those efforts are extremely important.

Prepare for the CMS mandate

Complying with the CMS mandate doesn't have to be a logistical nightmare. Comply with the federal CMS mandate and make it as easy as possible for staff to submit proof of COVID-19 vaccination status with the BP Logix Vaccine Tracker.

vaccine tracking app

Book your free demo today.

 
Topics: vaccine tracking
6 min read

HR Automation Guide to New Employee Onboarding

By Catie Leary on Jan 21, 2022 11:15:00 AM

HR-employee-onboarding

Streamlining the employee onboarding process with HR automation can increase the new hire retention rate. Here is an HR guide to best practices for new employee onboarding.

What is employee onboarding?

Employee onboarding is a systematic process of introducing new hires to the organization and integrating them into the organizational culture. The process of onboarding a new hire starts from the day the organization releases the offer letter.

A proper onboarding process creates a positive first impression about the organization and its culture. It helps the HR team establish the company culture and set up the stage for a collaborative workspace.

The following statistics showcase many organizations haven’t yet adopted the best practices for employee onboarding:

  1. In a survey conducted by Gallup, 88% of employees said that their employers did a poor job onboarding them.
  2. As little as 37% of companies are extending the employee onboarding process beyond a month.

The absence of the best practices for employee onboarding is a cause for concern because it increases employee turnover rates and lowers organizational productivity. We put together this guide to help HR teams of manufacturing companies adopt best practices for the employee onboarding process and develop a checklist for day one of the employee onboarding.

Benefits of the onboarding process for new hires

The major benefits of the onboarding process for new hires to the organization may include a higher employee retention rate, better workplace productivity, increased employee confidence, and improved employee performance.

Read more about how a streamlined onboarding process can benefit organizations:

  1. New hires that undergo a streamlined onboarding process are 58% more likely to stay with the organization for more than three years.
  2. A streamlined onboarding process can increase the retention of new hires by 82%.
  3. A standard onboarding experience can increase the productivity of new hires by 50%.
  4. Organizations that use the pre-boarding process retain 81% of their new hires.

The ideal employee onboarding process - best practices for HR

Organizations need to adopt several best practices to create an ideal employee onboarding process. Here is a list of the seven best practices every HR team should follow to improve the employee experience:

1. Refine your hiring process

The hiring process creates a path for onboarding. Rather than using traditional job portals, HR teams should use platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter to attract suitable candidates and assess their competencies.

HR teams should focus on creating a job description that communicates about the job position, major duties, the scope of the work, working conditions, compensation, and qualifications. Organizations should also engage a hiring manager who works in coordination with the HR department and supervises hiring processes.

2. Make good first impressions

A first impression is the best impression one could make. Since office visits aren’t very commonplace anymore due to hybrid work settings, organizations can create a great first impression by automating the entire onboarding process.

An automated onboarding process can get all the documentation done, schedule an introduction call with new team members, set up user accounts, and create an email flow that communicates the organization’s policies, vision, and objectives. Organizations can make the onboarding process transparent and inviting with the help of automation.

3. Send the offer letter

The process of employee orientation should start from the time of sending an offer letter to the new hire. The offer letter is a formal document sent to a candidate offering a job. The offer letter should comprise several details on the job offer including the start date of employment, job title, compensation, benefits, and company policies.

4. Check in with the new hire before day one

Hiring managers need to check in with the new hire before day one to start the onboarding process. Automation helps to streamline all activities involved in pre-boarding. For instance, the HR automation software would help the organization automate the pre-boarding workflow, which comprises the following activities:

  • Sending a welcome email to the new hire.
  • Upon receiving an acknowledgment from the new hire, the software may trigger a notification to the IT team to set up a user account to start the onboarding process.
  • Once the user account is created, the software sends the username and password for the new hire to log in to the onboarding platform.
  • Once new hire logs in to the platform and fills out their forms and gives their e-signatures, the software uploads them.
  • The new hire would provide bank account details to the software in order to set up their direct deposit.

5. Provide a welcoming first day

The HR team should provide a welcoming first day to the new hire. The first day is where the actual onboarding experience for the employee starts.

HR teams should give warm welcome to new hires and take them for an office tour. The paperwork, if pending, should be completed on the employee’s first day itself. Introduce the new hire to team members and provide them with the employee handbook that highlights the company’s culture, reporting structure, vision, and mission.

6. Encourage employee engagement during their first month

Employee engagement is the key to workplace productivity. If the organization wants to achieve higher productivity, it should engage new hires in the work during their first month itself. An effective onboarding program that establishes the expected workflow encourages new hires to engage in the work during their first month.

The workflow may include activities such as:

  1. Communicating expectations in the first week.
  2. Assigning key responsibility areas (KRAs).
  3. Developing clear reporting structures.
  4. Providing the training schedule.

7. Turn their first month into their first year

Successful onboarding ends when the employee becomes a part of the company culture. An effective onboarding process enables the new hire to learn about the company and become a part of its culture within a month or two.

With a poor onboarding process, this may take six months to a year. Employee retention rate increases if the employees align their goals with the organization and start to share the organization’s culture.

Benefits of automating the onboarding process

Automation is the best way to streamline your employee onboarding process. McKinsey reported that 56% of hire-to-retire (human resource management) tasks can be automated with the help of existing automation technologies.

Here are the five major benefits of automating the employee onboarding process.

  1. Automation simplifies the pre-boarding workflows which include sending welcoming emails, creating user accounts, adding the new hire to the onboarding channel, and scheduling orientation meetups.
  2. Quick turn-around as the automation streamlines activities such as reviews, approvals, and sign-offs (hours vs. days and days vs. weeks).
  3. The authorized people have visibility into all aspects of the employee onboarding process.
  4. Automation digitalizes the entire onboarding process through electronic forms, e-signs, and online change requests. It eliminates redundant documentation and reduces paperwork. Therefore, HR teams can allocate more time to answer queries from new hires and coordinate with them to create a streamlined onboarding experience.
  5. Automation helps the organization meet the compliance guidelines by creating an online platform that gathers employee vital data accurately and stores it on a secure cloud.

 

Day-one employee onboarding checklist

Day-one of the employee onboarding is the right time for HR professionals to create a strong positive impression about the organization’s policies, culture, operational procedures. The onboarding process should make employees feel they are at the right place on their starting day.

An onboarding program may be termed successful when employees get acquainted with their roles, new co-workers, and the organization’s culture. Here is a checklist for successful day-one employee onboarding:

  • Finish the paperwork or documentation
  • Introduce to team leader and team members
  • Tour of workspace.
  • Assign employee training
  • Give brief about the organization’s vision, mission, and objectives
  • Establish expected workflow
  • Introduce to company culture
  • Introduce to team members
  • Set up communication channels
  • Set up the employee’s desk
  • Communicate policies, code of conduct, and procedures

 

Streamline your employee onboarding process with BP Logix

The traditional onboarding process takes time and involves a lot of paperwork. Automation is the best way to streamline the employee onboarding process. An employee onboarding software, which eliminates the new hire paperwork and increases the speed of the onboarding process, may help the organization improve the new hire onboarding experience. Not sure how to get the ball rolling? Don't miss our how-to guide for automating the employee onboarding process.

A streamlined onboarding helps the organization to improve employee retention and workplace productivity. The first day and the first month are critical in the employee onboarding process. Ideally, the HR teams should create a first positive impression on the first day and make the employee become a part of the company’s culture by the first month of the employment.

Automate the employee onboarding process with the help of BP Logix HR Workflow Software. Request a demo to see how it can assist your organization.

Topics: hr automation
6 min read

Workplace Vaccination & Testing: Why Doing Nothing is Not an Option

By Girish Pashilkar on Jan 12, 2022 10:00:00 AM

osha-ets-supreme-court-decision-vaccination

After spending the better part of two months winding its way through the courts, OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) on Vaccination and Testing has finally reached the Supreme Court.

Based on how the arguments played out last week, many legal experts predict the ETS is likely to be struck down, which begs the question:

If the Supreme Court blocks the ETS from moving forward, are employers off the hook for adopting a workplace policy requiring employees to be fully vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing?

Not necessarily.

Regardless of the fate of the OSHA ETS, employment law experts agree that doing nothing is not an option. Let's walk through the four main reasons why employers should start tracking employee vaccinations and testing sooner rather than later.

1. Employers must still contend with state and local requirements

Even without federal-level guidelines requiring employers to implement vaccination policies, there are still state and local governments that have rolled out their own laws and mandates.

California, New York, and Illinois enacted vaccine mandates months ago, and some states, like Minnesota, have adopted the ETS as part of their OSHA state plan.

At a local level, cities like Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia have also announced vaccine requirements for many businesses operating indoors.

Multi-state employers have even greater challenges

Employers will obviously need to be prepared to comply with their specific jurisdiction’s laws, but the situation is even more complicated for employers that operate in multiple states. Multi-state employers must contend with workplace vaccination requirements that vary widely across multiple jurisdictions.

For example, an employer may have to simultaneously accommodate requirements from states that have instituted strict employee vaccination mandates, while also taking care not to overstep in states that have instituted bans on requiring employee vaccination.

Complying with the requirements of multiple jurisdictions results in a significant administrative burden for HR teams, which is why technology needs to play a key role in managing such complexity. That’s why we equipped our Vaccine Tracker app with functionality that allows employers to create multiple policies under which employees can be classified.

2. Vaccination and testing policies can help employers avoid lawsuits by reducing their liability

Another huge reason employers need to get serious about rolling out an employee vaccination policy? Avoiding lawsuits from employees.

The OSH Act’s “General Duty” clause says employers have a “general duty” to ensure a safe workplace for employees. This clause is not dependent on the passing of the OSHA ETS, which means that the potentially fatal consequences of doing nothing to mitigate the spread of the virus within a workplace can result in costly litigation, OSHA penalties, and considerable hits to a brand’s reputation. 

It's no surprise to see the uptick in employment and labor lawsuits related to COVID-19. According to the Jackson Lewis COVID-19 Employment LitWatch, there have been 287 cases citing workplace safety since March 2020.

See’s Candies hit with COVID-19 wrongful death suit

One of the most notable cases is a wrongful death suit filed in California against See’s Candies. An employee of the company claimed general negligence and premises liability after she contracted COVID-19 at her workplace and passed it on to her husband, resulting in his death.

What’s interesting about this case is the court’s decision that the employee’s COVID-19 negligence claims are not subject to exclusive remedy provisions in the state’s workers compensation law. Sometimes referred to as “the great bargain,” exclusivity provisions are designed to shield employers from civil litigation involving liability and negligence in exchange for providing injured workers with compensation for workplace injuries.

When See’s Candies cited exclusive remedy provisions as a reason to dismiss the lawsuit, the courts refused. Their reasoning was that the “grand bargain” does not extend to injuries and deaths of non-employees because exclusivity provisions are an arrangement between employer and employee.

So, how do employers avoid lawsuits like this? 

While employers in states with stricter requirements around employee vaccination and testing may already be legally compelled to cultivate a safe workplace, employers in jurisdictions with more lax requirements should explore rolling out a policy that can insulate the company from future litigation.

“Employers should continue to monitor guidance from the CDC, local health departments, state requirements, and of course, OSHA, for implementing best practices in the workplace,” explains Melanie L. Paul, a Principal at Jackson Lewis, P.C. “Reliance on such guidance could be an employer’s best defense to COVID-19 lawsuits. And, even without the ETS, OSHA will continue vigorous enforcement. Temporary staffing agencies as well as other higher-risk industries are especially vulnerable to being targeted by OSHA for COVID-19 related inspections under OSHA’s Revised National Emphasis Program for COVID-19."

One idea for reducing liability is to implement a policy that aligns or draws from the OSHA ETS guidelines. Aligning your workplace policy with the OSHA ETS can reduce employer liability by serving as an affirmative defense in the event of litigation involving injuries stemming from an employee’s exposure to COVID-19.

"Federal OSHA sets a floor, not a ceiling,” Paul says. “OSHA state plans, or any private employer, for that matter, can adopt the ETS or require even more to combat COVID-19.”

We’re already seeing this move from some private employers, as well as states like Minnesota, which have adopted the ETS as part of their OSHA state plan.

3. Tracking vaccinations and testing helps you manage incidents quickly and avoid short staffing or revenue loss

Keeping track of employee vaccinations and COVID test results can help employers ensure compliance and reduce legal liability, but there’s one other major business benefit to consider. Requiring vaccinations or testing in the workplace allows you to make smarter, more informed decisions about your business operations.

The need for these insights couldn't be more evident in the wake of the recent Omicron surge that left many workplaces reeling. As the highly contagious variant swept the nation, businesses were forced to run with skeleton crews or shut down completely for a few days because so many workers contracted the virus seemingly all at once.

Without knowing the vaccination or testing status of employees, you can’t accurately assess the risks in your workplace, nor will you be able to respond quickly enough to manage incidents and mitigate potential impacts to revenue.

For example, if you require employees to take a COVID test every week and disclose their test results, it’s much easier to spot and isolate potential outbreaks in the workplace before the virus spreads to more of your staff.

You can easily automate processes like this with vaccine tracking applications like the BP Logix Vaccine Tracker. This application can not only help employers track employee vaccination data and test result data, but it also offers incident management features. If an employee tests positive, the system can trigger workflows for mitigating spread to other employees and facilitating the employee’s safe return to the workplace once they have recovered and are fit for duty again.

4. Clients of staffing firms and other vendors may require vaccination/testing proof for any worker placements

Rolling out an employee vaccination and testing policy is especially critical for businesses that place employees at client worksites. For example, staffing agencies that work with numerous clients must be able to accommodate the workplace policies of all of their clients. If they can’t, the staffing firm could risk losing business.

Making sure a staffing firm’s workforce can comply with policies across multiple client placements undoubtedly creates a lot of administrative burden, but technology can reduce that burden. In the case of staffing agencies, the BP Logix Vaccine Tracker allows administrators to create unique policies based on the requirements of each client worksite, which can then be applied the workers based on their placements.

Start tracking employee vaccinations and COVID testing in mere weeks

end-user-voew-vaccine-trackerWhether or not the OSHA ETS is reinstated, employers should still prepare to track employee vaccination status if they want to truly reduce their risks in a global pandemic.

The BP Logix Vaccine Tracker application can help. This app makes it easy for large employers, staffing firms, and PEOs to:

  • Track employee vaccination status, test results, and symptoms
  • Comply with vaccination requirements across multiple jurisdictions
  • Avoid COVID-related workplace liability lawsuits

Book a free demo today to get started:

 
 

 

Topics: vaccine tracking
6 min read

HIPAA and COVID Vaccines: What Are Employers’ Responsibilities?

By Catie Leary on Jan 10, 2022 1:14:40 PM

HIPPA-employee-vaccination

As more employers roll out workplace vaccination policies that require employees to share their vaccination status and/or COVID test results, there’s a lot of confusion surrounding the role of HIPAA in this effort. Do employers need to comply with HIPAA policies when collecting and storing employee vaccination and testing data?

In this article, we’ll explore employers’ responsibilities in safeguarding employees’ COVID-19 vaccination and testing data. But first, let’s answer the most burning question:

Does HIPAA apply to employee vaccine tracking?

No. HIPAA requirements do not apply to employers or any technology they use to track their employees’ vaccination data in this situation because they are not a covered entity under HIPAA. Any vaccination or testing data an employer collects is considered employee data, rather than patient data.

To explain why, let’s dive a bit deeper into how HIPAA works.

What is HIPAA? What is a covered entity?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a United States federal law that ensures the protected health information (PHI) of the patient is not disclosed to anybody without the consent of the patient or the patient’s authorized representative.

There are four covered entities of HIPAA. According to HIPAA, a covered entity is an individual, institution, or organization that is involved in the transaction of protected health information. This transaction may be related to healthcare status, enrollment, treatment, insurance, and payment.

The covered entities of HIPAA are:

  • Healthcare providers: Including doctors, nursing professionals, hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and other entities that transmit patients’ health information electronically.
  • Health plans: Including insurance companies, government insurance agencies that pay for programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, health maintenance firms, and military health programs, and veteran’s health programs.
  • Healthcare clearinghouses: Entities that act as intermediaries between healthcare providers and health insurers. These clearinghouses process non-standard health information and convert it into the standard that meets the HIPAA regulations.
  • Business associates: Individuals or companies that have access to, store, and disseminate the patients’ health information.

All covered entities of HIPAA must comply with the HIPAA Security Rule that safeguards the patient’s electronically stored health information. To comply with the HIPAA Security Rule, covered entities should execute the following responsibilities:

  • Ensure the confidentiality of patients’ protected health information.
  • Detect threats and protect the information against these threats.
  • Restrict the impermissible uses and disclosures of the data.
  • Ensure compliance by workforce.

Employers are not considered one of the four covered entities under HIPAA. Any vaccination or testing data shared with an employer is considered employee data, not patient data for which the HIPAA privacy rule applies.

Regardless of HIPAA, keeping employee data secure is still crucial

Although employers need not worry about HIPAA compliance, they aren’t completely off the hook. Just like any other employee data, employers still have a general responsibility to keep their employees’ COVID-19 vaccination and testing data confidential and secure.

Failing to safeguard employee data – whether it’s contact information, social security numbers, or COVID-19 vaccination and testing data – can have a serious, life-changing impact on employees. In a recent study conducted by Kaspersky, nearly 48% of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), where a minimum of one data breach happened in the previous year, reported the incidents harmed the overall work experience of employees.

In addition to lowering employee morale, poor management of employee data can result in major repercussion for employers in the form of PR debacles and legal problems. Organizations that don’t follow legal guidelines for safeguarding data could face legal action from their employees. For example, employee data is legally protected under the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). A data breach or poor management of employee data could result in lawsuits from employees in the State of California.

To avoid these issues, employers need to identify a secure way to collect, store, and maintain employee COVID-19 vaccination data and test results. The most efficient and secure way to do this is to implement a vaccine tracking solution that takes the privacy and security of employees’ health information seriously.

When researching vaccine tracking solutions, employers should look for applications that:

  1. Are hosted in a secure cloud SOC2 environment. According to the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), SOC2 is a compliance standard that meets the five trust service principles, which include security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy).\
  2. Meet the international and industry-specific compliance standards such as ISO/IEC 27001:2013, and NIST SP 800-53.
  3. Allow administrators to define the user roles and allow the data access to only a few authorized people.

Why should I be tracking my employees’ vaccination status?

With all the complexity that comes with ensuring the security of employee vaccination and test data, some employers may wonder if it’s even worth the effort.

Tracking vaccination status and safeguarding the employee data related to COVID-19 vaccination or testing with the help of a vaccine tracking application can benefit the organization in several ways.

Watch the full webinar.

Here is a list of several reasons why organizations should be tracking employee COVID-19 vaccination status.

Avoid lawsuits

There is a growing number of COVID-related workplace lawsuits being filed by employees under the OSH Act's General Duty clause, which states that employers are responsible for providing employees with a generally safe workplace. Implementing a solution now can help prevent COVID-related workplace liability lawsuits by reducing an employers’ general liability for unsafe workplaces. The OSH Act is not dependent on mandates.

Improved incident reporting

As reported by scientists of the University of Hong Kong, the Omicron variant can spread 70 times faster than the Delta variant. Left unchecked and unmonitored, the virus can spread very quickly in workplaces. Without vaccination records and weekly testing reports of unvaccinated employees, it can be incredibly difficult to make informed decisions impacting the daily operations and staffing of your workplace. Tracking vaccinations helps employers manage incidents and instill greater confidence for employees concerned about COVID transmission in the workplace.

Reduce manual processes and data entry

Collecting vaccination data from each employee and manually entering it into a system can be an administrative nightmare, especially for companies that operate in multiple states with varying vaccination policies.

The best way to automate this process is to implement a tracking application, such as the BP Logix Vaccine Tracker, that allows employees to easily upload vaccination proof and test results from desktops, smartphones, and tablets. A vaccine tracker solution helps the organization reduce the dependency on manual processes and data entry, improving the speed at which the organization identifies the unvaccinated employees, gathers proof of vaccination, and complies with any established policies or governmental mandates.  

Keep employees’ health data safe and secure

It is the responsibility of the organization to safeguard the employee’s health data. Manual processes can lead to data leakages and make the organization vulnerable to penalties and lawsuits. A vaccine tracker solution rolled out via secure cloud deployment (SOC2/3) helps organizations safeguard employees’ health data.

Keep track and keep safe with BP Logix

HIPAA makes sure that its covered entities, including healthcare providers, health plans, healthcare clearinghouses, and business associates don’t disclose the protected health information of patients to anybody without their consent.

Though employers don’t need to comply with HIPAA privacy rules while collecting, storing, disclosing, and disseminating employee vaccination and testing data in this COVID-19 situation, they may still want to implement a vaccine tracking solution to eliminate the chances of employee’s health data breach and manual oversight.

Employers should choose a vaccine tracking solution that can be hosted in a secure cloud SOC2, meet international compliance standards, and allow data access to only a few authorized people.

Effectively track employee vaccination information and comply with COVID-19 vaccination mandates with the help of the BP Logix Vaccine Tracker application.

bplogix-vaccine-tracker-app-pr

end-user-voew-vaccine-tracker

Take a tour of the app and request your demo today.

Topics: vaccine tracking
7 min read

Employer’s Guide to the OSHA ETS Vaccine Mandate

By Steve Altschuler on Jan 3, 2022 10:15:00 AM

employers guide osha ets

COVID-19 and the workplace

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic disrupted labor markets and different sectors across the world in 2020. Regulatory bodies have come up with a wide range of standards for employers and instructions for compliance officers to reduce the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the workforce. For instance, OSHA issued an emergency testing standard (ETS) mandate to protect employees from the risk of COVID-19.

In this article, we’ll review OSHA’s ETS vaccine mandate, its requirements for employers, effective dates, and ramifications of non-compliance.

First, what is OSHA?

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a regulatory agency of the United States Department of Labor. It aims to improve workplace safety and facilitate healthy working conditions by enforcing standards and guidelines for employers. It also offers training, assistance, and education to employers on creating a secure workplace for working men and women.

The regulatory agency conducts inspections at workplaces and imposes fines for compliance violations. Inspections are often triggered by referrals, workplace fatalities, workplace injuries, and employee complaints. Inspections are conducted without any advance notice by trained compliance officers through telephonic discussions and/or on-site visits.

What is the OSHA ETS vaccine mandate, and what does it mean for my business?

OSHA issued an ETS that requires private employers operating with 100 or more employees to ensure all their workers get fully vaccinated. 

In lieu of the OSHA ETS COVID-19 vaccine mandate, employers should provide weekly COVID-19 negative test reports of employees and enforce wearing a face mask in the workplace (these rules may change from time to time based on the decisions of the Federal Government and the Department of Labor in conjunction with COVID-19 trends). 

A few vital aspects of OSHA’s ETS vaccine mandate for employers are:

Support for vaccination

As per the ETS, every employer should support the COVID-19 vaccination by:

  1. Providing sufficient time for each employee to get vaccinated.
  2. Offering a paid sick leave to recover from vaccination side effects.

Obtain and maintain records

As per the ETS mandate, employers must maintain a record of every employee’s vaccination status.

Employers need to provide proof of vaccination, which may include:

  1. The medical report documenting the COVID-19 vaccination.
  2. The COVID-19 vaccination record card itself.
  3. The record of immunization from a healthcare provider or public health information system.

Weekly COVID-19 testing

Employers should conduct a weekly COVID-19 test for employees who are not fully vaccinated. If a remote employee is returning to the workplace, he or she should be tested for COVID-19 within 7 days before returning to work.

Communication

It is the responsibility of the employer to communicate ETS requirements, guidelines, policies, and standards to employees in a language they understand. 

The employer vaccine mandate is in place to protect workers from falling ill, spreading the virus, and in severe cases, passing away due to the virus. OSHA believes that the pandemic can be controlled if employers have a framework that emphasizes full vaccination, the use of face masks, frequent testing, and not allowing infected employees inside of the workplace.

Note: Even if a vaccine mandate from OSHA were to not exist, employers would still need to implement a vaccine tracking solution sooner rather than later because it’ll allow them to:

  1. Reduce the administrative burden of managing variations in vaccine policies across the country.
  2. Reduce the general liability of unsafe workplaces and avoid lawsuits from employees.
  3. Monitor and maintain the general health of all employees to the best of their abilities.

Employers covered by the ETS

Private companies with 100 or more employees and state and local government employers with OSHA-approved State Plans are covered by the ETS. However, not all employees working for employers covered by the ETS are required to follow the provisions of the ETS.

The guidelines of the ETS do not apply to the following types of employees even though their employers are covered by the ETS:

  1. Employees who are working from home.
  2. Employees who work outdoors.
  3. Employees who don’t attend workplaces where others are present.

Workplaces not covered by the ETS

OSHA believes that not all workplaces have the capability to implement programs that comply with the requirements in the ETS.

The following types of workplaces are not covered by the ETS:

  1. The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force.
  2. Healthcare settings that offer healthcare and support services.
  3. Private companies with fewer than 100 employees.
  4. Public employers in states without State Plans.

OSHA ETS vaccine mandate FAQs

What does the ETS require of employers?

Employers are responsible for:

  • Implementing and enforcing workplace vaccination policy that either (a) requires mandatory vaccinations, or (b) allows employees to choose between vaccination or weekly COVID-19 testing.
  • Providing information to employees about the ETS, COVID-19 vaccines, and workplace vaccination policy.
  • Determining the vaccination status of all employees, obtaining valid proof of vaccination or weekly test results, and maintaining records to ensure compliance.
  • Reporting work-related COVID-19 fatalities and hospitalizations to OSHA.

What employers are covered under the ETS? 

All employers currently under OSHA’s jurisdiction would be obligated to comply with the ETS if they have 100 or more employees. This accounts for approximately two-thirds of all U.S. workplaces in the private sector. 

What workers are counted under the 100-employee rule?

Generally, if a worker is directly employed by a company, they will be counted toward the 100-employee threshold that determines whether an employer is covered by the ETS. This includes:

  • Remote employees
  • Part-time employees
  • Employees that work exclusively outdoors
  • Temporary or seasonal workers

Are independent contractors counted under the 100-employee rule?

No, independent contractors are not counted.

How are workers from staffing agencies classified?

Staffing agencies hire workers and then coordinate placement at workplaces operated by “host” employers. Because the staffing agency is the legal employer of the worker, these workers are counted toward the staffing agency’s employee headcount, not the host employer’s.

Are some employees exempt from the ETS requirements?

Yes. Employees are not subject to ETS requirements if they work from home, work exclusively outdoors, or report to workplaces that do not have co-workers or customers present. However, these employees are still counted when determining whether an employer reaches the 100-employee threshold for ETS coverage.

What are the ramifications of non-compliance? 

Normally, employers face penalties up to $13,653 per violation for serious violations from OSHA. The penalty for failure to abate is $13,653 per day beyond the abatement date. These same penalties may apply to non-compliance with ETS after compliance dates.

When does the ETS  take effect?

The ETS technically went into effect on November 5, 2021 – the day it was published in the Federal Register. Enforcement was supposed to begin December 5, 2021 for all portions of the ETS other than testing and vaccination compliance date, which would have been January 4, 2022.

With current challenges to the OSHA ETS, the exact timeline for enforcement is up in the air.

What if I have operations in multiple states?

When operating in multiple states, you need to follow varying guidelines, standards, and timeframes applicable in each state. Let’s say you are operating in Alabama and Alaska. Alabama is a Federal OSHA state and Alaska is a State OSHA state. Therefore, you need to follow the standards and timelines of OSHA’s ETS for the operational unit located in Alabama and the State OSHA regulations for the operational unit located in Alaska.

Do remote employees need to comply with requirements?

Although remote employees count towards the 100-employee requirement (i.e. an employer with 75 onsite employees and 25 remote employees would come under the OSHA ETS),  ETS requirements, such as showing proof of vaccination and weekly testing, do not apply for remote employees.

Are employers required to collect proof of vaccination?

Yes. Under the ETS, employers will need to collect proof of vaccination from employees and maintain an updated, accurate record. An employee who does not produce proof of vaccination status must be treated as an unvaccinated employee.

Stay compliant with BP Logix’s vaccine tracker

Having a vaccine tracker with a customizable dashboard that offers an integrated view of the enterprise’s vaccination data would be helpful in staying compliant with the OSHA COVID-19 vaccine mandate guidelines.

BP Logix’s vaccine tracker includes an employee, supervisor, and administrative view for access by all employees of your company.

Comply with COVID-19 vaccination mandates and respond quickly to policy changes with the help of the BP Logix vaccine tracker application. Request a demo to see how it can assist your organization remain compliant!

       
Topics: vaccine tracking
3 min read

OSHA ETS Stay Lifted: What Employers Need to Know

By Steve Altschuler on Dec 20, 2021 7:45:00 AM

osha-ets-stay-lifted

You might have heard that there was some big news over the weekend concerning the OSHA ETS, which was stayed by the 5th Circuit Court in mid-November. Here are the three big takeaways, plus some insights for employers trying to decide what to do next.

1. The OSHA ETS stay has been lifted.

On Friday, December 17, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals dissolved the stay that the 5th Circuit had placed on the OSHA ETS. That means that the ETS is back in force.

Shortly after that decision was issued, multiple plaintiffs filed emergency applications for an immediate stay of the ETS with the Supreme Court of the United States. Those applications will be reviewed by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who is assigned to hear petitions from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Kavanaugh has several options:

  • He has the authority to grant the petitioners’ applications and stay the ETS pending review of the entire Court.
  • Given OSHA’s decision to delay compliance dates, he could refer the applications to the full Court for a decision.
  • He could take no action on the applications pending review of the full Court.

The Supreme Court will try to avoid a scenario in which employers would take steps to implement the ETS only to have it invalidated later.

Although it is always difficult to predict how quickly a ruling might come, the speculation is that the Supreme Court will most likely take action in advance of January 10, 2022, to give employers some certainty.

2. The underlying merits of the ETS are still pending with the 6th Circuit.

The dissolution of the stay does not mean the ETS has passed. The final ruling is still pending with the 3-judge panel and even after their final ruling could still go to a full 6th circuit en banc review and decision.

3. Following the 6th Circuit ruling, an appeal may be made to SCOTUS.

Only after the final 6th Circuit ruling (either by the 3-judge panel or en banc) would an appeal be made to SCOTUS to make a final ruling. The Supreme Court may not issue on the underlying merits case, which it may choose to do. The Supreme Court often declines to hear cases.

What does all this mean for employers?

Here's a quick Q&A for employers wondering how to proceed in light of the OSHA ETS news:

  • Should I start planning for ETS compliance? Legal experts strongly recommend getting a policy in place. That includes lining up testing resources if necessary, providing necessary communications to employees, collecting info on vaccination status and keeping roster, etc.
  • What are the new timelines for compliance? The ETS is effective immediately. According to employment law firm Jackson Lewis, OSHA "will not issue citations for noncompliance before January 10, 2022. The agency also stated it will exercise its discretion and not issue citations for noncompliance with testing requirements under the ETS before February 9, 2022, if an employer is exercising reasonable, good faith efforts to come into compliance with the standard."
  • What is meant by “…reasonable, good faith efforts…” to come into compliance with the ETS? It's unclear at this point, but a degree of reasonable diligence is required to get everything in motion.
  • Other than the dates, has any changed regarding testing requirements, accommodations, or exemptions? Nothing else changed.
  • Will the OSHA ETS override state rulings (e.g. Florida or Texas state requirements conflicting with OSHA)? This answer depends on whether any of the decisions on the merits of the ETS address preemption arguments.

Webinar: Learn how to navigate the mandates

With all the up's and down's concerning the fate of the OSHA ETS, some employers are taking a "wait and see" approach before committing to roll out a vaccine policy.​ What do top employment lawyers recommend? "Start planning now."

Learn more in our free webinar featuring top employment/labor law experts from Jackson Lewis P.C., and be sure to check out BP Logix's Vaccine Tracker application.

webinar-vaccine-mandate-video-playback

Topics: vaccine tracking
7 min read

Verification vs Validation in Software: Overview & Key Differences

By Catie Leary on Dec 16, 2021 10:15:00 AM

Verification vs. validation

Verification vs Validation: Definitions

Software testing is a process of examining the functionality and behavior of the software through verification and validation. 

  • Verification is a process of determining if the software is designed and developed as per the specified requirements. 
  • Validation is the process of checking if the software (end product) has met the client’s true needs and expectations. 
Download the Free E-Book on IT Requirements Gathering

Software testing is incomplete until it undergoes verification and validation processes. Verification and validation are the main elements of software testing workflow because they:

  1. Ensure that the end product meets the design requirements.
  2. Reduce the chances of defects and product failure.
  3. Ensures that the product meets the quality standards and expectations of all stakeholders involved.

Most people confuse verification and validation; some use them interchangeably. People often mistake verification and validation because of a lack of knowledge on the purposes they fulfill and the pain points they address.

The software testing industry is estimated to grow from $40 billion in 2020 to $60 billion in 2027. Considering the steady growth of the software testing industry, we put together a guide that provides an in-depth explanation behind verification and validation and the main differences between these two processes.

Verification

As mentioned, verification is the process of determining if the software in question is designed and developed according to specified requirements. Specifications act as inputs for the software development process. The code for any software application is written based on the specifications document. 

Verification is done to check if the software being developed has adhered to these specifications at every stage of the development life cycle. The verification ensures that the code logic is in line with specifications.

Depending on the complexity and scope of the software application, the software testing team uses different methods of verification, including inspection, code reviews, technical reviews, and walkthroughs. Software testing teams may also use mathematical models and calculations to make predictive statements about the software and verify its code logic.

Further, verification checks if the software team is building the product right. Verification is a continuous process that begins well in advance of validation processes and runs until the software application is validated and released.

The main advantages of the verification are:

  1. It acts as a quality gateway at every stage of the software development process.
  2. It enables software teams to develop products that meet design specifications and customer needs.
  3. It saves time by detecting the defects at the early stage of software development.
  4. It reduces or eliminates defects that may arise at the later stage of the software development process.

A walkthrough of verification of a mobile application

There are three phases in the verification testing of a mobile application development:

  1. Requirements Verification
  2. Design Verification
  3. Code Verification

Requirements verification is the process of verifying and confirming that the requirements are complete, clear, and correct. Before the mobile application goes for design, the testing team verifies business requirements or customer requirements for their correctness and completeness.

Design verification is a process of checking if the design of the software meets the design specifications by providing evidence. Here, the testing team checks if layouts, prototypes, navigational charts, architectural designs, and database logical models of the mobile application meet the functional and non-functional requirements specifications.

Code verification is a process of checking the code for its completeness, correctness, and consistency. Here, the testing team checks if construction artifacts such as source code, user interfaces, and database physical model of the mobile application meet the design specification.

Validation

Validation is often conducted after the completion of the entire software development process. It checks if the client gets the product they are expecting. Validation focuses only on the output; it does not concern itself about the internal processes and technical intricacies of the development process. 

Validation helps to determine if the software team has built the right product. Validation is a one-time process that starts only after verifications are completed. Software teams often use a wide range of validation methods, including White Box Testing (non-functional testing or structural/design testing) and Black Box Testing (functional testing).

White Box Testing is a method that helps validate the software application using a predefined series of inputs and data. Here, testers just compare the output values against the input values to verify if the application is producing output as specified by the requirements.

There are three vital variables in the Black Box Testing method (input values, output values, and expected output values). This method is used to verify if the actual output of the software meets the anticipated or expected output.

The main advantages of validation processes are:

  1. It ensures that the expectations of all stakeholders are fulfilled.
  2. It enables software teams to take corrective action if there is a mismatch between the actual product and the anticipated product.
  3. It improves the reliability of the end-product.

A walkthrough of validation of a mobile application

Validation emphasizes checking the functionality, usability, and performance of the mobile application. 

Functionality testing checks if the mobile application is working as expected. For instance, while testing the functionality of a ticket-booking application, the testing team tries to validate it through:

  1. Installing, running, and updating the application from distribution channels like Google Play and the App Store
  2. Booking tickets in the real-time environment (fields testing)
  3. Interruptions testing

Usability testing checks if the application offers a convenient browsing experience. User interface and navigations are validated based on various criteria which include satisfaction, efficiency, and effectiveness.

Performance testing enables testers to validate the application by checking its reaction and speed under the specific workload. Software testing teams often use techniques such as load testing, stress testing, and volume testing to validate the performance of the mobile application.

Main differences between verification and validation

Verification and validation, while similar, are not the same. There are several notable differences between these two. Here is a chart that identifies the differences between verification and validation:

 

Verification

Validation

Definition

It is a process of checking if a product is developed as per the specifications.

It is a process of ensuring that the product meets the needs and expectations of stakeholders.

What it tests or checks for

It tests the requirements, architecture, design, and code of the software product.

It tests the usability, functionalities, and reliability of the end product.

Coding requirement

It does not require executing the code.

It emphasizes executing the code to test the usability and functionality of the end product.

Activities include

A few activities involved in verification testing are requirements verification, design verification, and code verification.

The commonly-used validation activities in software testing are usability testing, performance testing, system testing, security testing, and functionality testing.

Types of testing methods

A few verification methods are inspection, code review, desk-checking, and walkthroughs.

A few widely-used validation methods are black box testing, white box testing, integration testing, and acceptance testing.

Teams or persons involved

The quality assurance (QA) team would be engaged in the verification process.

The software testing team along with the QA team would be engaged in the validation process.

Target of test

It targets internal aspects such as requirements, design, software architecture, database, and code.

It targets the end product that is ready to be deployed.

 

Verification and validation are an integral part of software engineering. Without rigorous verification and validation, a software team may not be able to build a product that meets the expectations of stakeholders. Verification and validation help reduce the chances of product failure and improve the reliability of the end product. 

Download the Free E-Book on Identifying Processes for AutomationDifferent project management and software development methods use verification and validation in different ways. For instance, both verification and validation happen simultaneously in agile development methodology due to the need for continuous refinement of the system based on the end-user feedback. 

Testers can use automation tools developed with low code development to streamline the processes of verification and validation. Contact us today to discover how BP Logix's workflow automation platform, Process Director, can help automate your software testing process.

 

6 min read

IT Process Automation: What is it & What are the Benefits?

By Girish Pashilkar on Dec 13, 2021 11:30:00 AM

it-process-automation

IT Process Automation (ITPA) is an approach to streamline IT operations through automated workflows. An analysis conducted by McKinsey at two financial services organizations revealed that a staggering 90% of IT departments were focused on inefficient and manual tasks such as testing, code-fixing, and maintenance. ITPA automates these kinds of inefficient, repetitive, and manual IT processes to improve operational efficiency and eliminate costly human errors.

A few widely-known ITPA use cases are:

  1. Service request handling
  2. Bug reporting and testing
  3. Compliance monitoring and IT security
  4. Incidence response, messaging, and notifications
  5. IT asset tracking and management
  6. Server automation (automation of server shutdown and restart, and automation of server disk space cleanup)
  7. Network automation (deploying patches to network devices and triggering upgraded configuration settings)

As ITPA becomes increasingly popular and beneficial, Gartner predicts that 40% of Infrastructure and Operations (I&O) teams in large enterprises will use AI-augmented automation to improve IT productivity and achieve greater agility by 2023.

We put together a complete guide that reviews the steps involved in IT process automation and explains how it benefits enterprises across all industries.

How does IT process automation work?

IT departments should create predefined events or workflows before setting up ITPA tools. For instance, the IT department may need to create a bug-tracking workflow involving steps such as capturing bugs, prioritizing bugs, assigning bugs to the relevant team, fixing bugs, and pushing the fixed code to deployment before setting up an ITPA tool.

An ITPA tool can automate workflows using three vital steps, which include:

  1. Monitoring
  2. Trigger
  3. Reaction

1. Monitoring

ITPA tools may monitor the performance of the system against the pre-defined performance metrics until a trigger or a defect is detected. For instance, the bug-tracking ITPA tool monitors for bugs in the software application until a bug is detected.

2. Trigger

When a trigger is detected, the ITPA software starts the automated workflow. For instance, when the bug is detected in the software application, the bug-tracking ITPA tool would start the next workflow (in this case, perhaps fixing or isolating the bug) automatically.

3. Reaction

The ITPA tool then automatically performs all tasks involved in the workflow as a reaction to the trigger. For instance, the bug-tracking ITPA tool automatically executes the workflow that involves capturing the bug in the relevant format, prioritizing the bug (based on its intensity of impact), and so on.

How does it differ from business process automation (BPA)?

Business Process Automation (BPA) is an approach to streamlining general business functions with the help of digital technologies. Though both BPA and ITPA automate manual and repetitive tasks, there are several differences between both of these approaches.

 

Business Process Automation

IT Process Automation

Focus The focus of BPA is broad as it is concerned about the entire organization. ITPA is narrowly focused on the IT department and technical processes.
Automated tasks BPA can automate business functions encompassing all departments. For example, a BPA can automate the HR practices such as hiring, onboarding, leave management, and performance management. Likewise, BPA can automate finance-related tasks such as accounts payable, payroll, invoicing, and tax compliance. ITPA tools streamline business functions encompassing only the IT department. For example, an IT process automation software can automate IT processes such as service requests, change requests, ticketing systems, asset management, and compliance.
Complexity and skills requirement Users don’t need to have advanced coding skills to deploy BPA tools. Even a citizen developer who does not have coding knowledge can deploy low-code or no-code automation tools that streamline simple and daily tasks. ITPA tools are often deployed by technically savvy IT teams to automate complex IT processes. These tools are built with advanced functionalities that require higher-level skills to deploy.

 

Main benefits of IT process automation

ITPA plays a vital role in the digital transformation of the business. It helps the organization improve the efficiency of IT service delivery. Here are some of the other main benefits of ITPA to businesses:

Cost-savings

IT businesses waste a lot of resources on repetitive and manual processes. For example, Managed Service Providers (MSPs) spend huge amounts of money on the Service Desk. Nearly 40% of calls that a MSP service desk receives are about password resetting. According to Forrester, a few large-scale organizations spend over $1 million for password-related support costs. The average service desk labor cost for a single password reset is $70.

An ITPA enables MSPs not only to automate routine tasks, but also to create a self-service interface that allows their customers to remediate incidents such as password resetting on their own. The self-remediation helps MSPs save money that they otherwise spend on password resetting help desk service or other menial requests. Gartner also predicts that hyper-automation technologies may help enterprises reduce operational costs by up to 30% by 2024.

Increased transparency between tech teams and management

Automation makes internal processes more transparent. ITPA tools not only show business users what the process looks like, but also the status of the process after it starts. The authorized people can control who can view the process and give user-based permissions.

By implementing ITPA tools, the management of the enterprise can track the status of network infrastructure and collaborate effectively with tech teams to improve the compliance, security, and efficiency of the IT operations.

Improved productivity and better utilization of IT staff

In a recent survey, 74% of IT and engineering leaders said that process automation helped their human resources save up to 30% of the time previously spent on manual processes.

ITPA software tools enable enterprises to free up qualified IT personnel from doing manual tasks and engage them in activities related to strategy, innovation, and technology. The productivity and utilization of staff can be measured in various ways, including employee time savings, cost savings, and faster operations.

Mitigate costly IT and human errors

One of the most obvious benefits of ITPA is that it mitigates costly human errors.

Did you know that most service outages are caused by human intervention? In fact, on February 28, 2017, Amazon Web Services S3 got disrupted due to a small mistake done by an authorized executive.

According to Amazon, the glitch happened after the person wrongly entered the command which resulted in the removal of additional servers. This human error took down Amazon Web Services for around 4 hours. An ITPA tool might have helped prevent the Amazon Web Services S3 outage caused by human error. Enterprises may need to implement ITPA tools to mitigate costly IT errors.

Increased compliance

ITPA tools restrict unauthorized data access and improve compliance through granular process monitoring, automated reporting, and audit trials. For instance, enterprises need to change server administration passwords every 30 to 90 days as per the security compliance standards. ITPA systems can automate and complete this laborious and time-consuming task with zero error and meet the compliance requirements.

Likewise, an ITPA tool can run an automated workflow to check if servers, applications, and networks meet the compliance before triggering and performing an update.

IT Process Automation Solutions with BP Logix

IT Process Automation tools work just like Business Process Management (BPM) or Robotic Process Automation (RPA), but they are narrowly focused on IT operations. Enterprises can use ITPA tools for network automation, server automation, storage automation, and application automation. ITPA tools, powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning, are often built with advanced functionalities that require technical proficiency and coding skills to deploy.

A few main benefits of ITPA are cost savings, increased compliance, reduced human errors, improved productivity, and higher transparency among internal staff. Enterprises may need to implement ITPA tools to improve the accuracy, speed, and efficiency of IT operations.

Discover how the Process Director, a workflow automation software from BP Logix, can help you automate your IT workflows and improve the efficiency of IT service delivery.

Get in touch with us today to learn more!

Topics: business process automation
3 min read

Vaccination Mandates for Staffing Firms, PEOs, & HROs

By Girish Pashilkar on Dec 3, 2021 7:15:00 AM

webinar-vaccine-mandate

How does your company plan to respond to employee vaccination mandates?

What does the Fifth Circuit’s decision to stay OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard mean for staffing agencies, PEOs and HROs? What is the best strategy for employers to mitigate risk while protecting their employees? What can employers do to prepare for the additional administrative burden of tracking employee vaccinations and test results?

Join BP Logix on Tuesday, December 14 at 11:00 AM PT for Vaccination Mandates: Imperatives for Staffing Firms, PEOs, and HROs, an educational webinar that explores these questions with the nation’s top employment law firm, Jackson Lewis P.C., and leading analyst firm, Intellyx.

Following the discussion of how staffing firms, PEOs, and HROs should respond to vaccination mandates in the wake of recent court challenges, our panel of legal and tech experts will answer your questions during a live Q&A session.

Register for the webinar

Can't attend the webinar?

Register today and we will send you a recording of the webinar after the event for you to review on your own time. If you have any other questions, please contact us.

Meet our panelists:

photo of Melanie Paul

Melanie Paul, Jackson Lewis P.C.

Melanie L. Paul is a principal in the Atlanta, Georgia, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. She is co-leader of the firm’s Workplace Safety and Health practice group. Her practice focuses on occupational safety and health and wage and hour issues. Melanie's clients benefit from her unique inside experience as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) for more than a decade.

photo of Jenifer Bologna

Jenifer Bologna, Jackson Lewis P.C.

Jenifer Bologna is a principal in the White Plains, New York, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. Jenifer is a member of Jackson Lewis’ Disability, Leave and Health Management group. She specializes in preventative advice and counsel primarily related to disability and leave management issues. Jenifer helps employers navigate the complex and growing body of federal, state and local laws, most notably the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

photo of Charles Araujo

Charles Araujo, Intellyx

Charles Araujo is an industry analyst, internationally recognized authority on the Digital Enterprise and author of The Quantum Age of IT: Why Everything You Know About IT is About to Change. He is Principal Analyst with Intellyx, the first and only industry analyst firm focused on agile digital transformation. He has authored three books and published over 100 articles. He has been a regular contributor to both InformationWeek and CIO Insight Magazine and has been quoted or published in magazines, blogs and websites including Time, CIO, CIO & Leader, IT Business Edge, TechRepublic, Computerworld, USA Today and Forbes.

Register for the webinar

Topics: vaccine tracking
11 min read

What is Business Process Automation? The Essential Guide to BPA

By Catie Leary on Nov 16, 2021 10:07:47 AM

business-process-automation-guide

In this article…

What is business process automation (BPA)?

Business process automation (BPA) is the process of automating complex functions (beyond traditional data collection and record-keeping activities) with the help of digital technologies.

Business process automation is not the same thing as case management. (Case management deals more with a group of processes, and therefore is much more complex. Cases typically involve multiple people and/or departments.)

Organizations implement workflow automation solutions such as Intelligent BPM and Business Rules Engines to enable accurate data reporting, improve accountability, identify and eliminate inefficiencies, streamline communication, and reduce operational costs. 

The market size of the global Business Process Automation (BPA) industry was approximately $9.8 billion in 2020. It is forecasted to grow at an annualized rate of 12.2% and reach $19.6 billion by 2026. 

In this article, we will cover the advantages of BPA and highlight its use cases in areas such as logistics, education, bookkeeping, human resources management, finance, contracts management, and more.

What kind of tasks and processes should be automated?

compliance industries

Did you know that employees waste 22% of their productive time on repetitive tasks and wasteful procedures? As such, every organization should aim to increase operational efficiencies by eliminating wasteful procedures and practices. One way to do this is through business process automation and business process management (BPM). 

BPM software helps organizations achieve optimal performance by automating very specific processes such as:

  • High-volume, repetitive tasks that involve the same steps
  • Tasks that require multiple people
  • Back office workflows
  • Time-sensitive tasks 
  • Compliance and audit trails
  • Scheduled tasks which occur at the same time on the same day each week
  • Employee onboarding
  • Purchase orders, accounts payables, and bill payments
  • IT services desk support
  • Marketing automation across multiple promotional channels
  • Sales activities like lead qualification, prospecting, and funnel creation

To learn more about how to prioritize process automation projects, you can view our guide here.

Business process automation use cases and examples

Business owners may not have an idea of what processes and workflows they can automate at the workplace. Because of this, businesses often postpone adopting business automation platforms and end up wasting millions of dollars due to repetitive processes, low employee productivity, and poor compliance. 

The BPA use cases and examples below can help determine how automation efforts can improve operational efficiency and provide a competitive advantage: 

Human resources

The manual HR process is likely to result in an unpleasant experience for new employees. It may also lead to excessive paperwork for the HR team, inconsistencies in the hiring process, and a low employee retention rate. In fact, 36% of HR leaders feel that the lack of automation is the reason for their inability to better organize the onboarding process.

BPA empowers the organization to automate paperwork, map the employee onboarding journey, meet compliance standards, and so much more. BPA also makes it easier for HR teams to enroll benefits and assign key performance indicators (KPIs).

A few human resource management (HRM) functions that BPA can automate are:

  • Hiring 
  • Onboarding
  • Training
  • Leaves management
  • Performance management

Legal and contracts management

Legal and contracts management comprises all legal tasks related to the management of contracts. A few vital tasks involved in the process of contract management are drafting contracts, preparing bids, processing claims, monitoring contract performance, and managing change requests. 

BPA enables organizations to create a central repository of contracts with a search function, automate contract drafting, send reminders to relevant teams about contract deadlines or renewals, automate approvals with e-signatures, meet compliance, create touchless contracts with fully-executed NDAs, and build conditional workflows.

Some legal and contract management tasks that BPA can automate are:

  • Procurement and supplier management
  • Contract management
  • Contract compliance
  • Claims processing
  • Audit trails

Financial

Typically, finance-related tasks rely heavily on manual, repetitive, and time-consuming activities. Most finance tasks include invoice processing, financial data recording or reconciliation, budgeting, and financial projections, and more. These tasks are prime candidates for automation because of their highly-structured and rule-based nature. 

BPA automates these rule-based finance functions to reduce the likelihood of errors and fraud, achieve greater efficiency, meet compliance, and save time. It’s projected that organizations can automate 42% of the financial department’s work with the help of automation technologies like BPA and RPA (Robotic Process Automation).

Some finance-related tasks that BPA can automate are:

  • Purchase orders
  • Accounts payables
  • Financial reporting
  • Payroll processing
  • Invoicing and accounts receivables
  • Tax compliance and reporting

Data aggregation and bookkeeping

Improper data aggregation is the reason why accounting teams struggle with financial close and consolidation. Due to this, accounting teams have been failing to provide critical decision-making inputs to business owners. It also forces accounting teams to spend more time on mechanical data and manual financial consolidation adjustments. 

BPA enables organizations to automatically update and approve journal entries, conduct audit trials, create financial close checklists, match transactions with general ledger, compare account balances against sources to identify discrepancies, and give automated alerts on uncollected invoices.

Some data aggregation and bookkeeping tasks that BPA can automate are:

  • Journal entries
  • Basic data entry 
  • Bank reconciliations
  • Expense management
  • Credit control
  • Risk management

Education

27% of tasks in educational services can be automated with the help of existing technologies like business process management (BPM), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

BPA helps educational institutions transform from paper-based procedures to electronic procedures. It eliminates the hassle for students to visit the college premises multiple times to enroll in courses. Automation streamlines the process of student enrollment and engagement.

Some tasks that BPA can automate in the educational services industry are:

  • Student enrollment and course registration
  • Immigration compliance for international students
  • Financial aid services

Logistics and shipping

Automation has become a common trend in the logistics and shipping industry. As business trends and demands evolved, organizations in manufacturing industries quickly learned that they cannot survive without an efficient logistics department and automated processes.

BPA software enables logistics and shipping companies to reduce inventory costs, eliminate the scope for costly errors, meet compliance standards, access real-time freight data analysis, improve stock visibility, and manage the distribution.

Some logistics and shipping processes that BPA can automate are:

  • Lead management
  • Inventory tracking
  • Shipment scheduling and tracking

Why are businesses turning to BPA? Benefits and advantages

Gartner predicts that businesses will adopt at least 3 out of 20 process-agnostic types of software by 2024 to enable hyper-automation. Why?

It’s because any medium- to large-scale business can greatly benefit from implementing no-code BPA technologies. To name a few, businesses can streamline processes, reduce human errors, save time and money, and improve customer service.

Let’s review a few more of the key benefits to BPA below.

Streamlined and standardized processes

rapid-deployment

The primary role of BPA is to streamline and standardize complex and repeatable tasks. It enables organizations to develop a set of rules to complete each task and create a workflow that does not require human intervention.

Automation helps employees spend their quality time on tasks that improve organizational productivity. According to McKinsey, streamlining and standardizing processes through automation can increase productivity by 1.4% on a global basis annually. Further, BPA significantly contributes to overall business process improvement.

Compliance records

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BPA helps businesses create automated reporting and documentation procedures that meet compliance regulations like Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), and The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

For instance, employee benefits compliance is one of the major concerns for organizations. Employee benefit laws like HIPAA and ERISA want organizations to roll out employee benefit plans and maintain records of the same. 

A BPM streamlines the employee benefits process and maintains its compliance records impeccably. It simplifies the complex process of collecting eligible employee data, gathering signatures, and generating approvals while processing employee benefits.

Transparency between teams and stakeholders

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BPA increases visibility and accountability within organizations. It creates a workflow that all authorized professionals can track.

Likewise, automated workflows may also help an internal auditor assess whether the project team has followed a set of standards, policies, and regulations while executing an operational activity or not with a single mouse click.

Eliminate costly errors

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Did you know that the Citigroup credit department accidentally sent $500 million to Revlon’s lenders by mistake? This was a severe human error that could have been avoided if automation tools were in place.

The implementation of automation technologies makes organizations less vulnerable to clerical and reporting errors that cost millions and millions of dollars.

Improved customer service

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Customer engagement is the key to an increased customer satisfaction rate. BPA allows businesses to streamline activities like customer engagement, customer support, and customer experience through automated social media, automated emails, and automated service interactions.

For instance, a Social BPM can create a workflow that sends an automated alert or trigger when a customer makes a complaint on a social media platform like Twitter or Facebook.

Choosing the right BPA solution for your business

 

Choosing the right business process automation software that is more powerful than a traditional ERP or CRM can be challenging. However, you can choose a suitable BPA solution by analyzing if it meets the expectations in the following parameters:

  • User experience: It involves analyzing the ease of use and efficiency of the solution. How friendly is the user interface? How smooth is the interaction between the user and the software?
  • Artificial intelligence: How much human involvement is required while executing complex tasks? After all, you are purchasing the BPA solution to reduce user intervention. Choose a BPA solution that is powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning.
  • Integrations: BPA platforms should facilitate API integration between existing software and solutions at the workplace for better efficiency. 
  • Flexible deployment: Make sure that the BPA vendor offers flexible deployment options. The flexibility allows you to deploy the application on your premises or third-party cloud infrastructure based on your preference and requirement.
  • Low code development: Coding can be a hassle and complex. With low-code applications, you can customize and quickly adapt the applications in response to the fast-changing business environments.
  • Mobile use: 60% of employees use mobile apps for work-related activities. If the BPM solution is not mobile-friendly, it would not make tasks and to-do lists available for employees on the go.

BPA solutions can boost the productivity of workplaces. They can save millions of dollars to businesses by standardizing workflows in areas like accounting, finance, human resources, contracts management, and logistics. They can also help eliminate costly errors and improve the quality of customer service. Ensure you choose a low-code and user-friendly AI-enabled BPM software.

Ready to learn more about how digital transformation powered by business process automation tools can streamline your complex processes and increase the efficiency of business operations?

Schedule a demo of BP Logix’s Process Director, or get in touch with us today!

Topics: business process automation
5 min read

Fifth Circuit Blocks OSHA ETS: What Employers Need to Know

By Steve Altschuler on Nov 15, 2021 9:15:00 AM

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The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling on Nov. 12 that blocks the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) from enforcing its Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) on COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing.

In the ruling, the Fifth Circuit argued that the ETS "exceeds the bounds of OSHA's statutory authority."

Under the ETS, employers with 100 or more employees would be responsible for:

  1. Implementing and enforcing a workplace vaccination policy that either (a) requires mandatory vaccinations, or (b) allows employees to choose between vaccination or weekly COVID-19 testing.
  2. Providing information to employees about the ETS, COVID-19 vaccines, and workplace vaccination policy.
  3. Determining the vaccination status of all employees, obtaining valid proof of vaccination or weekly test results, and maintaining vaccination records to ensure compliance.
  4. Reporting work-related COVID-19 fatalities and hospitalizations to OSHA. 

In response to the court order, OSHA issued the following statement:

"While OSHA remains confident in its authority to protect workers in emergencies, OSHA has suspended activities related to the implementation and enforcement of the ETS pending future developments in the litigation."

What employers need to know

Enforcement of OSHA's ETS was slated to begin on Dec. 5, so this recent ruling poses some interesting questions for employers that are currently exploring their options for employee vaccination tracking. Here are six key questions employers should be asking about Fifth Circuit's recent ruling on OSHA ETS.

1. Under the Fifth Circuit’s ruling, are employers still required to comply with the ETS? Can OSHA conduct audits or issue fines for non-compliance?  

The Fifth Circuit’s ruling functionally puts the ETS on a nationwide pause. While the ruling remains in effect, the federal government is prohibited from taking action to enforce the ETS. This means OSHA cannot conduct audits or issue fines until a decision is made. 

Although the ETS has been blocked, it’s important to note that the Fifth Circuit’s order is a temporary measure intended to maintain the status quo while appeals are pending. 

Because multiple parties have filed challenges to the ETS in multiple circuits, a consolidation proceeding known as a multi-circuit lottery will take place on November 16. This means the case may be transferred out of the Fifth Circuit before the court has a chance to issue a final ruling. Further, the federal government has the option of asking the US Supreme Court to dissolve this temporary stay. 

2. How long will it take to reach a final decision on this matter in the Court of Appeals or at the Supreme Court level? 

A final ruling from the Court of Appeals may take several weeks. It is also possible that the federal government will ask the US Supreme Court to dissolve this temporary stay. The Supreme Court could take much longer and if they were involved it would likely take place in Q1 2021.

3. What is the likelihood that OSHA's ETS will be diluted as a result of the legal challenges?

OSHA has the power to update and adopt new language to the original ETS. This power is intended to account for unconsidered items (e.g. booster shots), but it could also be used to make other changes, such as expanding the scope of exceptions or allowing additional time to meet the mandates.

However, it is unlikely that these changes would occur while challenges are pending. As part of its rulemaking procedures, OSHA is currently accepting comments, which the agency would take into consideration when finalizing a permanent standard.

4. If the Federal ruling is blocked, can states issue their own vaccine mandates for employers?  

Yes, states can and likely will issue their own vaccination mandates for employers.  

When OSHA enacts a federal-level emergency temporary standard, states are required to either (a) amend their standards to be identical or “at least as effective as” OSHA's new standard, or (b) demonstrate that their existing standard is “at least as effective” as the federal government’s new standard. 

However, some states may go a step further by adopting standards with even greater levels of protection and efficacy than what is required by OSHA. 

5. If the federal mandate holds up in the courts, how will OSHA enforce the mandate on such a large scale?  

OSHA has authority to review and determine non-compliance to the ETS mandate. They will likely focus their initial investigations on organizations that have willfully ignored the ETS. We also expect to see OSHA compliance investigations based on employee complaints about employer noncompliance.

6. Under the Fifth Circuit’s ruling, do employers still need to comply with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) interim final rule for healthcare workers and President Biden’s Executive Order 14042 on mandatory vaccinations for federal contractors?

The Fifth Circuit ruling has no impact on these rules. Employers should continue to adhere to these requirements as applicable. 

Topics: vaccine tracking
8 min read

The BP Logix Guide to Low-Code Platforms

By Catie Leary on Nov 9, 2021 10:10:08 AM

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Low-code platforms are on the rise across all industries. Read on to discover the benefits of low-code platforms for businesses.

In this article…

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What does low-code mean?

Low-code is a software development approach that uses little to no coding to create new applications, mobile apps, and software. Low-code approaches use graphical user interfaces with drag-and-drop capabilities rather than complex coding programs and languages.

This method is gaining much momentum, and Gartner has projected that the global low-code development platform market is forecasted to grow to a total of $13.8 billion.

Why is everyone shifting to low-code application development?

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Low-code doesn’t necessarily mean limited; in fact, its capabilities are varied and far and wide

Usually, businesses tend to use custom coding and off-the-shelf SaaS as alternatives to low-code applications. Custom code is the code that isn’t part of the licensed software. Instead, it’s often programmed by implementation partners, supported end-users, and third-party developers to customize the application based on the specific needs of the organization. This implementation of custom code applications is time-consuming and cost-oriented. Developers may need to have sound knowledge of programming languages like Java, Python, or PHP to build custom applications. 

Off-the-shelf SaaS comes with a standard set of features to meet the requirements of a broad range of customers. It may not be customized and adapted to the changing business needs of the organization. 

Benefits of low-code development

Fast time to value

management-reporting-dashboardBusinesses tend to choose low-code platforms because of the fast time to value (TTV). Time to value (TTV) refers to the time a product or service takes to offer desired benefits to the customer. The development lifecycle of low-code applications is as low as a couple of weeks to three months. 

This case study shows how a low-code BPM application was built and deployed within 45 days. Low-code development has also been a tremendous help in other large-scale universities and higher education institutions

Wide variety of industry applications

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Various industries including, but not limited to manufacturing, education, healthcare/pharmaceuticals, advertising, financial, and more are implementing low-code applications to streamline their operations. Regardless if you operate in a highly complex and regulatory industry, a low-code application can solve your worries related to increasing costs of application development, long timelines of implementation, and maintaining an in-house development team.

Easy integrations

complex sopsLow-code platforms facilitate the integration of existing applications and systems. They help IT departments create application programming interfaces (APIs) that play a crucial role in developing sophisticated and next-generation mobile applications based on the needs of the business.

Today, most of the reliable low-code platforms are facilitating integrations of database applications, document imaging software, email servers, SharePoint, social BPM, and web services/REST.

Unparalleled security 

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Security is the biggest concern for every organization that implements enterprise-grade applications. Low-code development platforms offer unparalleled security through global access controls and user-based permissions.

Since low-code applications are hosted on enterprise secure DMZ or secure private cloud infrastructures, they can easily pass cybersecurity clearances. Most low-code applications have third-party certifications like SOC 2 Type 2 and SOC 3 that guarantee cloud security, availability, and confidentiality controls.

Improved customer/user experience

undraw_develop_app_re_bi4i97% of development professionals believe that the low-code platforms enhance the end-user experience through features such as quick updates, visual development, flexible designs, and mobile-friendly interfaces. For example, low-code BPM software can help educational institutions to improve the experience of students through mobile-accessible enrollment forms and real-time visibility about the status of their applications. 

Likewise, retail companies can implement low-code workflow automation software that improves the consumer experience through better interaction, real-time updates, optimized assortments, and personalized promotions.

Increased transparency across teams

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Today, most organizations operate with a functional organizational structure that groups employees as departments based on the specialized set of tasks they do. For instance, a manufacturing company comprises several teams or departments including, but not limited to procurement, production, accounting, human resources, and delivery. The lack of transparency and visibility across these teams can result in conflicts and increase production lead times. 

The implementation of a low-code application like Business Process Management (BPM) can address this issue by creating workflows that all authorized people across teams can track. For instance, the BPM enables the production team members to have visibility on raw materials or the inventory levels that help schedule the production activities in a better and more simplified manner.

Simple deployments

scalability

A recently conducted research indicated that low-code digital automation applications can shave off 50-90% development and deployment time when compared to traditional applications. 

Since low-code frameworks are built on the principles such as speed, efficiency, and democratization of technology, they can be deployed quickly on the third-party cloud infrastructure or on-premises of businesses. These features all come together to help businesses with their scalability.

Difference between low-code and no code

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The functionality of low-code and no code, while similar, is not the same. There are several differences between low-code and no code in terms of business users, the complexity of the end product, the amount of customization required, and the cost.

Low-code

No code

  • Little coding is required in a few situations.
  • Businesses may need professional developers who have the technical knowledge and coding experience to deploy low-code business applications.
  • Low-code application platforms can be customized based on customer requirements.
  • Low code is known for its speed of development.
  • Low code can be used to create complex applications.
  • No coding is required because it uses a pure drag-and-drop interface to build applications.  
  • No coding experience is required; any citizen developer can implement them.
  • No code platforms often have limited customization and use templates.
  • No code development tools are known for their ease of use.
  • No-code is often used for front-end use-cases and simple applications. 

What can you build with low-code? 

About-BPLogix

  • Optimization apps: Optimization apps are the applications built to enhance the performance of a specific device or an operating system.
  • Customer engagement apps: These are omnichannel communication applications that facilitate interaction and engagement between the organization and its customers. These apps help marketing teams to maintain customer relationships and increase customer retention rates.
  • Business processes: These are automation applications that streamline complex business processes to improve organizational efficiency. Business Process Management (BPM) is one of the finest examples of business processes apps.
  • Data models and business logic: Data model apps are the platforms that help you build logical data models and database structures. Business logic apps create automated workflows that integrate business apps, information, and services of an organization. Business logic apps can help you develop a scalable integration solution.
  • AI-based solutions and processes: Low-code development can also be used to create AI-enabled chatbots, visual information processing tools, data analytics applications, and machine learning tools. These solutions and processes help businesses reduce human errors and optimize internal operations.

Low-code business process automation solutions with BP Logix

PD Screenshot

Low-code tools are playing a significant role in digital transformation. Low-code helps businesses quickly develop and deploy enterprise-grade applications that streamline internal operations and optimize productivity. The low-code development process is more effective than custom-coding and off-the-shelf SaaS. 

Low-code is widely-used to develop customer engagement apps, optimization apps, business process automation apps, case management, and AI-based solutions. Faster time to value, increased customer experience, unparalleled security, and quick deployments are a few of the most cited benefits of low-code app development. 

Discover how the Process Director, a low-code Business Process Management software from BP Logix can help you automate workflows and optimize productivity.

Book a Discovery Call

6 min read

4 Challenges PEOs Face with Employee Vaccination Tracking

By Catie Leary on Oct 15, 2021 7:15:00 AM

Vaccine tracking application for PEOs and co-employers

As employers with 100 or more employees join healthcare facilities and K-12 schools in efforts to comply with the federal COVID-19 vaccination and testing requirements, professional employer organizations (PEOs) are facing some interesting questions about their role in this situation.

Let’s examine the some of the hurdles that co-employers must overcome in light of recent government mandates and executive orders. 

1. The burden of responsibility

PEOs provide comprehensive HR services to small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) through a legal arrangement known as co-employment. Under a co-employment partnership, the PEO take on the management of HR functions (payroll, employee benefits, taxes, etc) and assume a share of employer liability and responsibility for employment risks. By outsourcing most (or all) of their HR activities, business owners can reduce costs and focus their efforts on growing their business, revenue, and customer base.

What this means is that the company's employees are also legally employees of the PEO, which begs the question:

If PEOs legally share the role of employer with their clients, are they on the hook for ensuring their clients’ employees comply with vaccination and testing mandates?

At the moment, it’s unclear what level of responsibility PEOs should expect to bear when it comes to vaccination mandates, which brings us to the second challenge:

2. Becoming an expert in vaccination compliance

PEOs do more than simply handle payroll and send out annual W2s. They also regularly serve an advisory role to their clients for matters involving compliance and labor regulations.

Do PEOs have a plan for helping their customers navigate vaccine mandates and implement processes that reduce employee anxieties? They ought to. Companies involved in a co-employer partnership will be looking to their PEO for guidance and resources on how best to handle his uncharted territory. After all, it's a pretty complex task to confirm the vaccination status of a company's workforce and set up weekly testing for employees who are not fully vaccinated. 

COVID-19 rapid testing

PEOs will not only need to have a firm handle on federal and state mandate requirements – they must also be ready to provide their clients with a solution for tracking employee vaccinations and tests. If PEOs don’t have one at the ready, they should at the very least be able to direct their clients to a solution so that no one has to resort to the dreaded task of tracking vaccinations via spreadsheet.

3. Retaining clients and winning new business

It’s no secret that the pandemic drastically changed the nature of work and commerce. Businesses must adapt, and PEOs are no exception. As vaccination mandate deadlines close in, PEOs must make sure they are investing in digital tools and infrastructure that keep existing customers ahead of the compliance curve while also enticing potential new business to sign on the dotted line.

Tools for tracking vaccinations and tests are a prime example. If PEOs can't provide the necessary support and guidance to customers as they navigate vaccination mandates and other COVID-related policies, that could be a major dealbreaker for both current and potential customers.

Some larger players in the PEO industry know this and have already taken steps to adapt to rapidly shifting market needs by rolling out some simple vaccine tracking solutions for their clients or partnering with companies like BP Logix to provide a solution.

4. Identifying the best vaccine tracking solution for PEOs

Before we dive into what makes an ideal vaccine tracker for PEOs, let's first take a step back and talk about vaccine applications broadly.

Numerous applications for proving vaccination and testing status have rolled out over the past year, but there is no “one size fits all” solution. Why? Well, the end user goals of one vaccine status app may be completely different than the end user goals of another vaccine status app.

For example, while vaccine passports are incredibly useful for providing proof of vaccination on an individual basis (such as getting through the airport to catch flight to Hawaii), they don’t serve quite the same function as a vaccination tracking application for private employers, which boils down to trying to ensure compliance of mandates and manage large quantities of data collected from hundreds or even thousands of employees. 

With those goals in mind, a vaccination tracking app designed specifically for employers should offer the following features and benefits: 

  • It should be accessible and mobile-friendly. 
  • It should have workflow trigger for handling exemption requests and testing for unvaccinated people. 
  • It should be simple to pull vaccination and testing data to prove compliance to regulatory bodies. 
  • It should be flexible to scale with your organization as policies shift or expand.
  • It should be ready for rapid deployment in order to meet mandate deadlines. 

5. Rolling out a vaccine tracking solution to client companies

When it comes to choosing a vaccine tracking solution, PEOs have an even more complicated task than independent employers. Not only must they find a solution that offers all of the features listed above, but they must also be able to roll it out to multiple co-employer clients at a reasonable cost.

BP Logix’s Vaccine Tracker app accomplishes this additional challenge with its multi-tenant model.

Vaccine Verification App (1)

How? It all comes back to how co-employer partnerships work. In order to carry out their responsibilities within the arrangement, PEOs require their customers to provide them with access to employee information and core HR systems. BP Logix's multi-tenant model is able to leverage this technical arrangement for the Vaccine Tracker app to provide PEOs with lower pricing at scale, as well as the following benefits:

  • Partitions between client companies and their data
  • Customizable app configuration per client company
  • Personalized in-app branding

Ready to learn more about our vaccine tracking solution for PEOs?

Schedule your customized demo of BP Logix's Vaccine Tracker app today.

Request a Demo

Topics: vaccine tracking
5 min read

Why You Shouldn't Use Spreadsheets to Track Vaccinations

By Catie Leary on Sep 24, 2021 7:00:00 AM

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As more private employers take the necessary steps to comply with state and federal mandates for tracking COVID-19 vaccinations and testing, many of them are seeking out solutions to make the effort as easy as possible.

Spreadsheets are often the first option to come to mind. After all, they are a “free” option and it’s fairly simple to set them up, even if you only have basic Excel experience. Unfortunately, that's where the advantages end.

Let’s take some time to break down exactly why it’s not a great idea to use spreadsheets for tracking vaccinations.

The limitations of spreadsheets

While spreadsheets are not the worst option for smaller employers that are only trying to monitor vaccination and testing for a handful of workers, they fall short for larger employers with 100 or more workers. Under the new OSHA rule, these larger employers are legally required to track vaccination status and testing for unvaccinated employees. This means that they must collect data from hundreds or even thousands of people and maintain records to ensure compliance.

Spreadsheets simply aren’t equipped to tackle that level of complexity or scale. A better option is to roll out a dedicated application that is specifically designed to collect vaccination and testing data, such as the Vaccine Tracker App. Let's dig a bit further into the disadvantages of spreadsheets.

1. Spreadsheets are tedious – for employers and employees alike

Manually collecting data from hundreds or thousands of people and then ensuring that data is entered correctly into a spreadsheet is a nightmare. It’s especially tedious when you consider the unvaccinated testing component of recent mandates, which requires employees to submit new data on a weekly basis and employers to keep records of that data. That's a lot for managers and HR teams to keep up with while also maintaining their regular job responsibilities. It's not too fun on the employee's end either.

Compared to spreadsheets, an application like the Vaccine Tracker provides a more accessible and mobile-friendly user experience for employers and employees alike. By making the tracking process as easy as possible, you can reduce barriers to access and maximize compliance. Applications also help employers reduce the time they spend agonizing over spreadsheet cells through the power of workflow automation and stronger verification features that circumvent the vaccination tracking “honor system."

2. Lack of exception handling

The lack of exception handling is, by far, one of the biggest limitations of using spreadsheets. As mentioned earlier, in addition to tracking vaccination statuses, employers must also have workflows in place for handling exceptions involving unvaccinated people, such as:

  • Enforcing weekly COVID-19 testing and documenting results for compliance purposes.
  • Collecting attestation for medical or religious exemption requests.
  • Escalating contact tracing in the event of positive test results.

If these workflows aren’t automated, employers must devote significant administrative resources to sending out follow-up emails and weekly testing reminders, receiving proof of test results via email or text, manually updating employee data on a weekly basis, and keeping an eye out for instances of non-compliance that must be escalated. Depending on the size of the workforce, that can add up to several hours of work for administrative staff per week.

Exception handling is where vaccination tracking application shines. An application like our Vaccine Tracker handles exceptions with ease. If an employee indicates they are unvaccinated, the system triggers automated workflows and reminder notifications that help keep employees accountable to testing requirements.

3. Reporting and proving compliance is a headache

When tracking vaccinations, collecting the data is only one piece of the pie. Being able to make sense of that data through reports is just as important – especially for workplaces that must submit weekly or monthly reporting to regulators to ensure they are following through with mandates.

For example, when managing weekly testing for unvaccinated personnel, it’s helpful to have reports that tell you who has been tested and not tested that week, as well as see that data broken down by department or worksite. This allows employers to identify problem areas quickly and stay in compliance.

Unfortunately, this is yet another area where spreadsheets stumble. Using spreadsheet data to create reports and dashboards for these purposes can take hours, while a dedicated application takes only minutes.

4. Poor collaborative and integrative capabilities

Many organizations need vaccination data to make decisions, whether it’s deciding if facilities need to close temporarily due to an outbreak or determining if incentives should be offered for vaccinations. These kinds of decisions may require collaboration across different departments or worksites. In some cases, organizations may wish to share public-facing reports of their vaccination and testing data on a dedicated website for all to see.

This level of collaboration and transparency is difficult to achieve with a simple spreadsheet, which is limited in its capability to integrate with other data sources or applications.

For example, K-12 schools may need the ability to integrate with district data. Unfortunately, a spreadsheet isn’t powerful enough to enable pushes and pulls from HR information systems or applications like ClassLink single sign-on.

5. Poor security and data privacy best practices

While the way employers store employee vaccination data is not covered under HIPAA, it’s still important for organizations to treat their employee’s private data with care and respect.

Unfortunately, improper data sharing is not uncommon with spreadsheets. An application designed to help you track vaccinations and testing, on the other hand, will be provide a secure environment (e.g. SOC2 and HECVAT certified) and have the ability to add or remove decision makers and create rules-based permissions.

6. Prone to errors and instability

On top of poor data security, spreadsheets are more prone to human error. It’s easy to input incorrect data, alter or delete data, mess up conditional formatting, or even lose files completely – often without even realizing it. Plus, there’s no independent backups to rely on should disaster strike.

7. Dismal scalability

As vaccination and testing mandates evolve, the way you approach tracking this data must be able to keep up.

Spreadsheets are ill-equipped for adapting to changing requirements, and there are limits to the amount of data you can collect. The flexibility to scale and add new features is why it pays to choose a future-proofed solution at the beginning.

Discover the Vaccine Tracker app.

Discover how easy we make it for employees to confirm COVID-19 vaccination status or test results. Get in touch with the BP Logix team today to schedule a customized demo.

Request a Demo

Topics: vaccine tracking
3 min read

Reduce Employee Anxiety With a Strong Vaccination Policy

By Catie Leary on Sep 17, 2021 11:30:00 AM

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Tracking vaccination status in the workplace helps companies ensure compliance with government mandates, but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee employee confidence.

That’s because the vast majority of vaccination tracking efforts are based on the honor system, which, as the Wall Street Journal explains, is “one in which health information is often given voluntarily, and employees have few ways to be sure their co-workers are following the rules.”

When faced with poor transparency and lax enforcement around vaccination policies, some employees are choosing to join the “Great Resignation” rather than endure the anxiety of returning to in-person worksites under unknown health risk factors. That's why it's becoming more critical than ever for employers to upgrade from the honor system to a more robust and accountable COVID-19 vaccination tracking process.

Let's walk through the vaccination tracking challenges faced by employers before and after the FDA's approval of the first COVID-19 vaccine, and then discuss where to start with building a truly strong workplace vaccination policy.

Vaccine hesitation in uncharted territory

Back when the vaccines were only available under emergency use authorization, it was not a big surprise that employers weren't exactly rushing to impose vaccination and testing mandates.

Even though a August 2021 survey by Mercer revealed that 65% of workers want their employer to mandate vaccinations, few businesses were eager to risk a potential lawsuit or deal with the headache of hiring new workers should unvaccinated employees choose to quit due to medical reasons or political or religious beliefs.

There’s also the matter of the costs required to implement a vaccination and testing program with actual teeth. While it’s quick, easy, and virtually free to establish a “you only have to wear a mask if you’re unvaccinated” policy based on the honor system, it takes significantly more resources to require employees to provide documentation confirming vaccination status or weekly test results. Since there were no governmental vaccination mandates up until recently due to the vaccines’ emergency use authorization status, there wasn’t much to compel employers to expend the necessary resources.

FDA vaccine approval flips the switch

Once the FDA approved the first COVID-19 vaccine, the floodgates opened to vaccination mandates across the United States. At the state level, many governors ordered vaccination and testing for K-12 school employees, and at the federal level, President Biden instituted a new OSHA rule that requires vaccinations or weekly testing for workers at private companies with 100+ employees. Businesses that do not comply could face OSHA fines of up to $14,000 per violation.

What this means is that worries over employee lawsuits have now been replaced by worries over fines and penalties for non-compliance. In addition, companies must grapple with the possibility of not only losing unvaccinated employees – but vaccinated employees, as well.

Backed by the clout of FDA authorization and governmental mandates, many vaccinated employees at in-person worksites are now expecting more from their employer when it comes to fostering a safe working environment. Instead of the honor system, these employees want to see employers offering stronger measures, such as:

  • Disclosure of the number of vaccinated vs. unvaccinated workers at worksites
  • Assurance that employees and visitors forgoing masks have been confirmed as vaccinated
  • Clear processes for enforcing weekly testing of unvaccinated workers
  • Contact tracing infrastructure to handle positive cases

How to build strong, accountable COVID-19 workplace policies and procedures

Workplace COVID-19 policies and procedures should ideally accomplish three key goals:

  • Prevent the spread of disease in the workplace
  • Comply with mandates to avoid fines and penalties
  • Reduce employee anxiety about workplace safety

Of course, even with vaccination mandates on the rise and vaccinated employees feeling more confident in demanding safer pandemic workplace policies, that doesn’t change the resource cost of implementing a robust vaccination and testing program.

When you’re dealing with hundreds or thousands of employees, manually checking paper CDC record cards and enforcing weekly testing of unvaccinated employees is simply not a feasible option. Combine these challenges with tight deadlines for complying with governmental mandates, it quickly becomes clear that automating these procedures as much as possible will be critical.

That’s exactly what BP Logix is helping employers do with the Vaccine Tracker App.

bplogix-vaccine-tracker-healthcare-cms-mandate

This secure, mobile-friendly application enables employees to easily upload proof of their vaccination status or test results, while providing administrators with a reporting dashboard to manage enforcement and access proof of compliance should OSHA come a-knocking.

Ready to strengthen employee confidence in workplace COVID-19 policies?

Get in touch with BP Logix today for a customized demo of the Vaccine Tracker app.

Request a Demo

Topics: vaccine tracking
4 min read

Vaccination Tracking and Testing for Private Employers

By Catie Leary on Sep 13, 2021 8:15:00 AM

private-employer-vaccination

President Biden announced a sweeping federal vaccination plan last week that is making major waves in the private sector. Let’s walk through the details of this new plan and discuss the best way for employers to implement and enforce these new requirements with a vaccination tracking solution.

A summary of Biden’s vaccination plan

As part of Biden's plan, private employers with 100+ employees must ensure everyone in their workforce is either fully vaccinated or require unvaccinated employees to undergo weekly COVID-19 tests. Businesses that do not comply with the requirements may face fines up to $14,000 per violation from OSHA.

In addition to the vaccination mandate for private employers, Biden also expanded the scope of requirements for federal employees and health care workers. Vaccination is now required for all executive branch federal employees, all federal contractors, and all workers at hospitals and other healthcare facilities where Medicare and Medicaid patients are treated. There is no test-out option.

All in all, Biden estimates that his new plan will affect about two-thirds of all workers in the U.S.

The new federal requirements come just a couple weeks after several states announced similar vaccination and testing mandates for K-12 schools, many of which are slated to go into effect mid-October.

How private employers can implement and enforce vaccination mandates

With hefty fines and penalties on the line, employers are now on the hook for developing clear policies and procedures that comply with the mandates, as well as keeping records for compliance purposes.

According to the New York Times, the new OSHA rules would “require employers to keep records of which workers are vaccinated and which have recently been tested, [and] the agency could ask inspectors following up on unrelated concerns to check records for compliance with the vaccination rule.”

What's the best way for employers to implement and enforce these mandates to ensure optimal compliance – especially when they’re responsible for tracking hundreds or even thousands of employee vaccination records? Certainly not a spreadsheet. Employers need to be looking for an application that can automate the entire process for them.

Where to start? Here are seven critical questions to ask when researching applications for tracking employee vaccinations and testing.

1. How quickly must you roll out your tracking plan?

With looming compliance deadlines and the threat of fines, it’s important for organizations to find a solution that can be implemented quickly. A custom solution built from scratch by an in-house IT team or your company’s outsourced development vendor is unlikely to be ready in a span of just a few weeks. It’s more efficient to find an existing application, like the BP Logix Vaccine Tracker app, which can be deployed rapidly while remaining flexible enough to customize to a company’s unique needs.

2. Is your solution accessible and easy for employees to use?

When you’re trying to collect the vaccination statuses of hundreds or thousands of employees, the most effective solution is the one that is the easiest for everyone to use. Accessibility is key. A vaccination tracking app must be mobile-friendly so employees can use it whether they are on a smart phone, tablet, or desktop. Likewise, workflows must be logical and easy for users to navigate through.

3. How will you handle unvaccinated employees?

While vaccination rates continue to climb, there are still many people who are not vaccinated. Depending on your workplace’s policies, you will likely need to have automated workflows set up for handling exceptions, whether it’s gathering materials for medical or religious vaccine exemption requests or setting up a workflow that allows employees to share recent test results.

4. How will weekly testing for unvaccinated employees be enforced?

For many companies, employees that decline full vaccination will need to be tested for COVID-19 every single week. For compliance purposes, employers will need to cover all of their bases by making sure this data is collected every week. Manually collecting this information just isn’t feasible, but an automated system can keep everyone accountable by sending employees regular testing reminders, alerting managers to non-compliance, and triggering additional workflows in the event of a positive test results.

5. How will you sync data with existing HR systems?

Any good vaccination tracking solution should be able to easily integrate with an organization’s existing data sources, whether it’s a human resources information system, an enterprise resource planning system, or a student information system.

6. What is your plan for proving compliance?

Because OSHA is requiring employers keep records of employee vaccination and testing, one of the most important components to look for in a vaccine tracking app is a management dashboard that allows you to easily pull reports for your organization’s vaccination rates and testing history.

7. Will you be able to adapt to changing requirements?

The final thing to consider when researching solutions for tracking vaccination status is flexibility and scalability. If there is one thing we’ve all learned during this pandemic, it’s that things move fast. The application you choose must be able to evolve along with changing policies and current events. Not only does this help your organization respond quickly to new developments, but it can also help you avoid technical debt in the future.

Our solution? The Vaccine Tracker app

3-1

The Vaccine Tracker app is a flexible, mobile-friendly solution that enables employees to securely share proof of their vaccination status with their employer. For employees that are not fully vaccinated, the app can automatically handle exceptions by triggering workflows for weekly diagnostic testing, medical/religious exemption requests, and other escalation tasks.

Built using BP Logix’s powerful low-code platform called Process Director, the Vaccine Tracker app is endlessly customizable and easily scaled. In fact, while the app was originally designed for use at K-12 and higher educational institutions, the Vaccine Tracker app can be customized to suit the specific needs of any number of workplaces, including manufacturing plants, government facilities, retail establishments, private offices, and more.

Ready to automate vaccination tracking at your workplace?

Get in touch with BP Logix to learn more about our Vaccine Tracker app.

Get Started

Topics: vaccine tracking
2 min read

Checklist for Tracking School Employee Vaccination Status

By Catie Leary on Sep 2, 2021 6:58:10 PM

Here's our checklist of everything a K-12 school administrator must consider when researching automation solutions for tracking employee vaccination status. 

K12-vax-status

With students and teachers resuming in-person learning amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, many K-12 school leaders are scrambling to identify the most effective solutions for complying with new vaccination and testing policies mandated at the state, local, or institution levels.

Like most things impacted by the pandemic, this is uncharted territory for everyone. However, one thing is clear: If you’re trying to quickly and securely track the vaccination statuses or weekly test results of hundreds or even thousands of people, a rudimentary spreadsheet just won’t do. Schools must be able to collect data efficiently, sync with existing IT systems, report data for compliance purposes, and be prepared to adapt quickly to ever-changing policy requirements.

So, how do school leaders pick the best solution for the job? How can they achieve compliance with budgetary constraints, limited IT resources, and aggressive timelines?

Vaccine Tracker AppAt BP Logix, we’ve spent the last year working closely with higher education institutions and K-12 schools on developing a vaccination tracking app customized for their unique needs. Through this experience, we've put together a checklist of everything school leaders need to keep an eye out for when evaluating applications for tracking COVID-19 vaccination status, test results, and contact tracing.

To ensure your district is prepared for these evolving requirements, look for solutions with the following capabilities. 

Download as printable PDF

Key capabilities

  • Ability for users to upload vaccine cards proving vaccination status
  • Integration with district data (push/pull from HR, Student Information Systems, ClassLink)
  • Flexibility to scale and adapt to changing requirements as mandates evolve
  • Exception handling for unvaccinated individuals, including workflows for diagnostic testing and religious/medical exemptions with attestation
  • Contact tracing workflow triggers for COVID-19 positive test results
  • Automated alerts and notifications for reminders and non-compliance

User experience and accessibility

  • Intuitive and mobile-friendly user experience
  • Single Sign On enabled (SAML integration)
  • Accessible for users with disabilities (VPAT)
  • Institutional branding

Compliance

  • Secure environment (HECVAT, SOC2)
  • Data privacy

Implementation

  • Speedy deployment to meet mandate timelines
  • Cost effective
  • Ability to easily customize to your unique needs

Management

  • Reporting dashboards
  • Visibility/ Escalations handling
  • Administration (add/remove decision makers, rules based permissions, etc.)

Get the Vaccine Tracker app today.

Make it easy for employees to confirm COVID-19 vaccination status or test results. Get in touch with the BP Logix team today to learn more or schedule a customized demo.

Request a Demo

Topics: vaccine tracking
10 min read

Solving the Vaccination Tracking Conundrum for K-12 Schools

By Catie Leary on Aug 27, 2021 7:15:00 AM

Vaccine verification conundrum

With “back to school” season in full swing and the recent FDA approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Aug. 23, several states around the country have announced vaccination mandates for K-12 school systems. 

“We think this is the right thing to do and we think this is a sustainable way to keeping our schools open and to address the number one anxiety that parents like myself have for young children,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said earlier this month while announcing California’s new K-12 vaccine and testing mandate.

The vaccination mandates for schools are a bold step aimed at reducing the spread of the highly contagious delta variant, but logistical questions remain – how will the vaccine tracking process actually work?  

In this article, we break down current statewide vaccination and testing mandates for K-12 schools and explain how BP Logix’s new Vaccine Tracker app can help school officials implement and ensure compliance of these new mandates. 

COVID-19 vaccine requirements for K-12 schools by state 

Information last updated August 27, 2021. 

  • California: All workers at public and private K-12 schools must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 15 or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. 
  • Connecticut: All workers in public and private preschools, K-12 schools, and childcare facilities must receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 27 or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. 
  • Illinois: Teachers and staff at public preschool and K-12 schools as well as personnel and students at public colleges and universities must provide proof of vaccination by Sept. 5 or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.
  • New Jersey: Workers at public and private preschool programs and K-12 schools in New Jersey must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. 
  • New Mexico: All workers at public and private schools must be fully vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing effective Aug. 23. 
  • Oregon: All teachers, educators, support staff, and volunteers at K-12 schools in Oregon must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18. 
  • Washington: All employees and contractors at public and private K-12 schools, higher education institutions, and childcare/early learning providers serving children from multiple households must be fully vaccinated or obtain a religious or medical exemption by Oct. 18. There is no test-out option. 

The challenge for schools? Vaccine tracking logistics 

Faced with these new requirements, school administrators are now tasked with finding and implementing a solution for verifying the vaccination status of employees in time to meet their state’s deadlines. 

Manually checking paper CDC record cards is not a feasible option when you’re dealing with thousands of people, which is why finding a way to automate this process is critical. 

Thankfully, K-12 schools seeking a solution can look to their higher education counterparts, who are already one step ahead in their search for a solution. In April, California’s massive UC and Cal State university systems announced plans to require COVID-19 vaccinations for all students, faculty, and staff upon official FDA approval of the vaccines. At the time, the three COVID-19 vaccines were only available under emergency use authorization, but that didn’t stopped universities from thinking pro-actively about technical solutions for eventually verifying vaccination status. 

Tracking vaccinations with an app 

In response to requests from our higher education customers, the team at BP Logix developed the Vaccine Tracker app to allow school administrators to simplify and automate the vaccination status tracking process for their employees and students. 

With our app, school employees can easily and securely provide proof of their vaccination status, while administrators can manage enforcement and comply with mandates. 

 

There are several reasons why educational institutions are turning to BP Logix’s Vaccine Tracker app. 

1. Rapid deployment

Faced with looming compliance deadlines, schools subject to statewide mandates must move quickly to establish and roll out a process for verifying COVID-19 vaccination status for their teachers and staff. The Vaccine Verification app can be customized and deployed in as a little as a few weeks. 

2. Mobile-friendly and accessible

The trick to successfully verifying the vaccination records of thousands of people? Make it as easy and accessible as humanly possible. Vaccine Verification is a web-based app that streamlines the verification process for employees with a simple, intuitive form. It can be used on any device – from desktops to tablets and phones. 

3. Simple system integration

One of the best parts about Vaccine Verification is that it easily integrates with your existing campus data sources, whether it’s a student information system (SIS), a human resources information system (HRIS), or an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. By linking up the app with your key systems of record, you can effortlessly authenticate users and streamline their user experience. 

4. Compliance verification and exception handling

Vaccine Verification can do more than just verify vaccination information from immunized individuals. It can also handle exceptions for users that indicate they have not been vaccinated. You can pose additional questions or collect additional information required for your school to remain compliant with mandates. 

5. Management reporting dashboards

The administrator view of the app offers a robust, customizable dashboard with a bird’s eye view of your school’s vaccination data, as well as actionable reporting, data drilldowns, and always-on audit tracking. 

6. Customizable, flexible, scalable

The reality of living in a pandemic means that things change very quickly. While the COVID-19 vaccines are not yet authorized for children under 12 years old, that could change in a matter of months. Will schools have a plan ready should the K-12 vaccination mandate be extended include all children? That’s just one example of why it’s critical to choose solutions that can keep up with your changing needs and help you avoid technical debt. 

Built using a powerful low-code platform called Process Director, the Vaccine Verification app is endlessly customizable and easily scaled. In fact, while the app was originally designed for use at educational institutions, the Vaccine Verification app can be customized to suit the specific needs of any number of workplaces. 

Want to take our Vaccine Tracker for a spin?
Sign up for a 14-day demo. 

Automate vaccine tracking and other critical campus processes 

As a process automation partner to many higher education institutions across the country, BP Logix is well-versed in helping schools build solutions that automate their most complex or unique processes. In fact, our vaccine tracking app is just one component of a larger suite of apps geared to educational institutions. 


Ready to transform and scale your school with BP Logix? 

Book a Discovery Call

Topics: vaccine tracking
3 min read

10 Reasons Why Workflow Is Important For Your Business

By Girish Pashilkar on Jul 30, 2021 8:06:00 AM

The importance of workflow in business

During the course of our relationship with customers, there is usually a point that constitutes the "a-ha" moment. It is at that time they realize the importance of workflow in standing up an automation initiative.  While few dispute the need for workflow, it usually requires seeing workflow ‘in action’ (and understanding the resulting benefits) before people recognize that workflow is important and is more than just a tool for process efficiency.

Developing your workflow is important but it has challenges; it’s like planning the world's largest reception and taking into consideration every plate, glass, napkin, hors d’oeuvres, beverage and the hundreds of other details that must be coordinated beforehand. Planning the reception mandates viewing the event holistically yet acting with singular precision. 

Workflows operate in a similar way. They create a foundation on top of which business activity can happen more efficiently. The result is the ability to view, operate, manage, analyze and improve your business in dramatic ways.

Knowing the importance of workflow is one thing, but having a sense for what an effective workflow software solution is — and what it can do — is the next step.

workflow-map-purple

The following list may be helpful in better understanding the importance of workflow and specific areas that business process automation software offers tangible workflow-related benefits to organizations:

1. Paper trail is replaced by a digital trail

We have talked with people who manage warehouses full of files. The result is a morass of paper, cabinets, lost or misplaced documents — and stress. Workflow software keeps digital copies of files, automates the routing of tasks, alerts those who need to take action, and keeps a record of everything relevant to the process.

2. Eliminate redundancy

So much activity in an organization is duplicative (or, worst, wasteful.) A workflow software solution helps to identify up-front the critical points of activity, enabling you to define specific actions, participants and results that should occur.

3. No stopping for signatures

Electronic signature technology on eForms allows for fast approvals (including executives on the go) and the reduction in time lost as a result of waiting for paper-based signatures.

4. A better understanding of how time relates to action

Business activities are deadlines driven. Effective workflow solutions provide triggers that keep processes moving according to a timeline, enabling participants to see precisely when and where input is required.

5. Greater insights

Your business processes are meant to deliver results. You should know what is happening within your operation at any point in time. Workflow is important because it gives you regular insights into what is occurring within your processes, the people involved, and a sense for how effectively your organization meet its deadlines.

6. Automation focuses on activities

A workflow engine that has the ability to create automated workflows allows you to set up processes, then let them run. The majority of work that occurs within processes can be automated, freeing up time and allowing you and your team to focus on more strategic activities.

7. Accentuates the positives

Workflow is important because it's an excellent tool for assigning tasks to people based on their strengths and skill sets. By giving people the most appropriate tasks, you can improve productivity and keep employees more engaged.

8. Workflow is important because it never forgets

Every activity in digital workflow is tracked. Whether you need information for compliance purposes or to review how your organization operates, the ability to quickly see the ‘who, what, where and how’ of your processes provides important insights.

9. The business runs the business

Workflow used to be the domain of people who walked around buildings with plastic flowchart tools; it was a fairly specific function. Now, there are workflow solutions with rapid application development software capabilities that enable and encourage non-developers to build, adapt and manage workflows. Business managers know the importance of workflow and how it has become an important tool for themselves, ensuring that the requirements of the business are not at the mercy or interpretation from IT.

10. Encourages collaboration

Whether through more access points (mobile, Internet of Things), communication channels (social media), or platform (on-premise, cloud, hybrid), a solid workflow solution gives everyone involved with your processes—both inside and outside of your firewall—the appropriate level of access along with the BPM tools to make a difference.

Have more questions about implementing strong workflows in your business? Contact BP Logix today.

Topics: workflow
3 min read

Getting Out of Technical Debt in Higher Education

By Andrew Kelly on Jun 24, 2021 12:41:25 PM

Getting out of technical debt in higher education

 

IT departments in colleges and universities haven't always faced the same level of pressure as businesses to keep up with the latest technology. But those expectations have rapidly changed as providing a modern student and faculty experience has become a key objective for many institutions. As time passes and systems continue to fall behind, it becomes more difficult to catch up, as entrenched systems become more difficult and costly to update or replace. 

The pandemic has stressed schools’ IT resources, as remote access has become more important than ever, adding to the pressure. Schools with outdated systems have been left in a critical situation.

Why higher education institutions have trouble keeping up

The gap between how an organization's systems are running, and where they should
be, is called "technical debt." Every organization that maintains software deals with the
issue. As with regular debt, the more an organization has, the more impossible it seems
to get out of it. Just maintaining existing systems becomes harder.

Traditional large-scale systems, like Student Information Systems or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), are massive systems with thousands of manual processes and traditional customizations that run the risk of becoming stale and outdated. Cut off from innovation, lacking automated governance, these systems have become a burden on every department with their ever increasing requirements for effort and ongoing customizations. This presents a huge barrier to innovation and introduces serious risk into any organization. It gets worse with time like quicksand, when organizations are reliant on legacy systems that get more and more outdated but are extremely difficult to move off of.

As the number and complexity of solutions grow, their usage can become siloed, and users who should be able to benefit from things like cross-departmental applications often get increasingly further away from the data and processes they need. This not only creates a poor return on technology investment, but it also kills efficiency efforts and prevents businesses from moving rapidly to deliver solutions. 

Overcoming the technical debt challenge

How can educational institutions overcome these challenges and bring technical debt
down? It's an ongoing effort where several steps are necessary

  • Awareness of the issue. In the absence of a commitment to keep up, it's easy
    not to think about the need for improvement. Academic IT operations need to
    review what they have and how well it serves the students and faculty. Top
    administrators need to keep this in mind and devote budgets to modernization.
  • A school-wide commitment to keeping up. Fragmentation of services makes it
    hard for any office to catch up on its own. Resource sharing and elimination of
    redundancy are key steps.
  • Pooling of knowledge. When departments and offices don't communicate, they
    don't get the benefit of each other's knowledge, and they often create redundant
    solutions to the same problem, or purchase off the shelf applications that don't integrate with the rest of the ecosystem.
  • Appetite for innovation. IT operations can get so wrapped up in the old methods that they aren't aware of the advantages new software and tools offer. They need to commit part of their effort to discovering what's available to help them modernize. Low-code software like BP Logix' Process Director is a great example of a modern solution that can solve many of Technical Debt's problems.


Automating educational operations

Institutions of higher education need to make the best use of limited resources. Systems
that require little or no custom coding help accomplish this. BP Logix Process Director,
Higher Education Edition, is designed to help educational institutions simplify their
business processes. They can reduce the use of paper forms and simplify workflow
designs. Developers can define rules to ensure that processes comply with campus
policies. Process Director's low-code approach lets non-programmers do much of the
work.

Overcoming technical debt isn't easy, but with committed support, the modernization of
campus IT resources is within reach.

Topics: higher education
3 min read

Automating the Approval Process in Biotech and Pharma

By BP Logix on May 25, 2021 3:43:04 PM

Download the Process Director for Life Science Product Fact SheetHeavily regulated industries inherently have a lot of rules. The biotech and pharmaceutical industries are no exception. Adhering to complex regulations requires significant amounts of administrative work to ensure that the proper directives are being followed. Extensive regulations also present significant risks of hefty fines for noncompliance. Failed clinical trials also present a significant risk to pharmaceutical companies and can cost billions a year. 

Getting a new drug to market involves an infinite number of variables, many of which influence who needs to sign off on content development and research projects. This leads to a very complex process that, if done manually, can be very inefficient.

While eliminating steps in the approval process can lead to losses, waiting for approvals that delay a new product’s launch can be equally costly. Streamlining the approval process improves time to market while reducing risks. An effective business process automation strategy is key to a much more efficient approach.  

Research concept approval

The process of getting a clinical trial approved and budgeted often requires the collection and organization of significant amounts of data. Researchers must submit information on the type of study, the objective of the study, the subject of the study, and use case descriptions. This data needs to be accurately and completely documented for researchers to have any chance of obtaining the resources to move forward. Automating this process with digital forms that enforce requirements can ensure all the necessary application data is present, mitigating the risk of delays or bad clinical studies moving forward. 

Once the data is collected, the proposal needs to be vetted and approved. Who needs to approve the project and in what order is often driven by several variables. Whether a project is studying a molecule or a device may dictate whether legal, medical, or regulatory experts need to approve it. Significant efficiencies can be realized by incorporating these rules into an automation system that defines the approval path.

Pharma Content Approval Processes

Once research is completed or drugs are ready for the market, the process of disseminating information and data on these advancements requires significant scrutiny. 

Scientific Publication Review

Once new findings from research studies are ready for publication, an extensive review process is initiated. Reviewers may include third-party experts and professionals with diverse backgrounds. The appropriate protocol depends on the type of product being studied, the country or region the data is being published, or the type of data being presented. For example, some products may require review by a minimum number of statisticians or lawyers. Finding the right resources and routing the document efficiently to each expert for their review is a complex process that can easily be held up or delayed. Automating the routing process based on these variables can eliminate the manual process of designing workflows for each individual project. 

Marketing Content Review

Publishing marketing content also requires multiple levels of approval before it can be made available to the general public. But, marketing content comes with an additional level of complexity and risk. 

Marketing content can be delivered through a variety of channels and in different forms, leading to a much more complex approval process. Video is created for TV or the internet, web copy and brochures also need to be created to publicize the benefits of a new drug or device. Content can also be developed for different markets that speak different languages. All this content is required to go through a specific approval process and each of these variables dictates the appropriate path. 

Managing the approval process through multiple levels including legal, medical, marketing, and patent review slows the process of getting products to market. But, it is vital marketers get this approval process right. Ineffective management of the process can lead to misleading messaging reaching the public resulting in significant penalties. For example, publishing content that overemphasizes the benefits of a new product that is not balanced with acknowledgments of side effects and risk factors can result in hefty fines. In 2012 GlaxoSmithKline was fined $3 billion and Abbott paid $1.6 billion for miscommunicating information in direct to consumer advertising

Automation

Automating the approval process provides many benefits. Rules and variables can be used to automatically route content to the appropriate reviewer. By digitizing and automating the process, sophisticated systems can not only ensure content is signed off on by the appropriate authorities but can also calculate the most efficient route to final approval. For even greater efficiency, leading platforms can also create parallel paths so reviews can happen simultaneously on a single document. 

Time to market is a competitive differentiator in the pharma space but shortcuts can be costly. A solid automation strategy can streamline the approval process, reducing risk and increasing competitiveness.

Topics: publication planning publication management
3 min read

Improving collaboration workflows for drug approval

By BP Logix on May 11, 2021 11:22:37 AM

Time to market has a significant impact on profits, particularly in the ultra-competitive life science and pharmaceutical industries. Delays in bringing products to market can lead to deferred or missed revenues. But, the heavily regulated drug approval process requires a variety of inputs and approvals to validate each step of the process, extending the development period. While there are many hurdles to clear, skipping any of these steps can expose operations up to compliance risks. 

Pharmaceutical firms with well-tuned automation strategies that enable professionals to easily collaborate around the drug approval process will be better positioned to capitalize on market opportunities. Improving how teams are built and creating workflows that move documents and data quickly through the process are two areas that can be streamlined with smart automation.

Vetting resources

Each stage of the drug approval process, from research to publications to marketing copy, requires input from a variety of professionals. Statisticians, physicians, chemists, pharmacologists, and copywriters all must contribute, approve and validate content and data as it moves through the pipeline. In many cases, these experts are third parties that must be properly vetted to ensure that they are in good standing in their field. Working with experts that have been excluded or disbarred can jeopardize the process. This task of researching and documenting contractors’ status can be very manual and slow. 

Automating this collection of data and documentation of certifications can lead to significant time savings. Executing consulting agreements with contractors is another important part of the process which, if skipped, can lead to legal issues down the road. An automation platform that enforces rules to properly vet and engage third parties is a smart way to reduce risk. 

Automating approval workflows

Once resources are procured and vetted, managing and coordinating how collaborators work together is key to streamlining the approval process. Whether it is an approval of a research publication or a study protocol review, approvals need to be routed to the appropriate people at the right stage of the process. Appropriate controls and constraints also need to be in place and enforced. For example, a minimum number of people may need to review and approve a document. Automated workflows can be built to ensure that documents don’t move forward without the required number of experts signing off on content. Rules within the workflow can also force users to record key data points that may be critical in the event of an audit. 

With so many different professionals required to complete so many tasks, workflows can get complicated, especially at large firms running a high volume of projects. These approval workflows can be unique to every company, clinical study, research publication, or marketing copy. Over the years, organizations have learned what works and what doesn’t within their operation based on corporate culture, markets, products, resources, and risk tolerance. In some cases, this institutional knowledge lives in the heads of more experienced professionals and is applied manually to define the path that each project takes through the approval process.

Instead of reinventing the wheel or mapping workflows for each individual project, significant efficiencies can be gained by standardizing and automating the process. By implementing a platform where rules and steps can be standardized, workflows can automatically be created based on the types of products in the pipeline or available resources. This not only significantly increases efficiency but also documents institutional knowledge. 

Workflow platforms can also provide greater visibility of the entire process to identify bottlenecks and enable changes to the workflow before the process stalls. Incorporating rules and analytics into your workflow automation also allows the system to identify critical paths so professionals can work in parallel, leading to greater velocity. By automating the administration of the approval process, products can get to market faster and at a lower cost.

Low-Code vs. Build vs. Buy

By implementing a low-code solution, pharmaceutical companies can create systems that adapt to their unique processes instead of adjusting processes to an off-the-shelf generic software package. Low-code BPA options are also much less disruptive, quicker, and less expensive than building a solution from scratch. 

The rush to digital transformation and automation is redefining how businesses operate. The velocity of change will only accelerate. Streamlining administrative tasks that hinder the drug delivery process will lead to better corporate performance.

2 min read

University Vaccine Tracking - the New Higher Ed Requirement?

By BP Logix on Apr 23, 2021 12:25:23 PM

shutterstock_1827506501

A recent Los Angeles Times post announced that UC and Cal State Systems are among the first state university systems to implement plans to require COVID-19 vaccines for students who want to take classes in person this fall. How will universities keep track of student inoculations? At BP Logix, we have developed an application for university vaccine tracking, in anticipation of what is proving to be a trend in higher ed nationwide.  You can sign up to get a 14 Day demo of our Vaccine Tracker here

How many universities will require vaccination?

Rutgers and Cornell were the first to announce the requirement weeks ago. Brown in Rhode Island, Northeastern in Boston, Nova Southeastern University in Florida, and Fort Lewis College in Colorado have announced they plan to require vaccines this fall as well. Add the UC and Cal systems and it's clear that the dominos are falling. 

Though there could be some legal issues with making vaccination a requirement for university attendance, a USA Today post reported that most parents seemed likely to be in favor of required vaccinations if the condition would allow the return of the traditional college experience. That sentiment was shared by students at Boston University, which just released their plan to require vaccination.

Private universities, which normally have more autonomy over student choices, and which, in some cases already required some types of vaccinations before the pandemic, are more likely to be able to adopt the requirement without legal challenges. 

An expert in both university life and law offered the following perspective in the above-cited USA Today article.

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, a professor at the University of California, Hastings College of Law who studies vaccine law, said, "even before the pandemic it was normal to see variation in universities' vaccine requirements. More universities may also make decisions after they see their peers act."

If many universities adopt mandatory vaccinations as predicted, a vaccine tracker will need to be readily available.  

Vaccine tracking will become a priority - is your university ready?

Current conditions make it seem the pressure is on universities to require students to get vaccinated. Although vaccinations will lessen worries about spreading the virus, the new challenge of implementing a vaccine tracker will arise.

How can universities keep track of student vaccinations? How difficult is it to set up vaccine tracking programs or applications? In response to inquiries by our Higher Ed customers, BP Logix is debuting a Vaccine Verification Application that is now available for purchase.  

Our long-term focus on higher education helped us prepare a vaccine tracker solution

Our experience with our higher ed customers gives us great insight into which processes within higher education have the greatest demand for automation. Our library of higher education Apps has been built based on our highest used and requested processes from our customers. This background was instrumental in our development of the university vaccine tracking application for higher education which is available today.

Learn how higher ed is using process automation to transform and scale. Check out BP Logix low-code platform for higher education at the link here.     

Topics: vaccine tracking
5 min read

How Low-Code Automation can help Pharma Evolve - 5 Key Imperatives

By Girish Pashilkar on Apr 15, 2021 2:48:09 PM

The average cost of developing a drug is $2.6 Billion and rising, with a 12% success rate1.  As pharma companies look to 2021 and beyond, the Medical Affairs, Commercial and Regulatory affairs teams will be collaborating more closely amongst themselves and with third parties to accelerate new product launches while navigating burgeoning compliance requirements.  What role can technology play?  In this blogpost we explore how low-code software platforms can enable a competitive advantage learning from the experience of one of the largest Pharmaceutical companies in the world.  

 EOS Slides (1)

5 key Imperatives for Pharma

Agility: Pharma leaders are increasingly turning to the concept of agility to help them navigate a volatile, uncertain and complex external environment2.  COVID 19 has challenged the sector to explore innovative ways to produce new drugs faster and cheaper.  Pharma leverages “Agile” practices from the Tech industry to do more rapid prototyping of new drug concepts and “fail fast” to get to the finish line quicker with the right candidates.  With a low-code platform, companies can quickly put in place automated workflows to approve new concepts and tailor the priorities as more information becomes available. 

Transparency:  As Pharma aspires to move new drugs faster through their development pipelines, they must also recognize the greater demand for transparent data, policies and operations.  Regulations change depending on product categories, delivery mechanisms and legal jurisdictions.  For example, when preparing to publish in peer review journals, rigorous debarment checks and review of authorship agreements are essential.  Furthermore, regulatory requirements are constantly changing.  It is important to select an automation platform that can handle the complexity of Pharma while also providing the necessary audit tracking. 

Collaboration: Expiring patents and a tight regulatory environment are just some of the issues that are hoped to be resolved through forming partnerships across the industry, academia and even with competitors.  There is also need for greater collaboration between public and private sectors so that we can combine capabilities and experiences.  For example, the launch and distribution of the COVID 19 vaccine saw collaboration between, J&J and Merck, Oxford and Astra Zeneca and Pfizer and BioNTech.  Geographically dispersed teams both within and outside of an organization can work together using tools such as Collaborative Document Authoring and Management.  It is important that data privacy, version and audit tracking ensure the integrity of any work products of such a collaboration. Learn more about our compliance capabilities here

Patient Outreach: Patients are emerging as an important decision maker in healthcare.   Medical Affairs must develop a deep understanding of patients’ needs that encompass the patient insights from different healthcare stakeholders.  This will require a more flexible engagement model that utilizes multiple channels including mobile and social media.  Does your automation provide you the capability to have compliant communications across multiple channels?  

Cost Containment: US healthcare costs increased from 5% of GDP in 1960 to 18% in 2018. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) project that by 2028, such costs will climb to $6.2 trillion, or about 20 % of GDP. How does your choice of a workflow automation platform help you maintain a consistent focus on optimizing medical value across the product lifecycle?  Does your platform provide you better visibility into your process bottlenecks in a real time fashion?  Do you have a spaghetti of multiple applications adding to your cost of managing processes?  Can you consolidate some of these applications and invest the savings in areas that help you make your processes more agile and compliant? 

 Click here to learn how a Low-Code Platform can help you gain the competitive edge in Pharma.   

3 min read

Better Student Engagement through Automation - Webinar Recap

By BP Logix on Mar 31, 2021 11:53:51 AM

In our recent webinar on how automation can drive better student engagement, a strong dialogue between Charles Araujo from Intellyx, the digital transformation experts, and John Rezendes, Director of IS Operations from Cal State Stanislaus uncovered great insights into how Higher Ed institutions are leveraging technology to improve the student experience.

Experiential Trends and the Impact on Student Engagement

To frame the conversation, Charles discussed the evolution of the experience economy and how that has shifted business models to focus on delivering a better customer experience as a new form of value. In the new experience economy, businesses must continually reinvent themselves to deliver on evolving customer expectations. This evolution of customer, and in this case, student experience expectations, has changed the landscape of how we deliver educational services to students, and has accelerated due to the changes brought on by Covid-19.

Covid-19 as the Instigator for Student Experience Evolution

John Rezendes is living in the center of this evolution, and has embraced the opportunity for change. Taking advantage of a multi-campus pilot that Cal State Schools kicked off in 2019, John partnered with BP Logix to start automating processes that were too time consuming for his homegrown platform and too complex for simple automation tools.

Like many Universities, a mandate to optimize for better student experience was a primary driver in the shift of the IT team from a focus purely on back-office process optimization and infrastructure to student facing departments and processes. With the perfect storm of this mandate for change and a pandemic, John and his team took up the mantle of transforming the enrollment experience with the help of his partnership with BP Logix. Hear John in his own words at the video below.

How Automation Initiatives Can Drive Better Student Experience 

The initial focus in improving the enrollment experience lead John’s team to prioritize the Course Change process as an early win. Prior to their automation initiative, students were filling out paper forms and hand delivering them across the university for signature. With their new initiative, a dynamic process was set up on the BP Logix platform to grab course enrollment data from their SIS, and make sure that a student’s course selection and available options were auto-populated, that the form was then electronically routed to the right departments for approval, and the whole process was tracked and visible by both enrollment services and the student. “Now, we can keep everybody in the loop, we can let everybody know where it is in the process, who’s done what with it…these things can take minutes as opposed to days,” said John.


One of the biggest takeaways from the conversation came in a discussion around lessons learned. John discussed the importance of breaking both cross-functional and technology silos, and specifically the role that data integration has in elevating the student experience. "There has to be a way to get data from one system to another, and the processes behind that to make sure data is tracked and handled properly." Their ability to move data from SQL Databases on premises into the cloud, and back into Sharepoint is a big part of the value that the BP Logix platform gives his team in how they’re able to improve the ease of use of their student facing processes and thus the student experience. Added John, “It’s the glue to what we do.”

You can watch the webinar in it’s entirety at the link below.

Watch the Webinar

 

2 min read

10 Steps to Engaging End Users for Successful Automation

By BP Logix on Mar 16, 2021 7:27:39 AM

Let’s face it, organizational change is difficult. Business leaders who can take an innovative idea and push it forward to adoption within their organizations are hard to find, and they are often rewarded when successful.

 

When undergoing a new automation initiative, choosing the right technology partner is important, but engaging end users and preparing stakeholders to adopt a change mindset is of equal importance. Here are 10 steps for making your Automation initiative a success. 

  • Choose the right process - Collaborate with end users to choose the right process. Initially, choose a process with high impact but low complexity that you can roll out quickly and will generate excitement for end users.
     
  • Analyze Stakeholders – Research and identify ALL the stakeholders who will touch, or are touched by the process, including users, managers, and administrators.

  • Communicate! -User buy-in is incredibly important, so discuss the benefits of automation with users, and explain how it will make their job easier.

  • Gather Requirements - Document both the inputs and outputs of the process as well as any pain points, with the context provided by your stakeholder interviews. 
  • Map out the current process and define requirements –Sketch out the process from beginning to end, considering the view from the end user’s perspective, and try to implement new efficiencies. 
  • Build iterativelyRegularly check-in with stakeholders to get feedback on progress and take note of any evolving requirements. 

  • Train end users –Explain to users how to use the new system and to run the process, so they are comfortable with using it.

  • Documentation - Create a process guidebook. Good documentation of the process and how to use it is the key to enabling your users to do self-serve troubleshooting. 

  • Test and tweak -Ensure that Stakeholders test the process and that process designers make tweaks based on the feedback.

  • Roll out to production and monitor the system closely – Have needs been met? Is everything running smoothly? Watch for ways to further improve the process as it runs.

    Interested in learning more about how to successfully launch a business process automation initiative?  We're ready to talk.

Schedule Your Demo Today!

 

Topics: business process automation
4 min read

Digital Transformation in Higher Education - The 3 Step Process

By BP Logix on Mar 10, 2021 7:57:11 AM

The pandemic has spurred the digitization of processes within every industry, but it hit institutions of higher education harder than most. Digital transformation (Dx) is essential, not only to provide services safely today, but to keep up with evolving student expectations. Higher education leadership needs to tackle key questions like . . . “How do I build a more connected student experience? How can I get faculty and staff on board and enthusiastic about digital transformation of their departments? How can digital transformation simplify processes for students?"

 

Defining Digital Transformation as it Applies to Higher Education

EDUCAUSE provides us with a great definition – “Digital transformation is a series of deep and coordinated culture, workforce, and technology shifts that enable new educational and operating models and transform an institution's business model, strategic directions, and value proposition.”

 

An Evolving, 3-Step Process

Step 1 - Digitization

Student facing forms, applications and other documents that used to be distributed in paper form via the sneaker net are now stored and completed online. Records and reports are ideally stored on the cloud and can be accessed from anywhere. Digitization has occurred gradually over recent decades, but paper forms still exist on campuses across the country, despite the challenges with COVID-19.

Step 2 - Digitalization

The process of digitalization is the collective utilization of technology for specific operational purposes, like research, administration functions, payroll, procurement, or online delivery of courses. Many of our customers have undergone digitalization of their departments, which offers encouraging green shoots of progress. The difference between digitalization and the final step: digital transformation is that Dx demands a coordinated effort to efficiently implement digitization for every practical purpose throughout the organization. 

Step 3 - Digital Transformation

This concept might be described as a global movement within and throughout an organization. A movement to transform the workforce's attitude, the company's culture, an effort to coordinate every department.  To steer, in this case, an entire educational institution's digitalization efforts in a strategic direction to increase value and deliver a better experience across the student journey from recruitment to graduation. This takes organizational willpower, strong leadership, and an increased level of cross-departmental coordination. 

Digital transformation can be a daunting task for leadership and IT teams, a time-consuming effort at reprogramming, of continuing support as staff members strive to fully understand their role in adapting to and driving change. It must be more than a task for the IT team if it's truly going to be successful, though IT has a strategic position as both a driver and implementer. Ultimately, institutional leadership must sponsor an organization-wide mandate. Organizational silos must be busted to deliver lasting change.

A global solution for a movement encompassing every department

By investing in a platform built for driving digital transformation in Higher Ed, designed for the needs of a higher education institution, implementation can be accomplished without extensive IT resources. A low-code/no-code platform requires no software development expertise to digitalize processes across departments. With the right coordination, business users and students alike can help the organization make great strides in Dx.  

BP Logix offers a simple, low-code/no-code solution for bringing your Digital Transformation strategy together through efficient digitalization across departments.

 

Some ways our Higher Ed customers have utilized our platform to drive Dx:

  • To create a seamless experience for students in enrollment and registration by connecting applicable data from different legacy platforms, to surface elsewhere to students in online forms. .
  • To automate manual HR processes.
  • To save hours of development time automating financial applications.

Benefits backed by customer testimonials:  

John Rezendes, Director of IS Operations at Stanislaus State commented on the system's simplicity:

“Process Director gives us a suite of tools we can use without needing a lot of development experience. It's cutting development time at least by half to get an electronic form and a backend workflow up and running and working for our students on campus.”

 

Eddie Serrano, Deputy Director for Research Business and Operations at UNC mentioned the ease of coordinating data.

"With Process Director, we were able to quickly modify existing financial forms — Expense Reimbursement, Invoice Payment, Purchase Order Request — to track COVID-19-relatedexpenses." . . . "Our new workflow also allows us to easily seek other necessary approvals according to procedural changes instituted by the University."

 The easiest way to implement digital transformation is through the combination of an organization wide initiative and the right automation platform designed for Higher Ed. 

Interested in learning more about how your university can use a low-code platform to jump start your digital transformation initiative? View a demo of Process Director. Watch our webinar "Process Automation Solution Tailored for Higher Education" .

 

Topics: digital transformation
2 min read

How Enrollment Leaders are using Technology to Transform the Student Experience

By Girish Pashilkar on Mar 2, 2021 2:00:00 PM

Keeping enrollments up is mission critical to institutional leaders in higher ed and increasingly so as balancing budgets have become more difficult amidst funding uncertainty with Covid-19. However, as every VP of Enrollment knows, keeping enrollment levels high isn’t something they can manage without collaboration across departments.

The move to a virtual student model has exacerbated the misalignment of student expectations with institutional processes. Processes and priorities need to be coordinated across new student recruitment, registration, financial aid, student support services, curriculum development, and other academic areas that affect enrollments, student persistence, and student outcomes.

When processes and departments remain siloed, student experience suffers. Asking students to consistently swivel between disconnected systems, scan and email documents, or worse yet, run paper from one department to another for signatures can negatively impact student satisfaction early on.

Siloed Enrollment Experience

One of the key hurdles to achieving cross-departmental coordination is that systems and processes are often siloed and disparate. How can enrollment leaders break through these silos with their limited budgets and resources?

Integrated Enrollment Experience

Traditional approaches of building cross functional processes rely on a combination of working with large monolithic ERP systems (eg: Ellucian/ Banner, PeopleSoft, etc), point SaaS applications and custom-built applications. The challenge with these approaches is that they fail to adequately address the core problem, which is to allow for seamless processes across organizational silos.

With a low-code platform, higher ed institutions can use a single platform to build out a broad range of connected applications across the enterprise keeping the student at the center. The right low-code platform can connect at the backend of enterprise applications and serve as the technology layer to providing a consistent user experience. This can be done without requiring an army of software developers and the associated high costs and lack of agility. 

With BP Logix Higher Ed Edition, leaders in enrollment and student services have the added advantage of a platform that understands the unique needs of higher education (eg: accessibility, FERPA compliance, etc) and comes with built in templates for a broad range of processes across functional areas. Add to that access to a community of higher ed professionals with whom you can collaborate and benchmark processes.

Build best in class processes with minimal support from your IT organization. For example, the University of Central Florida created a student portal in less than 45 days. The portal allowed students to access a broad range of services across multiple departments by conveniently logging in from their computers, kiosks and mobile phones.

“We care about making sure our international students have the best student experience, so we asked ourselves, how do we use technology to make this better? Through forms and workflows, we connect with our students and make sure the data gets into our SIS or continues to our internal processes,” said Paulo Graxton, Associate Director of Operations at UCF. “Working with BP Logix has absolutely improved our student experience.”

A better student experience was one of the key reasons for 15% year over year growth in student population. Learn more about how higher ed leaders like Paulo are using automation to improve the student experience in our upcoming webinar Driving Better Student Engagement through Automation

4 min read

7 Ways Workflow Automation Software Can Improve Your Onboarding Process

By BP Logix on Feb 12, 2021 8:07:45 AM

The process of onboarding new hires is critical both to the organization and to the success of new employees. A well-designed onboarding process improves employee retention in the first three critical months of work, sets the pace for engagement, and can either make or break initial productivity.

And yet, according to a Gallup report, only 12% of employees reported that their companies did a good job of onboarding. With that in mind, it should be no surprise that 51% of organizations reported losing new hires within the first 6 months.

Clearly, employee onboarding is in a bleak state. The situation has only deteriorated since the pandemic began and work-from-home policies were implemented. 

But with HR automation, employee onboarding does not have to be a task for HR teams to dread and avoid. The right workflow automation software takes away most of the onboarding work from your hands and makes it much more fulfilling, engaging, and effective for everyone involved.

The Role of Low-Code Process Automation In Onboarding and HR

While workflow automation is normally a strategy employed by IT teams, and might not seem rife for use cases within HR, Onboarding has increasingly become a set of processes that take well to automation. Even more so when paired with a low-code platform that can be utilized by those without a developer skillset.

Specifically, onboarding involves new hire paperwork, orientation, training, performance tracking, and project management. These are repetitive tasks, and intelligent automation systems handle them effectively. 

 For new hires, onboarding is full of uncertainty, pressure, expectations, and a general feeling of being overwhelmed and oftentimes, lost.

One study showed exactly what employees want from onboarding:

  • 76% wanted on-the-job training
  • 73% wanted a review of company policies
  • 56% wanted to be assigned a mentor or buddy

With this data in mind, it becomes easier to understand just how powerful workflow automation in employee onboarding can become to make the process easier for all parties involved.

1. Simplify Onboarding and Training of Remote Employees

Remote working threw a wrench in an already difficult onboarding process. Without physical contact, tasks like training and document generation have become more of a challenge. However, virtual onboarding using automated workflows can make sure the proper training, resource provisioning, and other critical processes are always consistently counted for.

 What makes automated training so effective is that employees are taken through every process step-by-step without room for manual error. Unlike an employee handbook, automated workflows are dynamic and can pivot quickly to handle new policies.

2. Digital Tracking and Document Management Eliminates Manual Bottlenecks

 Automated HR workflows carry you through pre-processing, onboarding, and ongoing employee management. At each of these stages, an automation solution like BP Logix’ Process Director generates dynamic forms for applicants to fill along the way and automatically stores, shares, and updates records as needed. Audit trails are always there for compliance purposes.

 You can even automate the setting up of new accounts in payroll systems, trigger notifications to the people concerned, and requisition any resources needed such as software licenses or access credentials. This eliminates the headache of manual document pivoting from system to system, or worse: scanning and filing. 

3. Track the Progress of New Employees Automatically

An automated workflow system also allows HR teams to track the progress of all new applicants as they go through the virtual onboarding process. Processes can be designed to automatically capture important metrics and run reports as needed to keep track of applicants as they advance through the system.

 The detailed data and analytics availed by automated HR workflows provide precious insights that can help you figure out how to improve your onboarding processes for the future, including finding the critical path to make processes more efficient.

4. Standardize the Onboarding Process Across All Applicants

In organizations without automated onboarding processes, some new hires come in and receive a full concierge onboarding program, while others come at a bad time and are left to their own devices. Leaving onboarding processes to individual leaders allows for markedly different new hire experiences.

 Automated onboarding processes streamline and standardize this experience so that everyone receives the same treatment. 

 The system also ensures that employees are trained in the same way, creating a consistent brand experience for every client. When new hires are left to figure things out, variance exists between the way each employee carries out supposedly similar tasks.

5. Improved Policy and Regulatory Compliance

The right onboarding platform can be programmed to ensure compliance at every stage. Whether that's overtime compliance, fair labor standards, FMLA, federal civil rights, accountability, or labor laws, automated workflows can be built to take care of the complex compliance regulations for you.

 It is common knowledge that HR compliance has become a minefield. However, unlike manual onboarding processes, automated onboarding also provides visibility into the whole process and makes compliance audits much easier.

6. Integrate with Legacy Applications

Integration with finance applications, active directory and legacy ERP systems like Peoplesoft make sure data easily gets from one system to another, without manual error. Low-code automation platforms equipped with robust integration capabilities, like BP Logix, make sure documents and data can be easily actioned and never fall through the cracks.

7. Collaborate with Other Team Members for Successful Onboarding

Using automated workflows for onboarding new employees sets up channels for communication and collaboration not only with HR teams, but with other team members as well. The right onboarding platform can integrate with email and UCC platforms to ensure that even new team members stay involved and engaged with their team.

Automate HR Workflows to Ease Administrative Workload: How BP Logix Can Help

Onboarding is a challenging and complex process that demands a high level of commitment from HR teams to conduct successfully. However, thanks to the power of a Low Code onboarding platform like BP Logix, you get to take much of this workload off your plate and create an effective onboarding process for your new hires. 

 BP Logix specializes in intelligent BPM software with a low-code platform that excels in automation of critical business functions in HR and across the business.

Contact us to learn more about how our intuitive AI-powered engine can help transform your HR onboarding to a smooth, effective process for you and your prospective hires.

Topics: hr automation
3 min read

A Case for Investing in HR Onboarding and Offboarding

By Girish Pashilkar on Nov 13, 2020 2:52:16 PM

HR - Onboarding V1.2

A survey of 350 HR leaders in the U.S. found that 76 percent of respondents’ workplaces1 are not effectively onboarding their new hires. A delayed or uncoordinated onboarding can result in lost productivity, low employee morale and, in extreme cases, unplanned attrition. Similarly, missing key steps in offboarding can increase your compliance, litigation and reputation risk.

Several studies have been conducted that point to the need to paying closer attention to employee onboarding and offboarding and investing in HR automation. For example: 

  • More than 50 percent of job seekers checked a company’s job reviews on Glassdoor before applying for a job.
  • Organizations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%.
  • Employees who have negative new hire onboarding experiences are twice as likely to look for new opportunities in the near future
  • 88% of employees think their employer did a poor job with the onboarding process

The challenges of onboarding and offboarding

The average new hire has 54 activities to complete during their onboarding experience which makes it one of the most complex HR processes. Therefore, it is not surprising that the main reason for neglecting onboarding includes managers not having the time to undertake it (57 percent), the absence of tools to measure its effectiveness (55 percent) and the lack of digital onboarding technology to automate the process (39 percent).

Today's workforce is made up of digital consumers, and they expect the same conveniences of on-demand, flexible, and simple processes and innovation at work that they experience in their personal lives. More recently, the COVID 19 pandemic has forced several organizations to maintain a high level of flexibility with their staffing plans, resulting in higher-than-normal level of termination, hiring, and rehiring. This has increased the HR onboarding and offboarding workload on an already lean HR organization. 

At most organizations, onboarding and offboarding of employees touches multiple departments and sometimes, external entities. The end result is typically an onboarding and offboarding process that is both complex and unique.  As a result, a cookie cutter approach and off the shelf software tools rarely gets the job done.  What is more is that HR policies can change as can the needs of the hiring manager.  Not only is it important for these critical HR processes to be tailored but they also need to be agile and responsive to the changing needs.

How to improve the employee onboarding and offboarding process

Given the complex nature of the onboarding and offboarding processes, HR organizations need a way to build tailored processes quickly and easily adjust them as their requirements change to create a positive onboarding journey for new employees.  Similarly, because the HR teams are burdened with an overflowing to do list, they need access to intuitive dashboards and reports that inform them and alert them about deadlines, processes and resources.

A low code onboarding and offboarding platform is a better technology to build and automate your process compared to either building such a workflow as a custom application from scratch or a rigid off the shelf application.  A low code onboarding and offboarding platform is like a set of Lego blocks that can be quickly assembled to create a tailored workflow.  In addition, the right onboarding and offboarding platform should have the following key capabilities:

  • Easy to install and upgrade.
  • Low code – no coding knowledge required.
  • Rich integration capabilities that make it easy to coordinate the HR onboarding and offboarding process across multiple departments.
  • Strong in audit tracking of the activities which can be critical for certain industries.
  • Powerful process modeling capabilities allow clients to model complex processes with ease
  • Ability to proactively identify potential delays and recommend corrective action to ensure timely onboarding. 
Using the right onboarding and offboarding platform can help you:
  • Gain 70% in cost savings
  • Improve internal team productivity by 40%+
  • Reduce in process time (5 to 10 times faster)

Take decisive action now

Click here to learn more about how some of your colleagues are using a low-code platform to address the unique challenges posed by onboarding and offboarding. In particular, how they are quickly assembling tailored onboarding and offboarding processes to improve their employee retention and relieve the HR team from administrative tasks at an affordable cost and in a short timeframe. 

Topics: hr automation
2 min read

How UNC's Nutrition Research Institute Improved Efficiency with Low Code Automation

By Girish Pashilkar on Oct 27, 2020 9:00:00 AM

Scientific research requires a complex web of documents, processes, approvals, and reviews, and to keep things on track. To support all of that work also requires that back-end functions like finance and accounting be efficient. That’s why many research-based organizations turn to Process Director from BP Logix as a way to create, deliver, and adapt their operational processes. Being able to put move quickly enabled the Nutrition Research Institute (NRI) at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill - (UNC) to be agile in the face of sweeping changes from COVID-19.

UNC is home to a wide array of research centers and laboratories conducting leading-edge projects to deliver scientific progress. NRI is among those, and is an internationally recognized facility that conducts innovative studies relating to how differences in requirements and responses to diet affect our individual nutritional needs. Their research has led to successes in preventing or mitigating the negative effects of chronic diseases and aging, as well as in improving human development, even prior to conception.

To keep the engine of innovation humming at NRI requires the work of an entire organization — HR, Finance, IT, and other departments that must be effective at their tasks to enable NRI-based research to become usable. When COVID-19 hit earlier this year, all these groups within NRI had to retool their processes and workflows in order to maintain continuity. 

This transformation effort included adapting to new procedures and policies for managing operational and HR expenses. Especially pressing for the NRI operations and administrative teams was the need to modify existing forms for reimbursement, invoices, and purchase orders related to COVID-19. These are expenditures that hadn’t been planned for prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, and it was critical to track them because these expenses translate to research dollars lost. The institute had to be able to deliver accurate and timely reports on the financial impact of the pandemic to university, state, and federal sponsors that support its research.

Speed and accuracy were essential requirements. Process Director helped them code expenses quickly on the front-end which saved the NRI finance team approximately 100 hours in following up with their laboratories and doing retro campus journals to code the expenses as COVID-19 after the fact.

In our recent webinar, Eduardo Serrano, Deputy Director of Research Business and Operations at NRI walked attendees through their experience implementing workflows using a low-code approach. Joined by Dave Kieffer, Vice President of Research and Large Enterprise Systems at the Tambellini Group, these two experts explain how NRI used Process Director to rapidly implement change, with adherence to specific requirements, and without requiring expensive custom software development. Specifically, it covers:

  • How workflow is uniquely qualified to streamline processes and rapidly implement changes with a low code approach
  • Insights and trends from The Tambellini Group on the new resource-light approaches to workflow automation
  • An introduction to and benefits of using a low-code approach to workflow automation

Learn more about workflow automation for higher education, or contact our team of process automation experts to learn more about our low-code platform.

6 min read

Workflow-driven Digital Transformation to Improve the Student Experience

By BP Logix on Sep 28, 2020 7:26:26 AM

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, one of 13 state institutions in the University of Wisconsin system, needed a way to improve how it managed and tracked documents for critical processes to keep the school running smoothly. Their criteria for the right solution included:

  • Cross platform compatibility
  • Price
  • Ease of development
  • Ease of use
  • No per-seat licensing
  • No barriers to development
  • Excellent responsiveness and support

The UW-Eau Claire team looked at 106 products and decided on Process Director from BP Logix. The eForms Project Lead, Mike Sharp, said: “What wowed me was the demo. When I called to schedule the demo, I was asked to send one of our forms. No one ever asked me that before. BP Logix asked me for a form, converted it quickly and demoed our form. They personalized the demo – and that was a huge wow!”

Let’s look more closely at how automation and workflow are helping many universities dramatically improve the student and administrative experience.


 Higher education is experiencing unprecedented change. Colleges and universities face lingering uncertainty as a result of the COVID pandemic, but they also are coming head on with the stark realities of declining enrollments and changing demographics. To remain competitive, schools must meet the demands of a new breed of student, one that is digitally savvy and may not be interested in the traditional model of higher education. Many want a different type of college experience, and in order to survive and thrive, schools have to transform to meet these changes.

 Effective college IT teams are not sitting back to see what happens. By using data and applying the right mix of technology, they are providing their schools with an agile foundation that can react to changing situations and identify ways to thrive. This enables them to deliver student-facing applications and solutions that are unique to today’s college environment.

 The new college student experience

Today’s college students are digital natives. They have grown up in a digital world and expect access to technology as a way to navigate almost every part of their lives. Just about everything they want is available through their smartphones, and they now expect to be able to click their way through tasks and plans. Innovative colleges and universities understand this and are going through a transformation, powered by workflow, to help students with everything they require from admissions all the way to graduation.

 The first step is to establish a foundation that can reliably help achieve these new goals. Workflow provides this because it can be aligned with the goals of both students and their higher education institutions in a way that moves beyond legacy systems and uses digital solutions to change course as needed. It’s not just a way to make better use of data and create efficiencies of scale. In the context of education, it is used to provide a more connected overall experience across the student’s lifecycle.

 Some organizations see their processes as a series of unconnected events. They don’t recognize the need to effectively orchestrate the user experience, nor do they always see the value of deploying solutions in a student-driven context. From a business standpoint, this is critical because it’s the essence of customer satisfaction. Give students (customers) what they need to be successful, and be willing and able to adapt as the route to success changes.

 Using workflow and data to drive transformation

University IT teams realize that workflow is more than just a series of tactical activities. The data from the diverse set of technologies that make up the university IT ecosystem can be used to create user-friendly apps that improve how students engage with their school. This promotes connectivity to the institution, which leads to a better student experience. But schools also have the benefit of collecting data from these applications and processes to learn about student behaviors and preferences. Armed with that kind of data, they can remain agile and prepare for anticipated changes.

 The concept of digital transformation is perfectly suited to the university environment because schools must operate a complex web of offerings to keep students engaged. This includes everything from admissions, financial aid, and registration to health services, student activities, and career counseling. And that’s just scratching the surface of what today’s students expect.

 Innovative schools recognize the importance of adapting traditional process principles and leveraging the inherent flexibility of workflow. With that as the centerpiece, the process of digital transformation enables integration among other applications, user inputs, data sources, and other elements that improve awareness and process accuracy.

 Workflow as the key to adaptability

The models for how to operate and scale these schools for a modern student body have to remain flexible. The impetus for many of these transformations include: 

  • Student demographic shifts: More college students are attending part-time or are balancing school with other life priorities. These students may require more flexible scheduling options, access to financial aid resources, and career advisory services, among other things. With each semester, these demographic shifts are likely to change to some degree, and traditional methods for supporting students will need to align accordingly
  • Revenue impacts: There is no question that universities have to be marketable and competitive from a financial standpoint. A key way to ensure they can maintain aggressive revenue goals is to reduce costs at every level of the organization. For the IT department, this doesn’t require a reduction in student services if the technology is used for repeatable processes and rapid application development. In fact, schools that apply workflow effectively can become leaner while increasing their efficacy in supporting the student population.
  • New learning styles: Today’s students are digitally aware and expect a balance of interactive digital education along with in-person coursework. This will increasingly be a key point of differentiation for schools.

 Delivering on these objectives requires university IT teams to strategically manage their data and processes as the foundations for the new college experience. The insights this approach can derive will enable schools to meet today’s demands and prepare for the future.

 A higher ed transformation framework

The most important aspects of aligning with the student experience all have to do with usability paired with functionality – ease of use, solution context, and communication. The backbone, however, is effective workflow, which ensures that all these elements are met so that users can be both more efficient, and consistently meet their needs to make student life easier and more meaningful.

 Let’s look at these in detail:

 Ease of use

Today’s typical college student grew up accustomed to an inbound style of productivity. Rather than having to wait in lines and submit paperwork, they use online apps and smart forms to submit information and receive results.

 There is an expectation among these students that they’ll have access to digital tools for most of the tasks they want to accomplish. College IT teams can use workflow automation tools to create sophisticated, low-code digital applications that take into account the necessary data and workflow sources on the back-end, and consider how users on the front-end will actually use the app. By being able to create simple apps that integrate relevant information, including smart forms and processes, students can get the information they need and take action on things like class scheduling, financial aid, and other relevant events. The teams who build the apps benefit when they apply an agile approach to development.

So while Process Director is easy to use for those who need to build applications intended to engage students and help them with decisions and actions necessary to their experience, that ease of use is also reflected in elegant, simple usability that encourages repeatability and adoption.

Relevance and context

Managing multiple classes, along with administrative issues like financial aid, all compete for students’ attention. Add to this to extracurricular activities like intramural sports and campus activities, and it becomes clear that schools have to piece together a massive amount of integrations and connections among data repositories to deliver solutions. Optimizing the use of data can have huge benefits, including the ability to interpret student and school trends. That data can ultimately help schools to be more efficient in things like operational expenditures and hiring.

Human interaction is complex, but workflow can be automated with rules to pair different sets of data and route it to appropriate decision makers. This level of automation functions not as a linear phenomenon, but as a continuously shared collection of usable elements that allow for context-based structural changes, last moment decisions, and individualized attention depending on each circumstance.

A case management approach can help greatly when delivering applications that integrate historical data on students (transcripts, payments, scholarships). With navigable data that can be filtered for omission or inclusion depending on the situation, applications can adapt as the students’ situations change and evolve. This approach supplies students with applications that provide them with what they need when they need it, all without forcing them to search outside the context of the case to find answers.

School-to-student communication

Students receive emails, texts, direct messages, and a host of other types of communication to keep them connected to their school. But information can go unnoticed if it doesn’t fit with how they are accustomed to consuming it. Schools have to ensure that students see important messages, but also create ways for students to communicate back with them.

To facilitate connecting and communicating across departments, the data collected from applications, forms, and sources can be organized into a collective portal that delivers all students’ actionable information into a single interface. That reduces response time and enhances the kind of communication students require in order to meet deadlines, stay on top of opportunities, and keep their good standing with their school.

The data-driven digital transformation of higher education cannot happen on an application-by-application basis. Schools that want to align their goals and processes to student behaviors will apply digital transformation through the use of smart workflow and processes. To serve these needs, Process Director provides digitally transformative and contextual education workflow solutions, facilitates efficient distribution of information, and streamlines the monitoring and management of information.

4 min read

Higher Ed Needs an Agile Approach to Workflow Automation

By BP Logix on Sep 16, 2020 1:59:35 PM

Higher education institutions adhere to a disciplined cadence of organizational milestones in order to operate effectively. To manage workflows and processes, ensure that documentation is delivered and acted upon correctly, and enforce accountability across all stakeholders is a job that’s highly dependent on the orchestration of workflows across the many teams in a university organization.

Forward-thinking colleges and universities are using workflow automation to support business processes for every aspect of the educational lifecycle, including student management, hiring, facilities, vendor management, capital expenditures, compliance and governance, and a host of other issues that demand continuous oversight and action.

True workflow automation is most successful when IT teams adopt an agile approach that allows them to create a rules-based environment that facilitates repeatable actions and shares data among different applications and repositories. Being freed from the responsibility of manual intervention allows IT teams to identify new and better ways to deploy data to support new processes. And in a time where so much is new, being able to develop and implement solutions to new issues can deliver meaningful value.

Process Director is used by a variety of colleges to support their digital transformation initiatives. With digital process automation capabilities, it enables schools to integrate data among processes across a wide array of services and departments. Different schools look for various ways to achieve this, and the use cases of BP Logix customers illustrate how BPM can be a critical aspect of higher education transformation and organizational growth.

 Rapid application development and forms automation

All schools in the United States had to move quickly to transition students from on-campus classes to 100% remote learning in the spring of 2020. All of this had to happen in a matter of weeks, and it involved a long list of details, dependencies, and processes to coordinate across the student experience.

 At the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), there was a desire to provide students with a way to change their grade type for the Spring semester. This would encourage students to choose a “Pass/Fail” option rather than drop a letter grade while they adapted to a new style of learning.

 The UPenn IT team sought to enable this option for students quickly and easily. Using Process Director, they created a digital form driven by an automated process that gave students a fast, efficient way to request the new grading option and have it approved. With the workflow, requests were automatically routed to the appropriate school registrar for processing. Students were notified when the school acted on the change request, and the school registrar gets a PDF copy of the whole transaction.

 The key for UPenn was speed and accessibility to data. Process Directors’ forms-building capability and rapid application development approach allowed them to build this in a short time period.

 Automation and governance for student records

UCF Global is part of the University of Central Florida system that serves a global population of more than 64,000 students every year through 93 bachelors, 86 masters, and 27 doctoral courses of study.

 A key challenge for the university is managing private student data that is distributed across many different repositories and applications. Because that personal data is protected by governmental compliance standards, it’s critical that the school safeguard how it’s accessed and used. With student records management as a primary driver, the UCF Global IT team sought a way to be efficient and secure with data, but to also make it usable so they could deliver rapid solutions for their students. By adopting Process Director, they have been able to take advantage of a diverse set of functionality that is supporting their needs. This includes:

  • Comprehensive and automatic logging, with digital signatures, of every action taken by any actor, human or automated.
  • The highest levels of encryption of data at rest and data in transit.
  • Digital signature of documents.
  • Granular permissions structure, with temporary privilege escalation.

By ensuring a safe environment for transactions and storage of student data, UCF has been able to build processes that automate the flow of student information through all processes in the student lifecycle, from admissions to graduation.

 Digital reviews and approvals

One of BP Logix’ higher education customers, the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), used Earth Day as the impetus for adopting a BPM approach. With a mandate to reduce paper usage, the UTEP IT team embarked on a plan to eliminate paper where possible by relying instead on the digitization of forms through scanning and digital storage. It quickly became clear that efforts to improve reviews and approvals through digital means could lead to other efficiencies through BPM.

 With the rollout of this new digital emphasis, the UTEP IT organization began to implement Process Director BPM across more parts of the University. They focused their efforts on 1) the easy movement of documents across campus via electronic workflows, 2) enabling the review and approval of electronic documents via email, 3) the ability to have dashboards that allowed users to edit, view, and receive messages regarding activities and tasks as well as to retrieve reports, forms, and notifications, 4) Having electronic records signed via a digitized image of a signature and 5) ability to populate a series of form fields by extracting information from a database instead of requiring users to input that data.

 With broad usage of Process Director’s capabilities, UTEP has instilled an agile, prowess-driven mindset in how IT delivers solutions to various departments. Speed has been a critical driver, but so too is how comprehensive Process Director is at ensuring that necessary participants are included in reviews and other transactions throughout the various university lifecycles.

4 min read

Is Your College Prepared to Change Course?

By BP Logix on Aug 26, 2020 2:13:24 PM

In recent days, three major universities — the University of North Carolina, Notre Dame, and Michigan State — sent students home and moved all classes to online formats after COVID outbreaks created health and safety scares. It is likely that more will follow a similar course of action as millions of students arrive on college campuses in the coming weeks.

 Even with the best conditions and preparation, schools will be faced with mass groups of students congregating on campus, in social gatherings, and in the streets of the local town or city. In short, it’s a recipe for an outbreak and it will force schools to be swift in their efforts to adapt.

 Colleges facing the reality of opening in the fall

University IT leaders spent the spring and summer creating strategies and backup plans for the coming year. All different types of scenarios were taken into account and failover plans were created. But as these plans were being developed, the coronavirus continued to spread, and with it was more uncertainty.

 Now that the new school year has arrived, the reality is that keeping 18-22-year-olds compliant with social distancing and mask-wearing is likely much harder than anyone had accounted for. What we’re facing is what will likely be a domino effect of schools that need to reverse course and go 100% virtual learning after they’ve opened their doors.

 Some are calling for all universities to keep their doors closed until there is a sustained flattening of the curve. In a blog by NYU business professor, Scott Galloway, that tied the current situation with colleges’ ability to operate, he said, "Right now half of colleges and universities plan to offer in-person classes, something resembling a normal college experience, this fall. This cannot happen. In-person classes should be minimal, ideally none.”

 Immediate action needed by IT teams

So, what happens when your plans have to change in a matter of days? Are you prepared to adjust your systems to keep school running smoothly and give students the kind of college experience they seek? Those schools that have effective workflows and processes in place will be the ones who will minimize disruption. Their IT teams will be tasked with carrying the burden of communication and delivering a complete but effective digital experience for students and faculty.

 Consider just some of the changes that schools will need to employ: 

  • Housing arrangements: students being asked to leave dorms will need systems for transporting their personal belongings or keeping them in place for safe-keeping by the university. Schools bear a heavy responsibility for young people who are away from home, who need to make major decisions in a short period of time.
  • Academic delivery: just like we experienced last school year, schools that go 100% online will need to support faculty who need to adapt their material to a virtual format. Some professors simply won’t be proficient with technology to make the change. Others may have special needs for the type of instruction they perform.
  • Safety: in the cases of the schools that have recently gone all online, students were given only a short period of time to leave campus. The school needs to provide communication and online resources for students to operate in an orderly, safe way.
  • Refunds: there will no doubt be an increase in students opting out for the semester. They will want refunds for tuition, housing, and other fees.

 The key will be to rely on the IT infrastructure to deliver everything through digital channels, and do it quickly. The most important factor will be communication: the school needs to get information about changes, course structure, fees, and a host of other issues, and they can’t afford to miss a beat. So schools will need to use application integrations to pull data out of existing sources and deliver them through social media, the college website, phone calls, and any other manner that will guide students through a smooth transition.

 Using data to meet digital transition needs

The origin of effective solutions is data — access to it, ability to transact with it, and responsiveness to it. University and student data are stored in a wide variety of applications. They range from the basic (spreadsheets and graphics) to complex (some data analytics solutions and massive ERP systems). While all of that data serves a purpose, it’s no good if it can’t be accessed and put to use to solve problems.

 When school IT teams need to adapt entire systems in a matter of days, access to data is critical. Using information is important, but using it in context with other data is where schools stand to be most effective. To do this requires being able to build software apps quickly and for specific purposes.

 Because speed is critical, creating solutions means reducing development time. To meet this challenge, low-code development can be employed as an efficient way to build integrations and applications fast. It is a methodology and approach that uses reusable, pre-built components of code and applies them in a drag-and-drop fashion. It simplifies the coding effort and accelerates the pace at which applications can be delivered and put to use.

 No school operates with a single system of record they can rely on for all necessary data. Rather, colleges use a variety of different student information management systems and other types of enterprise planning apps. The key becomes, then, the ability to integrate data from those sources into custom-built apps to serve their changing needs. Speed will be critical to developing these new apps. Schools will not have time for traditional software development cycles, which means non-developers will have to be included in the process of scoping and building apps.

 The right mix of planning and having a workflow-based approach to application development will enable universities to adapt with limited disruption to the campus environment. And as the school year progresses, there will likely be even more change, so making the investment to build the right foundation will put schools in good shape for what promises to be an unusual school year.

8 min read

Ready, Set...Go? Making Student Safety a Priority

By BP Logix on Aug 19, 2020 2:37:20 PM

Controlling the spread of COVID-19 is the primary goal for health officials across the country, and they are especially concerned with the potential for more spreading as college students are returning to campuses. With clusters of people in their late teens and 20s accounting for major increases in cases in heavily populated states, school administrators are also concerned and most are taking crucial steps to creating a safe and healthy return to school for students.

 The reality for young people is that while they run the risk, just like everyone else, of contracting COVID, the possibility of being hospitalized for it is low. The Centers for Disease Control indicate that only 4% of people in their 20s who have COVID will need to enter a hospital. For those in their 20s and 30s, the fatality rate is currently about 0.1%. This is good news, but we still haven’t seen the result of thousands of students living together, being in classrooms, going to parties, and partaking in seemingly normal college behavior. There is no leaving that to chance.

 Most schools have already put measures in place to create a safe environment at school, but it will take effective coordination across each university’s community to protect students and contain the spread of cases.

 The colleges and universities that navigate this most successfully will be those who stick to a disciplined plan but are agile enough to make changes as new information becomes available. A plan has to be specific in the actions that different departments will take, and there must be orchestration among teams, workflows, and processes to ensure consistency and a common focus on outcomes. Let’s take a closer look at the actions that are most critical to making this work.

 Implement regular COVID testing

University student health services will be a critical player in the plans to create a safe school campus environment. Schools are already planning to utilize student health services to, a) identify students who have the virus and provide treatment for them; and b) to reduce the spread of COVID by quarantining test-positive students. These preventative measures will likely be the single most effective way of containment, according to health officials.

 Students from different parts of the country are essentially bringing all different types of exposure levels into the same environment when they set foot on campus, and this creates an entirely new potential breeding ground for the virus. Testing students before school starts, at regular intervals, and perhaps any time a student travels outside of the local area need to be operationalized and put into action.

 In order to provide this kind of testing and make use of the resulting data, colleges will need to do the following: 

  • Create a regular, mandatory cadence for testing in conjunction with student health services officials. Testing intervals should be coordinated with local health officials and need to comply with state and regional regulations.
  • Communicate to students through all available means (mobile app, email, social media, and on-site signage) that testing is mandatory, explain the process for getting tests and results, and be clear about test logistics. This step may be the most important because getting the attention of a busy student body is challenging, no matter what the content of the message is.
  • Employ incentives for compliance, and penalties for lack of compliance. Schools cannot function if students do not abide by the testing program. Lack of participation could create gaps in awareness which could lead to faulty assumptions about the overall state of the coronavirus on campus. By making enrollment for the following semester contingent on compliance, for example, schools can create incentives for adhering to the testing plan. Schools might want to consider initiating a campaign for those who participate, or even gamify it so students are incented to take part.
  • Establish defined testing locations in convenient campus locations, or provide testing through mobile delivery. The keys here are to make the testing locations visible, easy to access, and not demanding on students’ time.

 With testing results, schools can take the next set of steps to ensure they operate responsibly. These include:

  • Providing medical services or even hospitalization for students who test positive.
  • Coordination with faculty for students who must miss classes or tests due to treatment.
  • Data collection to establish awareness of positive and negative trending cohorts.
  • Initiate planning for dramatic measures, including shutting down living facilities or classroom facilities, if needed. The right data will also give schools foresight into planning for the following semester or quarter.

 Increase student awareness via peer evangelism

Colleges need students to be aware of risks, treatments, and their responsibilities in order to maintain a safe environment. Communication to students will be most effective when it comes from other students. For this reason, universities should consider creating a corps of student evangelists who are visible, accessible, and effective at modeling the right types of behavior, and acting as effective resources for other students.

 Some schools, like Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, are recruiting Public Health Ambassadors to support the University’s new reopening and operating plan. This group will be responsible for enforcing plan policies, and for encouraging members of the campus community to engage in healthy, safe behaviors, which include: 

  • Hand washing, use of disinfectants, and actions that students need to bake into their ongoing, regular behavior.
  • Social distancing and mask-wearing.
  • Avoiding large gatherings. This might include advocating new types of social get-togethers that are geared for 12 or fewer people as alternatives to large parties and group recreational activities.

 These programs can be effective when students are equipped with the right policies and behaviors to communicate. But it’s the optics of peer-to-peer influence that give these programs validation among students.

 Students in these programs need training on written communication and public speaking and should be equipped with the right platforms (social media, college website, on-campus visibility) to help them amplify their messages. This might include a specific brand that connects the goals of the program to the student corp of evangelists. Their program and messages should have regular exposure in regular communication channels that help imprint their brand and message on the minds of the student audience. 

Create a “low-touch” campus

Universities have a wide variety of meeting places, all of which need policies for ongoing cleanliness and safety. The more people who enter these spaces increases the risk of coronavirus spread. Keeping these places clean, or shutting some of them down, will require a continuous set of tasks that campus teams must orchestrate across all facilities and programs.

 For starters, campus buildings must have clean air filtration systems which may require significant infrastructure improvements, but will also have a major impact on reducing the spread of the virus. Buildings, classrooms, and all physical elements of the school will need to be cleaned on a regular basis. There is also a need for seating arrangements in classrooms, meeting rooms, and other common areas that keep people at a safe distance from one another.

 Some schools are establishing best practices for facilities cleanliness for classrooms that include: 

  • Classroom configurations that are adapted to 30% of normal capacity. Two empty chairs should sit between occupied ones.
  • Daily (at the minimum) disinfecting with industrial-strength solutions for all buildings.
  • High-touch surfaces (desks, doors, windows, for example) will need to be cleaned at least every hour, if not more.
  • All classrooms should have video capabilities so lectures can be recorded and provided through digital channels for students who choose remote learning.
  • A daily assessment process and communication channels to cancel on-site classes if a student or professor in that classroom has tested positive for COVID.
  • Hand sanitizing stations placed in classrooms, all buildings, and generally distributed across the campus. 

Even for schools with a smaller physical footprint, students are accustomed to freedom to most buildings, and that creates more to manage and clean. School administrators and facilities teams should determine which buildings to keep open and which to close. This list could be based on campus needs combined with the complexity of the logistics of maintenance. A hierarchy might include:

  •  Critical facilities: these include anything related to health services, buildings with small classrooms where classes will be held, safety services (campus security), and some parts of administration (financial aid, academic counseling).
  • Small group facilities: some buildings will be used for smaller groups including classes with fewer than 12 students. But schools might also have recreational locations or student unions that allow small groups to meet for exercise, clubs, or studying. Even the campus libraries will have to use a distancing plan to keep students apart from one another, while still providing access to research and study materials.
  • Phased activity facilities: one option for things like recreational facilities and administrative services is to segment usage. For example, it may be that students are allowed into certain buildings on certain days, based on alphabetical order, academic major, or some other designator that will allow the overall population to be spread out.
  • Temporarily facilities: it will make sense in some cases to provide temporary locations for services. Student COVID testing, for example, might be best delivered if it is done in a conveniently situated, but temporary building, Similarly with some classes, it may make sense to lock down permanent buildings because of the logistics of cleaning them, and instead, use portable or other types of buildings.
  • Closed facilities: buildings with large lecture halls and places that draw large numbers of students will need to be closed. These include large recreational facilities, on-campus restaurants, and other services that are designed for congregating.

 Many colleges are getting creative in providing some sense of normalcy for students with things like:

  • Broader access to WiFi and tented, outdoor study areas to encourage safely distanced common areas for studying and socializing.
  • Access to masks, everywhere, and all the time. Both as a way to serve forgetful students who leave masks at home, and to instill the behavior of mask-wearing, clean masks should be available at locations around the campus.
  • Dividers made of plexiglass can be installed in libraries and eating locations to give students the ability to be in the same area but to do so at a safe distance.
  • Mobile health screening available across campus. Any student, at any time, should be able to quickly and easily be treated if she/he feels ill. This is important for student safety, but also to curb the spread, and to behavioralize students to seek help before their condition worsens.

 Parents and students across the country are facing difficult decisions about when, if, or how they are going to return to school. University leaders are working hard to ensure that the environment they create will protect students and the entire campus community.

 While mask-wearing and social-distancing are crucial, so are the behaviors that schools mandate and instill in students, and across the university. With the right focus both on immediate health needs and preventative measures, colleges will likely see that they have created a foundation for long-term success and leadership for student health and safety.

Contact us today to learn more about solutions to support your COVID-19 response.

3 min read

Colleges Use Workflow Automation for Administrative Orchestration

By BP Logix on Aug 13, 2020 9:02:12 AM

The 2020 fall semester will likely be the most disruptive that universities have faced in the past few generations. When last year’s rapid, mass exodus out of classrooms changed in-person to remote learning overnight, higher education IT teams went into reactive mode. At the time, they were still months away from understanding and planning for what will become the next normal. Now, as colleges begin to open for the new school year, we’re seeing that communication and orchestration among processes and teams will be among the most essential factors in having a successful re-opening. The key to that coordination is automated workflow.

Pairing agility with orchestration

University IT teams provide solutions based on function and milestones. In the university setting, much of this activity is structured around the vital campus departments like administration, financial aid, admissions, and student services. Their corresponding milestones typically map to calendar events like enrollment, the semester cadence, and FAFSA deadlines. All of this effort requires documentation and the sharing of data across a variety of different stakeholders, which is the fundamental job of business processes and workflows.

 But the coming year will have many unforeseen changes, so having a workflow-driven approach that includes automation, continuous learning, and predictability will create significant organizational advantages for college IT teams.

 The advantages of workflow automation

Automated workflow supports the various needs of higher education administrators because processes drive virtually all aspects of campus and academic life. It provides an agile approach to process development and management that ensures that higher education IT departments can serve a wide variety of stakeholders (administrators, parents, students, financial aid organizations, among others). Workflow has the added advantage of providing continuous monintoring to maintain adherence with governmental, organizational, and industry governance requirements and compliance frameworks.

 By automating workflows -- and every university, no matter the size, has a LOT of workflows -- teams can create a rules-based environment that facilitates repeatable actions and shares data among different applications and repositories. After all, the educational lifecycle is vast; it includes student management, hiring, facilities, vendor management, capital expenditures, compliance and governance, and a host of other issues that demand continuous oversight and action. Being freed from the responsibility of manual intervention allows IT teams to identify new and better ways to deploy data to support new processes. And in a time where so much is new, being able to develop and implement solutions to new issues, that can deliver meaningful value.

 Focus on outcomes, automate everything else

Coordinating data and documentation among different campus departments typically requires a large set of process-driven milestones, most of which must be integrated among various school departments, students, and sometimes the government. For example, student financial aid can be funded by the school’s FAFSA offering, through the school’s privately funded scholarships, or grants. To ensure that all interested parties (admissions, enrollment, housing, among others) have the financial aid information they need to make decisions that support the student experience, they need a framework for coordination.

 Forms, paper documents, approvals, data sharing among applications and databases, tracking, and general lifecycle management -- these are among the actions and artifacts needed to make decisions. These are usually unconnected and disjointed pieces within the overall process, but with so much at stake, it’s critical that milestones are achieved and deadlines are met. Workflow creates order among, and between different data sources and process stages to develop a system that is inclusive of the various participants and enables consistency and compliance. Ultimately, the process is about speed and efficiency, which is precisely what fast-adapting universities will need as they encounter issues they have not yet accounted for.

 Automating (and protecting) student records

Let’s consider an example from a large university system; UCF Global is part of the University of Central Florida system. In addition to managing the data of thousands of students (the entire university system supports more than 64,000 students every year through 93 bachelors, 86 masters, and 27 doctoral courses of study) in their system, they are obligated through a sense of responsibility, and through compliance mandate, to keep that data protected.

 Using automated workflow helps solve for these requirements with a rules-based framework that provides:

  • Comprehensive and automatic logging, with digital signatures, of every action taken by any actor, human or automated.
  • The highest levels of encryption of data at rest and data in transit.
  • Digital signature of documents.
  • Granular permissions structure, with temporary privilege escalation.

 By ensuring a safe environment for transactions and storage of student data, UCF has been able to build processes that automate the flow of student information through all processes in the student lifecycle, from admissions to graduation.

3 min read

Has COVID Provided an Opportunity to Reinvent Higher Education?

By BP Logix on Aug 5, 2020 1:21:07 PM

The fall-out from COVID has created short-term change in every institution and plans to address a new course of action are focused on “getting back to normal.” But the notion of normal is not only hard to define in the current climate, but it’s also based on a concept that may be gone forever. Colleges and universities are clearly going through massive disruption and it’s causing stress among administrators, students, parents, faculty, and staff.

 But schools can also use this time to reframe while maintaining their mission. The time to change is now, and colleges that are willing to adapt their approach can come out of this period with a better plan for their longer-term success. To do so will require a new focus on what it means to be an institution of higher learning, and what the goal of education is all about

 Higher education is more than a degree

Colleges and universities perform a wide variety of services, but ultimately, they are responsible for student advancement. For some that means having access to better career opportunities upon graduation; for others, it has to do with broadening themselves as individuals. But higher education institutions also have a responsibility to society to provide opportunity and access and to hopefully create an environment that encourages growth through work and merit. Inherent in that contract is the idea that education and growth are good for society, but it doesn’t mean that it has to follow the current prescribed path to do it. The English philosopher, G.K. Chesterton said, “Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.”

 With this in mind, it makes sense that schools might want to take a step back to rethink how they achieve their mission. Higher education has always promised to be a place for students to learn and develop skills so they can become thoughtful, enlightened contributors to society. However, many are asking how a school can achieve this, or how it can achieve anything of value when they’ve demanded that their entire student body take classes remotely in the fall. And from a practical standpoint, this scenario begs the question of economic viability — how attractive to prospective students can a college be if all it can offer are lectures via Zoom?

 To be true to their missions and to be able to deliver real value, schools don’t have to operate with an “online OR remote” quandary. If they remember their focus on giving people access to learn and develop usable skills, they likely already have what they need to be successful.

 A new foundation for higher education

While uncertainty and the stress it causes is top of mind for students and university administrators alike, schools know that remote learning will be a significant part of their future, irrespective of changes due to the COVID pandemic. Rather than seeing virtual learning as a short-term panacea, or even a set-back, it should be championed, and there should be a focus on how to deliver the best academic product through digital means.

 This can actually create advantages for schools that commit to doing remote learning well. In fact, a report by Babson College found that in 2018, more than 30 percent of U.S. college students had already taken an online course and were planning on taking more. What’s more, today’s college students came of age with smartphones and online access. The move to virtual classrooms isn’t as drastic as originally thought.

 Herein lies the opportunity. Colleges have invested heavily in technology infrastructures to provide better delivery of academics and student services. While the original purpose may not have been solely to deliver remote learning, the tools, applications, and processes that university IT teams have at their disposal can create the foundation for their next phase.

 Additionally, the applications and databases that make up that tech infrastructure provide the means to measure student performance through digital means in a way that offline engagement can’t. This isn’t a signaling of robotic, data-driven forms of learning. Quite the contrary; with all of this technology, students can learn more about themselves and where their strengths and weaknesses are. They can make more efficient use of their time to review lectures and course materials in an on-demand format. Ultimately, they can focus on outcomes rather than just adhering to a checklist of academic requirements.

 This is about more access to more students. It also opens up more opportunities to change how instruction is delivered and when it is delivered. Schools will need to think through the ramifications of a multidisciplinary approach that takes into account academics, scheduling, grading, and every other form of engagement that students are accustomed to.

 Perhaps most importantly, the “next normal” is about creating a different type of student. The future promises nothing but change, and those who are most agile and adaptable will succeed. So, while colleges and universities are rethinking how to balance online and offline learning, maybe they can start to remake the college experience as preparation for the world they’re entering, and the one that society needs them to thrive in.

6 min read

Bring Your Staff Back to Campus with Maximum Safety and Wellness

By BP Logix on Jul 29, 2020 11:57:26 AM

A return to regular schedules is coming soon for many colleges and universities across the country as COVID-related restrictions are lifted and the fall semester approaches.

The transition is a welcome move for schools that had to rapidly adapt to a completely new learning environment in March and April. Students left campus, instructors learned how to teach in an online format, and administrators scrambled to create and deploy new processes and solutions.

But with schools getting ready to have hundreds or thousands of people back on their campuses, they must also develop healthy and safe ways to reintegrate faculty and staff. They need to be able to do so in a way that allows them the freedom and flexibility to perform their work, but also keeps them protected.

Schools must create and deploy a comprehensive reintroduction plan to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, while also addressing the fears and safety concerns of their staff. The foundation of this type of plan takes into account a variety of health and wellness factors, most of which can be implemented in an actionable way. There are also behavioral components that have to be factored in, and ultimately, creating and operating such a plan will take the efforts of university HR, IT, and administrative leaders. 

An effective plan will go a long way in managing virus-related issues in the campus setting and will provide peace of mind and build morale for employees as they return to work. 

Here are four general areas, and a variety of specific actions and considerations, that colleges and universities can take to ensure they are providing a safe and trusted working environment for their employees.

Establish On-site Guidelines

Large numbers of employees returning to a shared workplace all at once creates a major risk for the spread of viruses. Managing schedules, creating a framework for how they can interact, and operating with firm guidelines on social distancing are all critical for protecting employee health at work. Colleges should identify a path that balances productivity with flexibility, and includes at least some elements of the following:

Flexible work options: some jobs simply don’t need to be performed on-site, and employees in those roles should be encouraged to continue working remotely as much as possible. A good rule to follow is: if in-person interaction is not needed for an employee to successfully execute her job, she should remain at home. Additionally, to reduce the number of people on campus at any one time, work schedules should be staggered into shifts.

Facilities and maintenance: it’s important to prepare facilities to be clean. All campus buildings must have efficient, clean air filtration systems which may require significant infrastructure improvements, but will also have a major impact on reducing the spread of the virus. Buildings, classrooms, and all physical elements of the school will need to be cleaned on a regular basis. There is also a need for seating arrangements in classrooms, meeting rooms, and other common areas that keep people at a safe distance from one another. 

Hygiene practices: social distancing should be mandated and reinforced, and to do this, reminders of effective hygiene need to be available everywhere. This should include having things like hand sanitizers and cleaning stations throughout each building, and schools should provide masks, gloves, and disinfect wipes for phones, computers, door handles, and everywhere people are touching.

Responsiveness: managers cannot be afraid to act quickly to send employees home who display signs of illness, or even close offices if they’ve been inhabited by someone who has been sick. 

Restrict travel: school leaders should mandate that only essential travel is permitted for employees who must attend school-related activities. As much as employees like traveling to conferences and industry events, schools need to take a break from those for the coming semester (and possibly beyond). For individuals who travel on planes, trains, or busses for personal reasons, it’s important that they quarantine for a safe period before returning to the workplace.

Encourage Well-being

College HR and health departments should prepare programs that support the emotional and mental health wellness of employees as they get back to work. These are as important as physical health concerns, and doing so will reduce disruptions in productivity, they will also create an environment where employees feel safe and trusted. 

There are so many ways for schools to help employees stay balanced and to avoid stress. Consider some options that can have a huge impact: 

Watch for signs: Everyone should be given some form of training to recognize signs of depression and anxiety in themselves and others. Many employees have been isolated for a long period of time, and coming back into the workplace at a time when there is still a great deal of uncertainty can add to their stress. Encourage people to watch out for others and demonstrate compassion. In general, an organization that cares for its people will ultimately be rewarded with happier, healthier employees.

Be a resource: HR teams should communicate information on any mental health benefits provided in your school's health insurance. It would also be helpful to email regular reminders, and display signage that reminds people both to social distance, but also to care for themselves. Any programs that support employee efforts to maintain emotional health should be communicated and supported.

Create a community environment: Support groups and opportunities for employees to voice concerns are important vehicles for employee wellness. While still practicing social distancing, it would be helpful to organize groups for people with various interests. Some will be parents struggling to get back to balancing kids and work, others may be caring for a sick relative. Having a sense of support through a work community can help employees handle the many issues they are facing as they reintegrate.

Communication and Training

Effective ways to enable employer-to-employee and employee-to-employee communication are going to be critical to keeping the workplace safe. This will help schools reinforce policies, but will also help avoid confusion at a time of change. Some of these efforts can piggyback on existing programs, while others will require new efforts:

Training: Whether it’s through regular email communication, an employee manual, or through an employee portal, you will need to train employees on a detailed and comprehensive set of guidelines about things like:

  • Expected health practices like hand washing, use of disinfectants, and other things that employees will need to begin regularly doing.
  • Work hours and schedules. Since you will likely have some form of staggered scheduling and work from home policies, these will need to be spelled out clearly and with corresponding expectations.
  • Social distancing reminders cannot be emphasized enough, and a codified training will do a lot to establish important, necessary habits in employees about safe contact.
  • Employees need training about when to stay home, what to look out for when feeling under the weather and what to do if you feel ill when at work. 

All-hands meetings: Interactive town hall meetings are an excellent forum for employees to hear from management about decisions being made that will impact how they work and will educate them on factors related to their health. These should be done regularly (even weekly) so that employees feel they are in the loop and have a voice. Include options to broadcast via video calls for employees working at home.

Use a standard communication platform: Tools like Slack or Google Hangouts can help employees stay connected in real-time. These give them the ability to communicate among one another (which also reduces the need for face-to-face interaction), and it allows for management to deliver news and alerts rapidly.

Flexible Processes

One of the keys to successfully navigating the new normal is through flexibility. No one knows what the coming months will bring, and campus leaders must be aware that they are asking a lot of their employees to be back at work. As such, certain rules and guidelines must be followed, but they must also make allowances for the fact that much can change rapidly. Being cognizant of when to change, and then operating in an environment where change can be implemented are essential ways to approach reintegration. It also gives employees assurances that campus leadership is being responsive to health and safety needs.

Be prepared for productivity swings: Managers must be comfortable knowing that productivity may suffer at times while employees adapt to new ways of working. While goals need to be maintained, being flexible in the face of change will enable teams to set appropriate objectives, but be able to re-scope those plans if they need to be changed.

Technology solutions will need to adapt: In a normal environment, IT support staff are able to meet face-to-face with employees who need a laptop fixed or have problems with their workstation. But now that most support is done over the phone and through digital means, it may mean supporting employees in a different way. Rather than go through normal acquisition processes, some schools are doing things like ordering and shipping laptops and monitors directly from Amazon to employees who need them. Always remember that serving employees to make them productive and feeling supported is the goal.

Employee support: Many will be facing unique challenges in their lives, and they will not be very effective at work unless they have the help required to handle the issues they face. HR teams should create shortcuts to help employees gain access to medical benefits, financial counseling, and other types of support that will enable them to navigate a challenging time for themselves and their families.

How schools return to work is as important as when they return. Looking out for students and the myriad services offered to them is core to the mission of all schools, but without the backbone of the staff and faculty, no school can operate effectively. 

COVID-19 has disrupted the world, but it also offers colleges and universities an opportunity to transform the higher education workplace. The steps taken now will be critical for the success of hiring and managing employees in the future; we simply cannot know what lies ahead in the coming months and years, but by starting with the health and well-being of employees, schools can be assured that they have the right foundation for sustainable success.lp cover 2

 

4 min read

How Higher Ed Can Use Predictive Analytics for Student Recruitment and Retention

By BP Logix on Jul 22, 2020 1:36:54 PM

The use of predictive analytics has enabled colleges and universities to perform critical planning for things like enrollment and student retention, and also to understand trends that impact academics and student services. 

With the right mix of data points, schools are better equipped to make smart choices that will impact every aspect of the educational lifecycle. At a time when higher education administrators are anxious about enrollments and operational expenses, being able to predict how to allocate resources and funding can be a major benefit to surviving the first school year after COVID-19. 

Using data to make predictions is nothing new for innovative colleges. In fact, it’s becoming an increasingly useful tool for admissions planning and to help schools avoid the coming enrollment cliff. But in the midst of preparations to resume classes in the fall after months of dealing with the effects of COVID-19, many schools are wondering if anything is predictable in today’s environment. 

Trends among prospective and current students are in a constant state of change, which means that predictive models that worked in the past are no longer usable. With so many unknowns facing colleges and universities, it can sometimes seem that admissions, operations, and IT leaders are increasingly having to make decisions in the dark. Predictive analytics, however, can shed light on a challenging situation.

Benefit from predictive analytics  

To benefit from predictions, schools have to integrate vast amounts of data from various repositories, and then make decisions about how to allocate their organizational attention and resources. Armed with that information, they can make informed decisions that reduce operational friction and improve the acceleration and implementation of actions that impact goal-driven outcomes.  

Some critics are suggesting that predictive analytics are ill-equipped to support the current needs of colleges and universities. The argument is that available data about student intentions and needs have changed so much over the past few months that it can’t paint an accurate picture of what’s to come.  

But the whole purpose of using data to make decisions is predicated on when the data is used. And data changes continuously, so predictions are always based on new information that is informed by changing behaviors. At times of massive change, predictive analytics is probably at its most effective, and colleges and universities are going to benefit from using it as they plan for the fall of 2020 and beyond. 

Let's consider the promise of predictive analytics and look at what schools have been able to do with it:

  • Create programs and frameworks that make student success a primary element of the school’s mission
  • Enable a discipline of adaptability and flexibility that enable schools to meet changing needs as they arise
  • Deploy technology effectively to solve operational issues
  • Maintain quality as a core component of all student-directed efforts

Improve student outreach and retention

Even with so much change happening as a result of COVID-19, colleges and universities are on a never-ending cycle of recruiting, enrolling, and retaining students.  Irrespective of how those students are going to learn, be it through online classes, on-campus, or some hybrid version of the two, schools need to identify students who will be a good fit, convert them into students, and then retain them for the duration of their college experience. That process starts with data.

Communicating with prospective students has always been heavily informed by data. For starters, schools won’t be able to host as many students on-site, as travel restrictions are delaying or even canceling traditional recruiting events. That means that digital communication will become a particularly important channel for marketing efforts, and those efforts will need to be highly targeted to get the attention of prospects who have many options in front of them. 

Schools are able to reach potential students through paid digital media ads, direct mail, email nurturing, and other online formats. These efforts will likely provide schools with even more accurate data about students’ intentions because these channels also give them an avenue to collect data as well. As that collection of information grows, it starts to inform decision-making and creates the ability to start making predictions. 

Some examples of data sets that schools will be able to collect through direct communication include things like:

  • Geographic interest: understanding where pockets of interested students live will help schools maximize their marketing spend by investing heavily in these areas. Conversely, they can reduce spending on areas where there is little interest.
  • Financial aid: schools can ascertain the potential for students to fund their educations and the resulting financial aid requirements that need to be provided for students. This will be a huge benefit to economic planning.
  • Hiring: admissions departments will be able to make predictions about the number of incoming students  which can be used by HR teams to scale up or down as needed. 

Similarly, as current students spend more time away from campus due to sheltering-in-place, it’s critical that schools maintain communication with them. Keeping students informed of upcoming changes and guiding them through an uncertain future will help them stay connected. It also is an important aspect of student retention.

Research has shown that when students are having their needs met and have actionable ways to achieve their goals, retention rates rise significantly and they stay on the path to completion. With data about students’ patterns, backgrounds, and behaviors, schools are identify specific areas where they can support a student who is at risk. Some of these include:

  • Predict when a student is likely to drop out. When students’ grades decline or they continually take less demanding workloads, they may be on a path to leaving school. Intervention through academic counseling, tutoring, or other academic services can keep a student academically engaged and feeling connected to their school.
  • Identify students who are facing financial challenges. When tuition bills are habitually late or if a student has a complex web of financial aid sources, algorithms can alert students to alternative sources of funding. Or there could be a process that signals the financial aid office to contact the student to initiate a meeting to explore options to fund their school experience.
  • Alert when a student may be facing a mental or physical health risk. Health services information can be pulled together to identify students who may be at risk for certain types of health issues. Student services organizations can be marshaled to help the students take part in counseling and other medical and social services to ensure wellness. 

Students may not be interested in predictive data, but what colleges and universities do with that data is critical to students’ success. By employing predictive intelligence and analytics, schools can help students do more than simply navigate the four or more years of college. They have the tools for a meaningful experience that keeps them engaged through graduation.

Topics: application development automation
5 min read

How to survive a dip in Higher Education enrollment

By BP Logix on Jul 17, 2020 1:24:12 PM

Even before Coronavirus spread across the globe, colleges struggled with financial constraints and declining enrollment. Now, they’re scrambling to implement tools and reconfigure processes for remote learning.  

Some universities have already issued statements that the upcoming fall 2020 semester will continue virtually, which could even last through spring 2021. Students are also seeking tuition refunds after switching to online classes, sparking class action lawsuits across the country. 

Because of this, it’s more critical than ever that colleges and universities future-proof their academic and operational model. Nothing but uncertainty lies ahead, and those who are not prepared are likely to fall. But while America’s colleges and universities are sure to lose students in the short term, the pandemic’s obstacle is only temporary compared to the permanent structural forces affecting higher education. 

Digital learning and declining enrollment for fall 2020

Education experts predict that college enrollment will be lower next semester and many colleges and universities are unsure if they will hold classes in-person in the fall.

According to The American Council on Education, a higher education lobby group, on-campus college enrollment will fall by 15% in the upcoming fall semester. This would cost institutions nearly $23 billion in foregone revenue, which would force many campuses to close their doors. Likewise, schools that are able to remain physically open through the pandemic are expected to see a surge in enrollment once it’s safe for students to return to the classroom.

Many universities have already announced their on-campus operational plan to encourage student commitment and provide some assurance of what form their education will take. Some, like Boston University (BU), plan to reopen its residential campus for the fall semester, but other universities like California State University–Fullerton plan to start the fall term online. 

Some universities are also attempting to lead prospective students to enroll in the fall, rather than defer for a year until the pandemic is under greater control. For example, Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) is offering free tuition to all incoming freshmen who enroll in its campus-based programs next year and will reduce published tuition for all of the following years by 61%. 

According to Lynn Pasquerella, President of the Association of the American Colleges and Universities, colleges are not sure what to expect. “There’s some certainty with respect to a decrease in the number of international students that’s already been in rapid decline with a 14% decrease over the past few years. And they’re worried that this current global pandemic that has spurred an economic recession is going to further catalyze a depression, making it difficult for parents to send their children to college. On the flip side, I think we will see enrollments in online programs rise quite a bit, driven by adult learners — many of whom have been recently laid off — looking to wait out the recession and use their time productively by skilling up.”

Virtual processes can combat shrinking college budgets

The shift to digital learning and online classrooms has forced colleges to refund on-campus expenses like housing, meal plans, gym memberships and more––resulting in huge financial deficits and struggling colleges. On top of this, schools are also expecting a decline in enrollment this fall. 

Yet college leaders have more to worry about––even if campuses reopen this fall, there are worries that many students won't return for fall 2020 due to the recent economic downturn that’s left many unable to afford tuition. Even more, universities are forecasting steep enrollment drop-offs among international students who feel hesitant to study abroad so closely after a global pandemic. And for colleges that rely on international students, officials are bracing for international enrollment to drop by 25%, causing a loss of $70 million next year.

Plunging student enrollment will present different challenges for higher education organizations. Fewer students means less tuition, and much of funding at the state and federal levels relies on the number of students who show up and occupy seats. Even if students are enrolled digitally, they won’t be occupying dorms or purchasing meal plans, causing colleges to lose major sources of revenue. 

It’s not just students who will be missing from campus––renting out property and real estate throughout the summer for things like conferences and freshman orientations, tickets for sports games and summer camps are also a big source of revenue and employment for institutions. We’re even at risk of losing college football and fall sports, leaving organizations faced with the decision to play in front of empty stands, which would eliminate ticket revenue and incur broadcast licensing fees.

  During a recession, enrollment usually goes up as more and more look for safety during a time of high unemployment or look to re-sharpen their skills. Now, university officials are nervous that families whose personal finances have been hurt since they filled out financial-aid forms may decide college has become an unaffordable investment for the time being. 

Following the mid-March college shut-down of campus, schools have announced hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. Universities project that a $14 billion federal aid package will not be enough to keep struggling schools afloat, and experts say this recession is just the beginning of hardship if schools cannot identify ways to persuade and convince students to return in the fall, despite colleges preparing to transition into entirely digital learning by the end of the semester. 

Establish future-proof workflows and processes with BP Logix

Colleges and universities are turning more and more to digital workflow solutions that connect their students and employees. Now that students aren’t in dorms, faculty aren’t on campus and the entire world is working from home, there’s still a critical need for structure and process implementation. 

While scale of technology may always be an issue, the approach to problem-solving can be addressed by schools of any size. Workflow can be the defining factor for schools being agile because it is foundational for how problems are solved, irrespective of the technology that’s used.

To implement smooth transitions and enable changes in structure, exchanging data from information systems and financial applications must be solidified and secure. This allows colleges to create clear views into student information and provides the ability to relocate employees so you can become extremely agile as the “new normal” begins to take shape. 

In a normal environment, the reliance on paper forms and manual intervention for decision-making milestones might be tolerated. But with massive pressure to conserve money and be highly efficient during this time of great change, college management, admissions and IT teams have to pull together all these things into an integrated, rapidly moving set of workflows in record time. New workflows and processes require a variety of forms, documents, requests, and decisions to be made.

Many BP Logix higher education customers are already using Process Director to handle these types of issues. Schools like California State University Stanislaus and the University of North Carolina NRI cite their ability to be flexible and quickly develop new processes as major advantages of using Process Director’s workflow automation capabilities as core to their foundation.

Successfully adapt to remote learning and survive a dip in enrollment for the coming semester(s) by transforming your processes and workflows. Process Director delivers capabilities like workflow automation that enables higher education teams to use pre-configured templates to quickly enable remote learning and reduce enrollment decline. 

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Topics: workflow management
4 min read

Machine Learning and Workflow Enable Smart Planning for Higher Ed

By BP Logix on Jul 8, 2020 10:11:23 AM

Behind the admissions process at any college and university is a complex set of activities, milestones, and decisions that go into evaluating students and offering opportunities for enrollment. While the admissions process has never been simple, new layers of complexity have been added as schools deal with new admissions policies and processes in the wake of a post-COVID world.

As more institutions look to adapt, they will need the help of machine learning to support complex layers of decision-making and an agile approach to serving their own needs and those of prospective students.

How machine learning helps smart admissions planning

Colleges typically operate according to an admissions rubric that uses some combination of test scores, high school GPA, and extracurricular activities. Additional measures are also considered, and some academic majors within the school are impacted and are more competitive than others. Now that schools are challenged with hitting aggressive enrollment numbers, even more factors will come into play. Some schools will continue to rely on standardized test scores while others will choose to eliminate them. Hybrid learning options will change the numbers of students that schools can enroll. These factors will have to be agile as schools adapt to meet changing needs in the coming years.

Schools that admit too many students won’t have the resources to serve their needs and aren’t equipped from an institutional level to rapidly adapt to an increase. Conversely, admitting too few students means less enrollment revenue, fewer students in classes, and an impact on staffing and other resources. Hitting the sweet spot of the right number of admitted students is essential, but it’s also a delicate process of prediction.

Process Director applies machine learning (ML) to make sense of historical admissions and enrollment levels, and other demographic data to deliver informed, accurate information that makes intelligent recommendations. It uses Process Timeline, a workflow engine that is easily modifiable by non-developers, can operate in parallel with other applications and processes, and delivers the concept of time-awareness to processes and workflows. The combination of this predictive analysis with case management provides a structure that can identify patterns in current and historical data, and apply that to the admissions process.

The data derived from student information systems (SIS) for student data, learning management systems (LMS) for course capacity, and other repositories of essential data can be integrated into the admissions process. Planning and execution of all admissions activities can be dramatically improved when the data can be analyzed to create a more complete picture. Machine learning can identify patterns and predict behaviors which can then contribute to building the right processes that support expected workload.

Without the ML component, most schools are modeling simply from old data. With Process Director, that data can be predicted in real-time, and continuously improve within this churn of new data and recorded results to improve the reliability of enrollment data.

Process Director and Predictive Analysis

A variety of large, small, public, and private colleges and universities are already using Process Director as the engine for application and admission processes. Workflow automation ensures applications are given the necessary level of scrutiny and review in order to meet the school’s specific requirements. Process Director also enables admissions teams to rapidly build and deploy applications through low code development. This empowers teams because they are equipped with a tool that builds applications that work in a human-directed work style.

Especially as schools have to operate within time constraints as they accept applications, review them, and then deliver acceptance or rejections, it is critical to be able to build and apply the most impactful workflows and processes. Schools are transforming the way they manage the admissions process through Process Director innovations, including:

Document and forms management

Students submit all manner of supporting documentation to improve their chances of admission. This includes transcripts, test scores, recommendation letters, confirmation of awards, and other documents. Some of these are submitted digitally, while some are delivered in paper form. Process Director is able to digitize these documents and include them in each students’ file, which eliminates outdated and inefficient processes like managing files through email attachments and paper-based artifacts.

Reviewing documents or searching for a specific asset about a particular student is enabled through Process Director Knowledge Views, which are easy to configure and even easier to use. The machine learning component can recognize aspects of the students’ academic and extracurricular performance to understand his or her student potential.

The result is more context about a student, provided through validated documents. Process Director also enables sharing of information with trusted decision-makers so that milestones in the process can be made with greater efficiency.

Application integration

The application submission is usually a student’s first touch point with the university, but also a way to engage student data with other applications that can improve her experience. Process Director uses built in connectors for a variety of student information systems, and allows users to construct forms that can pull and deliver data that can be useful for things like financial aid and scholarships, and eventually for housing, remote learning, on-boarding, registration, and course scheduling.

Workflow-enhanced decision-making

The final result of all this work is, for lucky students, acceptance into a desired school. To enable this, Process Director uses the following innovations that make it a first choice for many colleges and universities:

  • Attractive, web-based, and responsive user interaction;
  • Built-in support for multiple languages, locales, and cultures;
  • Easy integration with a broad array of databases, web services, and applications;
  • Directory synchronization with LDAP, Active Directory, and Windows network security;
  • Full integration with federated authentication services, including Oauth and SAML.
  • Strong encryption of data at rest, and data in-flight;
  • Digital signature of documents;
  • Granular permissions structure, with temporary privilege escalation.

Colleges and universities have to adapt their admissions processes as young people evaluate their path through higher education. No school can meet the demands of the post-COVID-19 world on an application-by-application basis.

Small schools that want to align their goals and processes to student behaviors will need to apply change through the use of smart workflow and processes. To serve these needs, Process Director provides digitally transformative machine learning and workflow, facilitates efficient distribution of information, and streamlines the monitoring and management of admissions activities and information.

 

3 min read

Digital Transformation Leads to Operational Efficiency in Higher Ed

By BP Logix on Jun 30, 2020 1:24:14 PM

Colleges and universities must operate with maximum efficiency if they want to have the financial and organizational resources to deliver on their mission to educate and develop students.

At a time when the future is so uncertain, it is critical for schools to emphasize accuracy in their data, accountability in their technology, and have a foundation that will support change. Doing so requires that college IT departments commit to optimizing their technology foundation through the process of digital transformation.

Universities are complex ecosystems that require processes for HR management, financial aid and services, facilities management, capital expenditures, teaching tools, and now more than ever, options for remote learning. Key to having both focus and flexibility to deliver on this wide variety of tasks are workflow and process management.

By pivoting to embed different approaches to teaching and school administrative needs, colleges can transform the way they support their stakeholders and create continuous efficiency as part of the fabric of their normal operations. Business process management (BPM) supports the various needs of higher education functions because processes drive virtually all aspects of campus and academic life.

Lead the digital transformation of your institution with Process Director

BP Logix customers regularly cite Process Director for its agile approach to processes that ensure that higher education IT departments are able to serve a wide variety of stakeholders (administrators, parents, students, financial aid organizations, among others), and still maintain adherence to governmental, organizational, and industry governance requirements and compliance frameworks. Additionally, higher educational institutions are often constrained by a limited budget, and Process Director BPM provides a foundation for delivering effective solutions in a cost-effective way.

Consider how schools are currently benefitting from their transformation efforts. With the creation and re-use of customized, automated processes IT teams are able to do the following

  • Reduce dependence on manual and paper-based processes for student and staff
  • Eliminate redundancies by creating a unified front-end for all campus digital needs.
  • Deliver a better student self-service experience and empowering students to drive their educational paths.
  • Streamline and reduce the steps involved in the review and approval process for requests.
  • Track and summarize requests that needed to route through multiple departments before approval.
  • Meet compliance and regulatory requirements and improve internal audit controls.

Let’s look at some examples of how these things are being realized by schools that have adopted Process Director to support their transformation needs.

Continuous growth, change, and innovation

Davis Applied Technology College (DATC) in Utah has made continuous improvement and transformation part of its strategy for growth and student success. It does this through digital delivery of programs to students and HR, finance, and other types of services to support staff.

Prior to using Process Director, these efforts were hampered by an outdated system of data collection and integration. The school had cabinets filled with paper forms, but recognized how the processes that were manifested in those forms would benefit from workflow automation.

The DATC IT team initiated their transformation efforts with the rapid deployment of Process Director to a number of departments in only a short amount of time. Positive outcomes came rather quickly; the student services department alone the school was able to deliver 17 completed processes within only a few quarters after being deployed. Finance, HR, and IT departments all showed measurable progress in short timeframes.

DATC’s Director of IT said, “Knowing where our business processes and workflow are without having to chase them down is invaluable. What used to take days is taking hours — what used to take weeks is taking days.”

Protecting and automating student records

UCF Global is part of the University of Central Florida system, and supports more than 64,000 students every year through 93 bachelors, 86 masters, and 27 doctoral courses of study.

A major challenge is handling the massive amount of private student data. While that data is protected by federal and state regulations, it’s also important for the school to build trust with students by doing everything possible to safeguard their data. Process Director helps solve these requirements by providing:

  • Granular permissions capabilities, with flexible (and temporary) privilege escalation.
  • Comprehensive and automatic logging, with digital signatures, of every action taken by any actor, human or automated.
  • Data encryption at rest and data in transit.
  • Digital signature and verification of documents.

Digital transformation has helped UCF create a safe environment for transactions and storage of student data. They have been able to build processes that automate the flow of student information through all processes in the student lifecycle, from admissions to graduation.

Colleges and universities are preparing for a variety of different scenarios in both the near and long term. To help them have a foundation that enables agility, Process Director delivers digitally transformative education workflow solutions, which facilitates the efficient streamlining and management of information.

 

 

4 min read

How Colleges and Universities are Preparing for Post-COVID Reopening

By BP Logix on Jun 24, 2020 6:12:04 AM

American colleges should be applauded for their quick and decisive action to protect the health and safety of their communities when COVID-19 first hit. Now that states and institutions are gradually shedding shelter-in-place policies and allowing the opening of businesses and gatherings, there will be scrutiny on higher education leaders to create a logical, workable plan for the fall semester and the foreseeable future.

In an effort to determine effective plans for reopening in the fall, colleges and universities are currently reviewing guidelines and policies from a variety of private and governing bodies. Because there is no single organization policing these plans, it is up to individual institutions and state-wide systems to evaluate guidelines and policies and ultimately determine what will be most effective for them.

Four areas to focus on when returning to campus

To be judicious and thoughtful in their approach, most schools are taking into consideration the advice of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), state and local guidelines, local laws, and the concerns and needs of their own campus communities. University leaders are rapidly reviewing their own policies, in addition to research from the CDC, the American Health College Association, and insights from a variety of college presidents. From this work, we can see that there are four main areas of focus around which colleges and universities are creating their own set of reopening guidelines:

Student and faculty behavioral strategies

Schools want to reduce the spread of viruses by limiting exposure among students. This includes reducing class sizes for on-campus courses, mandating wearing of face masks, and education around things like hand washing, self-care, and limiting gatherings to small groups. Much of these efforts will require education and instilling behaviors. Some schools will choose to simply not return in the fall to seriously limit any form of exposure. Others will pursue a hybrid plan of online and offline courses. Those that will have students on campus in the fall are preparing for the need to increase staffing and resources at campus health facilities.

Effective management of campus facilities

University facilities, student services, and IT teams are working quickly to adapt the physical environment of their schools to be more conducive to social distancing. This includes upgrading and managing ventilation and water systems, adopting continuous disinfection and cleaning practices, limiting usage of common areas like recreational areas, dining halls, and student unions. The impact of these things will dramatically change the student experience, and schools are being cautious to balance safety with student needs.

Balancing remote learning with student needs

The move to online learning that began in March 2020 won’t go completely away. Some schools are opting for 100% online in the fall, while others will adopt a hybrid model. Schools realize also that most students have access to laptops or tablets, which will enable them to be effective at connecting to online, remote classes. For students who don’t have the technology required, colleges will need to provide these to them or offer an effective way to stay engaged when not in actual classrooms and lecture halls. Most schools are currently developing comprehensive strategies for online learning as a long-term option for college students, so what happens in the fall of 2020 could likely form the foundation of the future of learning in higher education. Doing so requires more than just porting coursework and curriculum to an online format, and will demand the efforts of academic experts, IT leaders, and representatives from student, faculty, and university administration.

Protecting the physical and mental health of students and faculty

The CDC recommends that schools develop protocols for isolating, transporting, and caring for students and faculty who develop symptoms or are diagnosed with COVID-19. These include processes that impact health and safety regulations beyond just the campus; local and state health officials will need to be alerted and cases tracked.

The actual implementation of fall plans will undoubtedly integrate various elements of these four factors. Current scenarios that are being considered include the following:

  • Business as usual - some campuses, like Purdue in Indiana, will resume normal campus life and on-campus learning, albeit with precautions and social distancing policies in place. For schools that choose this route, students will be in classes, some recreational activities will resume, and there will be a semblance of normal campus life.
  • 100% online - the California State University system has opted to keep all students at home and go completely online for the fall. There will be economic factors that these schools will need to deal with, as some students will opt not to return to college or may take a gap year. Additionally, faculty and IT teams will be working feverishly to ensure that they can deliver all aspects of academics via the Internet.
  • Hybrid model - the hybrid model of learning will function with classes being conducted both face-to-face and online. For many schools taking this route, they have established a threshold for the number of students allowed in an on-campus class. Many have chosen to limit the number of students in a face-to-face class to fewer than 20. All other classes will be conducted online.
  • Adapted schedules - a common approach is to begin the fall with a mix of online and in-person classes, and to reduce the amount of time the students are on campus. Many will start with their regularly planned beginning of the semester but will close at the start of the Thanksgiving break. That break will last until after the new year, which limits the amount of travel to and from schools, and thus, hopefully reducing exposure to students and faculty.

As colleges figure out their plans, they are factoring in things like feasibility, economic impact, and ensuring they are staying true to their academic missions. Irrespective of the path they take, it will undoubtedly hasten the implementation of certain strategies that some schools had planned for a much later time. But just as universities are leaders in innovation, they may be the best places to see how disruptive changes will impact the face of the new university.

 

 

Topics: COVID19
3 min read

Process Automation Helps Higher Ed Admins Maintain Operational Continuity

By BP Logix on Jun 4, 2020 10:41:39 AM

Colleges and universities have received a lot of praise for how they’ve reacted to the COVID-19 crisis. They had to scramble to put courses online, relocate students out of university housing, and deal with a host of student and institutional financial issues.

Now, colleges are looking to the summer, fall, and beyond as they prepare to maintain some level of continuity in the face of uncertainty. The methods they apply to these challenges will define them for the current and next wave of students, and may reshape higher education for the long term.

Higher education faces disruption

Challenges to American higher education were already on the minds of university administrators and IT leaders before COVID-19. Student enrollment has been in decline, new legislation is requiring them to put efforts into technology compliance, and students’ needs are changing with a new generation entering college.

But then came the coronavirus, and the speed required to meet changing needs has meant that new technology solutions are being applied in almost real-time. For schools that use manual processes and workflows, those changes have been slow to come to fruition. But for institutions that have been willing to apply process automation to their workflows, the ability to shift to meet changing demands has helped them prepare for the uncertainty they face.

Maintaining operations with process automation

Here’s why that’s such a major advantage: most tasks, especially repeatable ones, can be automated so users don't waste time and lose focus. Process automation is all about getting stuff done; at best, it gives people the freedom to do what they're good at while automating the things that can bog them down. Basically, it’s an approach that emphasizes speed while providing guardrails so that key measures aren’t missed. In the complex environment of a university, being able to apply speed to rapidly changing issues is critical.

Universities can improve rapid process change and effectively guide participants by doing the following:

  • Maintaining focus: Centralize all activity on a project towards a specific goal. Eliminate distractions and extraneous activity, enable people to work where they are, when it’s most convenient for them, and in a way with which they are most comfortable.
  • Utilizing status alerts: Use alerts to improve response time for project milestones and timelines.
  • Reducing bottlenecks: Waiting for approvals or feedback can be major momentum-killers. Process automation can eliminate the typical delays that usually accompany decision making; waiting for another participant to deliver feedback on your work can cause collateral damage that the entire team feels. Enabling things like mobile channels keeps projects moving forward because it reduces wait times.

Most importantly, organizations that apply process automation are prepared for current needs, and for an uncertain future. With a process and workflow foundation and the ability to do things like apply case management to specific tasks, and use case management capabilities, process automation can support the need to capture data from multiple sources and communicate it to necessary stakeholders. These are critical for colleges to manage information and act on it quickly.

Benefits of process automation in higher education

When outcomes change rapidly, as is happening as state, federal, and institutional mandates are being continuously updated, process automation offers a foundation on which admissions, housing, financial aid, facilities, HR, and other operational elements that a college can build from. Specifically, it allows agile IT teams to do the following:

  • Automate processes, integrate apps with existing systems, and easily connect to data from multiple sources so information and functionality render in a single user experience. Each instance of building a connector can cost as much as $25,000 in developer expenses when using traditional methods. Process Director, for example, uses process automation so that even non-developers can pull necessary data into applications.
  • Optimizing ROI from legacy applications to rapidly deliver user experiences and increase user adoption. This is especially critical at a time when students and faculty will be engaging with new forms, systems, and experiences that guide them through things they haven’t done previously, such as registering for online courses, purchasing digital textbooks, applying for financial aid in new ways.
  • Designing and building best-in-class apps that can be deployed when needed. Provide the ability to iterate and improve as schools learn more.
  • Recognizing and delivering solutions for all aspects of the university experience. This includes things like HR management, student recruiting, facilities and operations, and alumni relations.
  • Migrating applications from on-premises to the cloud.
  • Delivering applications in mobile formats to increase usage for students, faculty, and school staff.

Adaptation to recent changes is a critical priority for innovative university administration and IT leaders, which is dictating new operational approaches. These include a new-found focus on how services are delivered and what that means for student engagement. To facilitate these changes, the effective application of process-related solutions will be critical to have a long-term effect.

Learn how colleges like Cal State Stanislaus and Ogden-Weber Technical are using process director and preparing for a post-COVID reopening

5 min read

Colleges Use Workflow & Process Management to Navigate COVID-19 Disruption

By BP Logix on May 21, 2020 2:06:10 PM

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No matter their size, private/public designation, endowment, or geography, all colleges and universities are experiencing major changes due to COVD-19. While large universities have received the most attention for the challenges they’re experiencing, it’s often smaller schools that are hit hardest. 

Faced with limited budgets and fewer resources, small colleges are already dealing with the challenges of meeting enrollment demands, effectively servicing students and being nimble enough to adapt to change. With major disruptions for all schools because of COVID-19, smaller schools have to make moves to be prepared for navigating uncertain territory. 

There is no question that smaller schools are an essential part of higher education. They usually have better student-to-faculty ratios, offer specialized academic tracks and are better options for students who want to be part of a smaller environment. 

Small liberal arts colleges emphasize a broad array of academic disciplines, while some regional schools focus more on training for professional services like fire services, nursing and other service-related professions. 

Higher education workflows address key technology needs

The changes that stem from the coronavirus have thrown everyone for a loop. Schools are having to build solutions immediately to address current needs and they are developing plans for an uncertain future. The major difference between big and small schools in the current education landscape comes down to technology and how it’s applied to solve these problems. 

However, budget restrictions of smaller schools prevent massive student relationship management systems and armies of software developers that spin up solutions as needed. While scale of technology may always be an issue, the approach to problem-solving can be addressed by schools of any size. Workflow can be the defining factor for schools being agile because workflow is foundational to how problems are solved, irrespective of the technology that’s used.

Establishing a workflow & process management foundation

Effective workflow, however, is more than just a series of tactical activities. It aligns with user intent and is applied to the unique technology functionality required of a college’s students, faculty and other stakeholders. 

It also helps to create behaviors that maximize usage and deliver meaning to users. This is especially important when higher education is changing behaviors for things like online learning, applying for financial aid, hiring and offering new types of student services. 

A workflow foundation will also help when even those new solutions change as schools change regulations to adapt to new governmental and health and safety requirements.

The three most critical aspects of aligning workflow, technology and university needs are ease of use, solution context, and communication. Effective workflow ensures that all these elements are met so that users have not just a more efficient experience, but one they can begin to rely on to consistently meet their needs irrespective of the rate and type of change they will experience in the short- and near-term. Let’s look more closely at how these factors can support the needs of smaller schools:

Workflow & process management simplifies digital experiences

Process Director provides a great example of how ease of use can translate into effective solutions. It enables the creation of sophisticated, low-code digital applications that take into account the necessary data and workflow sources on the back-end, and considers how users on the front-end will actually use the app. 

By being able to create simple apps that integrate relevant information, including smart forms and processes, students can get the information they need and take action on things like class scheduling, financial aid, and other relevant events. The teams who build the apps benefit from Process Director’s agile approach to adapt as needed to increase adoption and productivity. 

While Process Director is easy to use for those who need to build applications rapidly and continuously meet changing needs.

Workflow & process management provides context for data

Small college IT teams use Process Director to optimize the use of data so that the applications they create help students engage and complete tasks with limited disruption to their schedules. 

Process Director helps direct the way that organizations surface and orient data through interactive forms and workspaces. Just as human interaction is complex, Process Director looks at the workflows in applications not as a linear phenomenon, but as a continuously shared collection of usable elements that allow for context-based structural changes, last moment decisions, and individualized attention depending on each circumstance.

The case management approach inherent in Process Director also helps greatly when delivering applications that integrate historical data on students (transcripts, payments, scholarships). With navigable data that can be filtered for omission or inclusion depending on the situation, applications can adapt as the students’ situations change and evolve.

This approach supplies students with applications that provide them with what they need when they need it, all without forcing them to search outside the context of the case to find answers.

The Importance of Communication

Students and faculty are being bombarded with emails, texts, direct messages and a host of other types of communication in order to get the information they need. However, that information can go unnoticed if it doesn’t fit with how they are accustomed to consuming news and alerts. Schools need to ensure that students see important messages, but also create ways for students to communicate back with them.

With capabilities that facilitate connecting and communicating across departments, Process Director can help schools collect applications, forms and data sources into a collective portal that delivers all student’s actionable needs into a single interface. That reduces response time and enhances the kind of communication students need in order to adapt to changes, stay on top of opportunities and always be current about how they can interact with their school.

Final thoughts

No school, irrespective of size, can meet the demands of the post-COVID-19 world on an application-by-application basis. Small schools that want to align their goals and processes to student behaviors will need to apply change through the use of smart workflow and processes. 

To serve these needs, Process Director provides digitally transformative and contextual education workflow solutions, facilitates efficient distribution of information and streamlines the monitoring and management of information.

Learn how colleges like Cal State Stanislaus and Ogden-Weber Technical are using process director and preparing for a post-COVID reopening

Topics: application development case management education COVID19
4 min read

Low-code Development Supports College Admissions Changes Due to COVID-19

By BP Logix on May 11, 2020 5:45:32 PM

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"There's no good time for a pandemic. But for admissions, this has got to be the worst time.”
- Jon Boeckenstedt, vice provost for enrollment management at Oregon State University

For millions of current and incoming college students, the financial, health, and social factors surrounding COVID-19 are causing them to change their higher education plans. As a result, college admissions and IT departments are going to have to change their normal processes to adapt to the needs of a whole new wave of college students.

Consider the findings from a recent poll about incoming college freshmen: One in six high-school seniors who expected to attend a four-year college full time before the coronavirus outbreak are now planning to embark on a different path in the fall of 2020. Three out of five students who still plan on attending college are seriously concerned about their ability to afford college.

The reality of all this uncertainty creates a huge workload for college admissions officials and IT leaders who will need to develop new software applications processes to address a variety of admissions issues, including:

  • Enrollment deferment 
  • Changing admissions requirements
  • Communication with students
  • Timelines and plans for reopening campuses, which includes facilities and scheduling

These are just some of the issues that schools are dealing with, none of which can be addressed in a simple fashion. For IT departments, the key is agility. Decisions are being made by school leadership on a daily basis which impacts enrollment, admissions for the fall semester and beyond. 

Low-code development starts with data, builds with process

University data and content is currently stored in a wide variety of applications. They range from the basic (spreadsheets and graphics) to complex (some data analytics solutions and massive ERP systems). All of that data serves a purpose, and in a time when colleges are moving quickly to create new and updated admissions and enrollment processes, the data has to be able to be called into use whenever and wherever it can be most applicable. Information is important, but using it in context with other data is where schools stand to be most effective. To do this requires being able to build software apps quickly and for specific purposes.

The best way to bring new applications to productive use is to reduce development time, and when addressing the changing landscape in response to COVID-19, speed is critical. To meet this challenge, low-code development has emerged as an efficient way to create software. It is a methodology and approach that uses reusable, pre-built components of code and applies them in a drag-and-drop fashion that simplifies the coding effort and accelerates the pace at which applications are built.

Rapid application development for the post-COVID university

The promise of low-code development is attained through speed, efficiency, and the democratization of technology. Business needs can be met through rapidly-built applications that can be created by non-programmers. All of a sudden, solutions can be created and put to use by those closest to business problems. At a time when the future is difficult to plan for, this level of agility will give college IT departments their best chance at delivering solutions for these unique times.

It’s easy to think of low-code as a rip-and-replace substitute for all application development, but in this case, it’s more about enabling university administrators to iterate on their changing admissions application requirements.  It also puts people who are closest to problems in a position to create or at least initiate solutions. But much of the ability to do that corresponds to understanding admissions needs, changing academic requirements, and the available data the school can work with. Even though low-code is much easier than complex development, it still demands time, a plan, and trial-and-error. 

There is no one single system of record that can be used when changes are happening so quickly; colleges typically rely on a variety of different student information management and other types of enterprise planning apps. The key becomes, then, the ability to integrate data from those sources into custom-built apps to serve their changing needs. Speed will be critical to developing these new apps. Schools will not have time for traditional software development cycles, which means non-developers will have to be included in the process of scoping and building apps. 

Learn how colleges like Cal State Stanislaus and Ogden-Weber Technical are using process director and preparing for a post-COVID reopening

Topics: application development case management education COVID19
4 min read

COVID-19 Impacts Higher Ed HR Practices – Workflow Automation Can Help

By BP Logix on May 5, 2020 3:17:09 PM

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Changes happening now in higher education as a result of the coronavirus pandemic are undoubtedly having a major impact on students all across the country. The way they engage with classes and benefit from various services will undergo sweeping changes as social distancing becomes more normalized into every day human behavior. 

There have been hero-like efforts by many who have conceived and delivered short-term solutions; these are the people in IT who have had to integrate systems, build custom apps, and generally drive a completely new face of the university in record time. But their solutions are helping with changes that affect more than just students.

What many may not realize is this: for schools to remain viable and adhere to their mandates, they will need to change their HR practices in order to create a workforce that can deliver the next phase of higher education. To do that will require HR processes that enable them to hire, reassign, and manage the right people to deliver solutions for the new world of higher education.

Agility to meet changing HR needs in higher education

Higher education strategies for HR have typically been built around hiring that’s mapped to long-term growth plans. But in the face of COVID-19, these plans are largely thrown out the window while schools move rapidly to adapt to their new and changing needs. As a result, a new HR playbook must be created.

Some schools have established hiring freezes. Others have reduced staff who were performing outdated functions. Others recognize that they need people who can turn their campuses into innovative engines that can recreate what a university is going to be in the post-COVID world. For some, that means hiring for these roles, while for others, it means reassigning existing staff and faculty. For each of these situations, schools need to develop effective workflows for smooth transitions and ensure they have the staff they need to limit disruption.

All of these situations require some form of organizational orchestration which can be driven by effective workflow automation. At most schools, the goal is to do whatever is necessary to finish out the school year and maintain the effective delivery of classes. But forward-thinking colleges are not only delivering for the short-term. Long-term strategies can wait, but limiting disruption by deploying the right staff is a priority. But it takes more than a checklist to ensure that goals are met. 

Using workflow automation to meet immediate and long-term needs

Staffing changes involve many organizational and personal data. In order to create smooth transitions, these changes must be supported through data from HR information systems and financial applications. This enables a title change or reporting structure to become officially recognized and creates a clear view into an employee’s job description and responsibilities. It means that schools can reallocate employees where they can most be beneficial in meeting new challenges and sets up the college to be agile once a “new normal” begins to take shape. This is clearly important for the college - the HR team is able to quickly adapt as needed. But it also takes into account the issues of privacy of individual staff information.

To make this all happen requires a variety of forms, documents, requests, and decisions to be reviewed and acted on. In a normal environment, the reliance on paper forms and manual intervention for decision-making milestones might be tolerated. But with massive pressure to conserve money and be highly efficient during this time of great change, HR and IT teams have to pull together all these things into an integrated, rapidly moving set of workflows in record time. 

Many BP Logix higher education customers are already using Process Director to handle these types of issues. Schools like the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP)  and Davis Applied Technology College (DATC), near Salt Lake City, cite their ability to be flexible and quickly develop new processes as major advantages of using Process Director’s workflow automation capabilities as core to their foundation.

With a limited budget and vague goals, all college HR and IT teams need to be able to innovate to hire, reassign, and perform other essential tasks related to having an efficiently operating workforce. Process Director delivers capabilities like workflow automation and lightweight application development functionality that enable higher education HR teams to do the following:

  • Rapidly build processes and create forms to collect new and existing HR information housed in existing applications, and to be able to integrate that with updated information from the employees themselves.
  • Create time-dependent milestones that use automated communication and workflow to ensure that the right decision-makers are included.
  •  Efficient approval handling.
  • Insight and visibility into all aspects of processes.

Workflow automation can intelligently apply relevant data from various applications and documents into a shareable profile of each employee. This case management approach provides clarity for all workflows that touch each employee so that important decisions that impact their working situation can be achieved faster and with greater context. Process Director also has native integration with popular HR systems like PeopleSoft and other enterprise apps which makes it easy for non-developer to build workflows with the full complement of various application modules that are relevant to employee management.

COVID-19 has clearly changed all aspects of higher education and will test the ability of university leaders to maintain the viability of their schools. When they are able to build the right school with the right people, colleges and universities will be prepared to meet the demands of the new normal. Through the application of workflow automation, colleges will be equipped to meet both the short-term changes and long-term HR demands required in our changing world.

Learn how colleges like Cal State Stanislaus and Ogden-Weber Technical are using process director and preparing for a post-COVID reopening

Topics: application development case management education
4 min read

Case Management for Student Mental Health

By BP Logix on Mar 31, 2020 10:12:51 AM

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College students face a world that is far more complex than it was even 20 years ago. They must navigate more than only their academic environment; the world they’ve grown up in, and the path for a post-college life present challenges that have left many with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Without a doubt, this is a massive issue. Many administrators are applying innovative ways of helping students through individualized care, supported through effective approaches like case management.

Student Mental Health Trends

Emotional and mental health issues like depression and anxiety have become far more prevalent among today’s higher education students, with many feeling that these issues are among the biggest barriers to fully engaging and performing well in school. More than 16% of  students reported that depression had a negative impact on how they performed with academic and social issues, with anxiety impacting more than 24% of students. Mental illness is clearly affecting far more young people, so it’s important for schools to provide mental health support for their students and for students to have opportunities to seek the help they need.

The management of mental and behavioral health requires different processes and the coordination of many people. Effectively administering services has become more sophisticated and requires the input of a broader array of medical and university stakeholders, and more data from a variety of sources. The key is to focus these inputs and resources so they can deliver better outcomes for students in the form of treatment, medical care, intervention, or other avenues. The most effective way of achieving positive results is through applying a case management approach. This provides insights and context for each individual student who is receiving services and treatment.

Mental health case management has to incorporate strategies from multiple fields and departments across the institution. It includes social workers, psychology professionals, and medical doctors, and the information they provide about the student must be centrally collected and accessible so they can collaborate. Despite its complicated nature, best practices for behavioral health case management can be summarized by three guiding principles: individualized care, professional responsibility, and a comprehensive approach to treatment. Each of these is an umbrella under which many aspects of effective case management fall. Let’s look at these in more detail:

Individual student care: Case management takes into account that not all situations are the same. Effective case management must take each client’s unique combination of situations and needs into account. This means being able to pull relevant data from different data repositories to get a comprehensive picture of the student’s situation. It might include:

  • Background: student demographics and personal information from administrative applications can provide a picture of the student’s family situation and support structure.
  • Academic performance: information coming from grades, projects, and reviews may give insight into trends about where, and when, students have been both successful and unsuccessful academically.
  • Medical history: university healthcare and insurance information will provide information about substance abuse, medications, or other factors that might contribute to students’ situations.

Professional responsibility: academic organizations are dealing with very sensitive information, so case managers and social workers need a special kind of discipline. The two most important factors in maintaining a disciplined and responsible approach is through, 1) effective documentation, and 2) patient privacy:

  • Documentation: higher education health professionals and their support staff must maintain accurate, up-to-date records of their clients that are easily accessible when necessary, and can be used in processes that deliver services. While in the past that meant detailed, hand-written notes kept in a physical folder, the transition to digital patient records has facilitated more diligent documentation along with more streamlined coordination of care.
  • Privacy: college and university healthcare providers have to abide by compliance mandates to protect student privacy. A case management approach can ensure guidelines so that patient information is only shared for specific needs and only with student permission. Those guidelines will be used to share information where necessary and permitted, and prevent data from getting into the wrong hands.

Comprehensive approach: successful behavioral health case management requires an understanding of all aspects of a student's life. The right case management solution will connect all relevant providers so as to better integrate clients' medical, social, educational, and vocational information and then apply that information into effective treatment. This treatment may come from university health services, or through contracted arrangements with other providers. But by coordinating through a single case management application, academic organizations have a much better way of achieving the kind of success that’s needed to address very serious problems, and help students become successful.

Case management is a powerful way to enable higher education professionals to be effective contributors to the successful delivery of student health. It also enables integration of relevant data, and timeline-driven workflows that can give professionals visibility into the best courses of action. Case management enables organizations to build and manage digital applications that coordinate the efforts of different groups, yet can connect them all to the same goals. This creates a powerful framework that helps university departments and the power of their IT stack to achieve truly powerful outcomes for students in need.

Process Director can be used to apply a case management approach for student mental health services. It allows schools to integrate data and documents from various applications into a shareable profile of students under care. This provides clarity for all workflows that touch the students during their treatment so that important decisions that impact their mental health can be achieved faster and with greater context.

Topics: application development case management education
3 min read

Using Process Timeline to Embrace Customer Journey Mapping

By BP Logix on Mar 26, 2020 9:07:08 AM

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Knowing all you can about customers gives you insights into how they’re using your product and how you can support them. The best-case scenario for customer intelligence is that you learn predominantly during the prospecting phase and then maintain a close relationship that allows you to continue to build your customer knowledge thereafter. When that happens, you can be strategic about developing products that you know will meet their needs, which will help you continue to sell (and upsell) while you maintain your relationship.

But the reality is that it’s difficult to understand customers and how they think. You may not always know what questions to ask, and they might not even be aware of the benefits they’re receiving (or not receiving) by using your product.

Customer journey mapping, however, can be an effective way to get inside the brains of your customers. And even better, it identifies patterns that will help you understand customer behaviors, which can help predict future actions. This will put you in a position to service the specific needs of customers throughout their entire engagement with you.

Customer journey mapping is applicable across many departments in a company because it’s an exercise that impacts so many customer-driven activities. Sales, marketing, product management, user experience (UX), and IT all benefit from insights into how customers work with their product and company. The results of mapping help you to visualize your customer’s experience from the customer’s point of view, and for all the various touch-points they have with your product and people as they seek to achieve a specific outcome.

Customer Journey Maps Deliver Key Insights

The format for a customer journey map is usually an integrated, visual representation of the customer experience. How do they use your product/service? What information and support do they need from your services and sales teams? These journey maps can take complicated information and analytics about customers and provide a unified set of data about how customers engage with your company.

The customer map is generally built from the customer’s point of view and gives vendors a powerful way to make better decisions that will benefit customers. It is a combination of behavioral data (some of which requires deeper analysis) and anecdotal feedback from customers and provides the following:

  • A comprehensive understanding of a customer’s overall experience with the vendor and its product
  • Identification of how impactful the vendor’s product has been in helping them address specific goals
  • Awareness of potential points of frustration, or where the vendor falls short of expectations

This kind of information is hugely valuable and gives companies far better and more usable insights than the traditional tools, which usually rely on competitive analysis, sales forecasts, and general market trends.

The Dimension of Time in Customer Insights

What if you could predict how your product and service could make your customer more successful, and then use that information in your engagement? This can only be done with predictive capabilities, which is what Process Timeline was designed for.

Process Timeline enables companies to apply business process automation for creating time-aware business processes to help organizations get deeper, and more meaningful insights into customer activity. It uses machine learning to integrate information from multiple applications and data source, and then create processes that can predict actions based on behavioral norms. Applying this in the context of customer usage means that you can create a sense for how customers are using your products, how they engage with your company, and where there are gaps you might want to fill.

When the dimension of time is applied to customer journey mapping, the major advantages are insights into what you’re doing well, and what you could be doing better in order to create an overall better experience. This includes things like:

  • The quality of your interactions with customers. What things do you provide that make them most satisfied, and where are they dissatisfied? Gain insight into behavioral patterns so you know what needs to be emphasized and what needs to be fixed. 
  • Where are customers prevented from achieving their business goals? Could your product or service do more to support them and relieve them from having to rely on multiple solutions or apps in order to be successful? Having an understanding of the limits of your product (at least, the limits they perceive) will guide you in building a more usable product.
  • Customer decision-making. Knowing how your customer is making decisions, and who in the organization is responsible for them will make sure you’re building the right product for the right people.

Process Timeline delivers these and other insights and does it in a future context. In other words, it identifies patterns and gaps and can communicate those to your team so they can refine the processes for product development and customer communication. Armed with this kind of information, you can communicate intelligently to your customers about issues you are taking steps to resolve. You can also involve customers early in the various decisions that will impact how they engage with you in the future.

The element of time offers a strategic advantage when planning for the future. And because your future depends on happy customers, adding Process Timeline into your customer journey mapping processes will keep you tightly engaged with prepared to meet future challenges.

Topics: application development
2 min read

How to Prioritize Process Automation Projects

By Andrew Kelly on Mar 17, 2020 8:57:58 AM

How to Prioritize Process Automation Projects

Automating processes is easier to do today than ever before. Most workers have an understanding of how automation impacts their work, and IT teams are automating increasing numbers of business-critical tasks. Ultimately, automation reduces operational costs and improves productivity, so it is a no-brainer as a top priority for almost any company. You can find more on how to stand up an automation initiative here.

In order to actually deliver on the automation promise, however, IT teams need to be selective about what processes they automate, and how they reconcile their automation efforts with company goals. Without a plan based on specific goals, time, money, and resources are misspent and it prevents more important processes from getting priority. That’s frustrating for the internal team members who rely on process improvement, but the real impact is felt when companies see their growth slowed while they waste time trying to implement the wrong things.

With that in mind, consider that automation works best for repetitive tasks that typically suck a lot of time from humans. Also, think about how machine learning and artificial intelligence can deliver advantages in some things that humans might typically complicate.

Your team does not have unlimited time, and the business cannot stop while you figure out your priorities. So, it’s best to start your list of automation projects where you can get the biggest potential impact, along with the highest probability of success.

Identifying which processes need automation requires focus on the part of IT and business team leaders. It’s challenging to agree on how to move forward, but with a well-formed plan, teams can create an effective priority-based list of automation projects. The first step will require exploration and discovery, which can be built with a standardized methodology for evaluating and prioritizing the right processes, and in the order, they should be automated. This approach will enable a defined set of criteria to determine which processes are good candidates for process automation.

The team tasked with this needs to explore these issues and questions:

  • What are the current pain points our company faces that could be potentially solved through process automation?
  • Does automation of these processes align with company goals?
  • If we automate, do we get ROI, and will the cost to automate be absorbed through these savings?
  • Do we have the expertise and resources available to perform the necessary tasks to automate a given process?

The answers you get from the above list is a starting point, but armed with a set of potential processes, your team now needs to get into “brass tacks” and determine if you can actually take the necessary steps to automate. When looking at your project candidates, see if they meet these criteria:

  • Are prone to human error
  • Operate with frequency
  • Have repetitive elements
  • Can be integrated with other processes or applications
  • Use a structured format for data
  • Can be performed in a continuous fashion (e.g., are not dependent on specific hours of the day when they run)

With these questions answered, you should be able to prioritize your list of automation projects. The next step is to create general requirements for these projects. This list of requirements should include the following:

  • Executive sponsor
  • Key stakeholders
  • Goals
  • Project milestones
  • Document requirements and needs; e.g. when a document is needed, where can it be accessed from, and where will it be stored?

Your team should now be comfortable with a list of projects, prioritized in such a way that they can be achieved, and that they can show impact quickly. This strategic approach will ensure you can deliver value and save costs. These things will demonstrate true transformational change that will create a better operating model for your organization.

Topics: application development automation digital transformation
2 min read

Process Timeline: Automation with the Benefit of Time

By BP Logix on Mar 9, 2020 9:06:32 AM

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Process Director is an effective, proven, and comprehensive process automation solution for a variety of vertical markets. An additional advantage it delivers to customers is a unique function called Process Timeline™, which is process automation functionality for creating easily modifiable and time-aware business processes to help organizations with their process improvement.

BP Logix developed Process Timeline to help organizations improve planning for business outcomes by addressing the lack of predictability in workflows and processes. While most process automation solutions can only tell you when a particular task is late, Process Timeline uses its knowledge of an organization’s process execution history to automate and predict when each task is likely to complete, no matter how far in the future that task is scheduled to begin.

Process Timeline Features

Process Timeline offers a simple way to compose, manage, and modify business processes. Process-related data and analysis, such as process duration and critical path insights, are delivered in a continuous fashion as processes are running. Organizations recognize significant advantages through features such as:

Low-code Approach

Designed for business users, Process Timeline gives non-developers the ability to build and deploy enterprise-grade, time-aware workflows and processes, with no programming.

  • Build rich, complex applications through point-and-click method.
  • Intuitive graphical user interface facilitates rapid deployment and time-to-value.

Continuous Improvement

Time is essential to all business activity. Late actions, or actions that Process Timeline predicts will be late—are highlighted and identified while they are running.

  • Visual task building interface that lists tasks, dependencies, and highlights potential issues.
  • Process Timeline automatically generates and updates a visual interface that identifies, at a glance, how (and for how long) the process will run

Keep Processes On-Track

Process Timeline offers the earliest possible notification that some future task is predicted to be late, and can automatically take direct action, escalating or rerouting activities to account for the predicted delay.

  • Process Timeline continuously evaluates processes based on past experience and current status.
  • Provides accurate predictions when any future activity is likely to be delayed, offering the earliest possible opportunity for manual or automatic intervention.

Tracking and Measurement

As organizations evolve, performance analysis and awareness are critical for continuous improvement.

  • Process Timeline records every action taken by every process participant (human or automated), ensuring total accountability.
  • Process Timeline maps users to activities within process that are consuming the most time, so users can quickly focus process improvement efforts where they will have the most impact.
  • Drill down to review historical information about any activity, or to see how different actors have performed within a given task.
  • Reset analytics at any time to get a fresh perspective.
Topics: application development
3 min read

Digital Integrations for Higher Education

By BP Logix on Mar 2, 2020 8:45:16 AM

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Today’s colleges and universities require comprehensive data communication to be successful in supporting the needs of students, faculty, and other stakeholders. In an ideal situation, applications connect seamlessly with one another, but in reality, different software solutions were built to solve for different needs. As a result, they weren’t necessarily designed to share data. Yet, for innovative campus IT teams, achieving harmony among all these systems can be achieved with a smart digital integration strategy.

When applications and technology systems operate together as a functioning, cohesive machine, colleges achieve optimal outcomes with their technology investments, and they’re also better equipped to meet their goals as academic institutions. Achieving that level of interoperability requires a focused effort to align tools and strategies. This includes the processes built around those applications, the methodologies for applying them, and systems and the people managing those processes. As digital transformation changes the way that academic organizations stay innovative, it’s important to know how each can advance their enterprise integration management strategies.

Preparing for Higher Education Digital Integration 

Integrating digital systems is an ongoing challenge for colleges and universities because they require such a diverse set of systems, from ERP to SIS to HRIS. Some are centrally-run systems while others are spun up at the departmental level. Campus IT teams are constantly trying to meet new technology needs that come from things like compliance mandates, the creation of new student services, developments in academic departments, and a host of other changes.

The best way to optimize a school’s technology investments and maximize the potential of its systems is to integrate applications so data can be shared. Doing so requires a foundation, one that is process-based, that will provide the framework for building new applications and connectors between and among applications.

To get started with an integration plan, schools must first identify the outcomes they desire and then map the applications that will provide the necessary data and functionality to meet those outcomes. For example, the registrar’s office could schedule classes faster if it could integrate data about facilities availability, enrollment numbers, and course requirements. In many cases, that information has to be retrieved in separate and disparate formats. A single view, delivered through integration, helps expedite scheduling.

Build Process and Workflow into Integration Requirements

Requirements can then be built, and on top of those requirements, teams can start to build processes. These processes must deliver, at a minimum, these things:

  • Workflow automation: most applications will have some level of built-in workflow. The goal of processes is to ensure that workflows are connected so that real-time updates in one application are correspondingly made in applications to which it is connected. Consider how convenient it is for financial aid information to automatically populate with a students’ tuition bill so she knows, in real-time, precisely what her financial responsibility is.
  • Connector flexibility: applications are upgraded from time to time, and they deploy new functionality. Make sure that processes are flexible enough to adapt to changes in existing systems, and can be applied to new technologies.
  • Productivity gains: the whole point to an integration strategy is to be more productive with the technology that’s available to you. Make sure that stakeholders are actually getting better visibility into data and then able to apply that, through automation, to improving performance.

Deploying a Sustainable Digital Integration Strategy

Once goals have been identified and processes begin to be built, IT teams need to perform some important steps as part of their strategy as the initiate integration efforts:

  • Develop a set of proven best practices from process thought leaders. Familiarize yourself with case studies of colleges who have done this kind of work.
  • Partner with stakeholders (others in IT, department heads, users, executive sponsors, and others) to determine what their specific needs are. Learn their pain points and understand what constitutes “integration nirvana” for them.
  • Establish a content governance framework so that processes adhere to a specific, but flexible, set of requirements.
  • Ensure compliance for industry and institutional compliance frameworks.

A Continuous Integration Roadmap

At this point, you will have a vision and an actionable roadmap. With a tool like Process Director, you can initiate the integration process. This can be done by identifying which inputs will inform your integrations, and how that data will be incorporated into it. Typical integrations come from applications like these:

  • Databases
  • LDAP or directory servers
  • Standard enterprise applications like CRM, marketing automation, HR systems, and others
  • Specific higher education tools like student lifecycle management, financial services apps for financial aid, scheduling and logistics apps, and others
  • Document Imaging Software / Scanners
  • File System Monitor Application Integration
  • Email Servers
  • Social BPM Application and Workflow Application Integration
  • SharePoint or other file-related applications

With a process-driven approach, campus IT teams will be able to dramatically reduce cost and improve efficiency. Processes allow them to handle connections among the applications and systems listed above, as well as others so there are repeatability and consistency. Insight and visibility into all aspects of processes.

With integrated applications, the entire student lifecycle can become far more streamlined, and university operations can be more efficient. Academic organizations can realize significant cost savings and better deployment of resources. By sharing data and functionality, colleges and universities will be able to emphasize their strengths to their stakeholders as they provide the best possible college experience for all stakeholders.

Topics: application development business process automation
3 min read

New Higher Ed Accessibility Legislation – What it Means for Your Processes

By BP Logix on Feb 25, 2020 9:15:43 AM

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Recently, a bipartisan team of members of the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a bill that would promote equal access to academic opportunities, services, and materials for students with disabilities. The Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education Act, also known as the AIM HIGH Act, would create a commission to develop voluntary accessibility criteria for instructional materials and educational technology.

The AIM HIGH Act is the result of a collaboration between the National Federation of the Blind, the Association of American Publishers, the Software and Information Industry Association, the American Council on Education, and Educause. To successfully implement the provisions of the Act, schools will need to create processes both for implementation and to monitor compliance. Done effectively, these processes will also generate analytical insights that will help schools become better at delivering services and at meeting their institutional goals and legal mandates. The most effective tool to support these efforts is with a business process solution.

Codifying Accessibility with Processes

Accessibility takes on many different forms. As a general rule, information and communication technology is considered accessible and usable if it can be used in a similar fashion, and to the same effective results by people both with and without disabilities. Essentially, comparable access to information must be provided, taking the needs of all users and learners into account. Digital formats can complicate accessibility for not just the sightless and the hearing impaired, but also for those who are color blind, those prone to seizures, and people with physical limitations that require keyboard navigation rather than the use of a mouse. These are only some examples.

Things like what to make accessible, and how to comply with the Act will fall to individual schools to decide. Without specific guidelines, the effort could be complex, but with a process-driven approach, IT teams can frame the scope of the effort to become AIM HIGH compliant and customize to their own needs.

University IT departments can start by developing workflow standards to guide all aspects of development and implementation. Building these standards will be critical for establishing the consistency needed to be accessible in the eyes of the legislative framework, and the agility to manage the specific needs of individual cases.

IT teams can start by identifying specific categories they need to work on, including:

  • Testing and data collection tools: this includes things like Web-based tests (open-ended or multiple choice), or data collection that students might employ in the course of doing academic research.
  • Academic presentation material: includes electronic document templates used to create coursework-related documents or presentations. This could be a standard PowerPoint template that’s required to establish a common look and feel for presentations or requirements for using and submitting term papers in Google Documents.
  • Educational materials: this covers interactive online courses, which are increasingly becoming used in higher education. This includes self-paced training courses; educational webinars; other educational presentation formats; and support materials for such activities, including electronic worksheets, required reading, and tests. It could also include a course syllabus or administrative documents and tools.

Implementing Accessibility with Process Director

Process Director has long been used in higher education to meet all manner of student and institutional needs. It can be a critical tool in helping to codify and manage the necessary processes that will help schools be successful in administering AIM HIGH and other accessibility requirements.  IT teams can use functionality in Process Director to apply a guided approach that includes:

  • Discovery: it’s essential for IT teams to understand the unique needs of the issues for which they are solving. A well-prepared team will be better able to incorporate specific milestones, approvals, and decision-making into workflows if can use a process-driven approach to understanding and implementing necessary tasks.
  • Awareness: this is about recognizing when to accommodate and when it’s not necessary. This may seem easy to ascertain, but for someone who has never had to consider accessing a website in a way where they have unique physical or mental abilities, it may be difficult to truly understand how to meet the needs of different users.
  • UX design: make sure that the design of any digital format is built in an accessible way, and perform UX testing with the audience for which the solution is being developed.
  • Visual design: this is different from UX. Visual design is about the actual placement and layout of web pages, forms, and other tools so they can be interpreted and understood.
  • Development: your code should be accessible so that, irrespective of ability, it is able to be deployed in different formats.
  • Workflow development: ensure that in all workflows, AIM HIGH requirements accounted for.

To successfully meet the needs of higher education inclusion, colleges and universities will need a dedicated effort that includes some level of complexity. In order to make sense of it and roll it out successfully, they will require a process-driven approach. Being compliant with legislation like AIM HIGH will be one goal of these efforts, but of far more importance will be the ability to create an inclusive learning environment for learners of all types of abilities.

Topics: application development business process automation digital transformation
5 min read

Higher Education Low-Code Process Automation

By BP Logix on Feb 18, 2020 12:27:00 PM

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Modern institutions are realizing significant advantages from low code development, an approach to building software which allows non-developers to build applications in a visual, drag-and-drop environment with components for different types of functionality. Low-code platforms have enabled the rise of a business analyst support system who can direct application priorities by abstracting the typically complex coding tasks associated with programming by using reusable components. Innovative college and university IT teams are taking advantage of low-code platforms to improve process automation and derive significant ROI from their technology investments, and it’s changing how they build for the future.

By employing low-code capabilities that enable non-developers to connect various stakeholders and implement sophisticated functionality, users and teams realize greater efficiency. Essentially, those closest to the problems can now have the greatest impact at solving those problems. In higher education, solutions are wide-ranging, and low-code allows schools to benefit from:

  • Automating processes, integrate apps with existing systems, and easily connect to data from multiple sources so information and functionality render in a single user experience. Each instance of building a connector can cost as much as $25,000 in developer expenses when using traditional methods.
  • Optimizing ROI from legacy applications to deliver better user experiences and increase user adoption.
  • Designing and building best-in-class apps that can be deployed when needed. Provide the ability to iterate and improve as needed.
  • Recognizing and delivering solutions for all aspects of the university experience. This includes things like HR management, student recruiting, facilities and operations, and alumni relations.
  • Migrating applications from on-premises to the cloud.
  • Delivering applications in mobile formats to increase usage for students, faculty, and school staff.

Low-code solutions like Process Director give users a highly visual dashboard and software components that can be used to create an application without having to use code. The combination of rapid development capabilities along with the low-code approach offers enterprises the ability to build, deploy, and iterate quickly. Additionally, it provides ways to identify deep insights into usage and performance of applications.

Higher Education Technology Transformation

In higher education, using a low-code approach is about much more than just the applications themselves. It can save schools money, improve how IT resources are used, and deliver services to better meet the ever-changing needs of the 21st Century university student, faculty members, and staff. These things, in turn, make schools more competitive and economically viable.

This is important for colleges because they operate according to prescribed schedules — admissions, registration, financial aid, and the routine of the quarter or semester system. It’s difficult to innovate when the next milestone is right around the corner. Having to adhere to the typical application development lifecycle is slow and typically results in solutions that can be obsolete before they even become available. However, by building and delivering quickly, and with reusable components, university stakeholders can not only deliver fast, but IT teams and departmental groups can iterate and update applications continuously.

Low-code process automation provides a foundation for all university processes, and operates as the engine that moves the student through their journey from first point of contact, all the way through graduation.

Process Management and Workflow for Higher Education

In a university environment, admissions, financial aid, HR, and all departments are using Process Director to effectively manage the complex processes involved with operating a school and delivering effective services. Higher education institutions are able to deploy Process Director to help them meet business-level goals for things like student outcomes, effective recruiting, employee management, and facilities-related operations. It also supports IT goals like integration, process efficiency, and repeatability.

Institutions use Process Director to automate services delivered according to a school’s specific requirements. An example is its digital process automation capabilities, which enable the efficient processing and reviewing of applications across all necessary admissions counselors and administrators. As the application process has become more competitive and rigorous, students are required to provide more data points to make their case and stand out from other applicants. Consider that the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) received 102,242 student applications in 2017, each of which required analysis and processing, all within a 3-4 month timeframe. Building the application framework to support this scale of automation cannot be done in normal development timelines. Low-code changes how a school like UCLA would be able to adapt to increased demand through effective process automation.

The Importance of Process Automation for Colleges and Universities

Low-code equips teams to build applications that work in a human-directed work style. Process Director encourages this innovative approach through things like:

Document and forms management: Consider how students submit all manner of documentation in the course of their time on campus. And employees use a variety of forms in order to be hired in the course of their time as employees. Schools like the University of Central Florida Global deliver low-code solutions to ingest and make sense of things like transcripts, test scores, recommendation and letters for students. For employees, it manages applications, personal data, benefits information and a variety of other types of documents. Some of these are submitted and stored digitally, while some are delivered in paper form. Process Director is able to digitize these documents and include them in individual files. This eliminates outdated and inefficient processes like managing files through email attachments and paper-based artifacts. The result is more context about students and other stakeholders, provided through validated documents. Process Director also enables sharing of information with trusted decision-makers so that milestones in the process can be made with greater efficiency.

Application integration: The student and potential employee application submission is the first touch point with the university, and kicks off processes that will lead to admissions or employment. Process Director uses built in connectors for a variety of ERP systems, and allows users to construct forms that can pull and deliver data that can be useful for things like financial aid and scholarships, housing, and registration for students, and things like hiring and benefits administrations for employees.

Decision-making, enhanced with workflow: Process Director uses the following innovations that make it a first choice for many colleges and universities:

  • Attractive, web-based, and responsive user interaction;
  • Built-in support for multiple languages, locales, and cultures;
  • Easy integration with a broad array of databases, web services, and applications;
  • Directory synchronization with LDAP, Active Directory, and Windows network security;
  • Full integration with federated authentication services, including Oauth and SAML.
  • Strong encryption of data at rest, and data in-flight;
  • Digital signature of documents;
  • Granular permissions structure, with temporary privilege escalation.

Many colleges and universities rely on outdated systems that cannot support schools’ desires to meet the competitive needs of 21st Century organizations. While there is an increasing need to move fast and address specific needs, the low-code capabilities of Process Director can provide digitally transformative education solutions that facilitate efficient management and streamlining of processes.

An article in Educause summed it up nicely, "The digital transformation of higher education is at hand. Leaders must prepare their institutions now to take strategic advantage of the coming shifts in culture, workforce, and technology.”

Topics: application development business process automation digital transformation
3 min read

Process Automation and The Clery Act

By BP Logix on Feb 12, 2020 2:29:56 PM

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“A student who is concerned for their personal safety cannot learn.”

- Virginia Smith, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD)

Most colleges and universities have made student safety a priority, but campus crime is still an unfortunate reality. Ranging from petty theft to physical violence, crimes on college campuses are far more prevalent than anyone is comfortable with, but thankfully, from 2001 to 2016, the aggregate number of reported crimes committed on college campuses decreased by almost 32%.

Much of this is due to the passage of the Clery Act, which was signed into law in 1990. The act requires all higher education institutions that receive federal financial aid to keep and publicly disclose data about crime on and near their campuses. Adherence with the Act is governed by the U.S. Department of Education, and those who do not comply with its requirements are subject to substantial fines and can be suspended from participating in student financial aid and other federally-funded programs.

In addition to reporting incidents and maintaining statistics, the Clery Act requires that schools also provide warnings and emergency alerts for safety issues, information on victim’s rights, and other important resources that can be used by members of the campus community. In order to comply with all the requirements of the Clery Act, schools need to employ a systematic way of capturing information and deploying it through processes in an effort to effect change. Process automation is the most effective way to support this.

If one were to break down the elements of what’s required to comply with the Clery Act, they would note three main elements:

  • Tracking incidents
  • Reporting incidents and alerting on safety issues
  • Managing data about criminal activity

Solving for all of these needs is best done with a single, comprehensive process automation solution like Process Director. Because it has a process and workflow foundation and uses case management capabilities, Process Director can support the need to capture data from multiple sources and communicate it to necessary stakeholders. These are critical for colleges to manage information and act on it quickly.

It’s important to recognize that inherent in the goals of the Clery Act is not simply data collection. To have a positive impact on reducing crime and keeping students safe, the results of all activity relating to the Clery Act must result in decision making about policies.

University IT departments can initiate a process-based approach to identify and manage massive amounts of data. That data is also coming from a variety of internal and third-party sources, which adds a layer of complexity. Smart processes can identify the right processes to kick-off based on that data. But it can also guide it through streamlined processes that can anticipate future-dependent actions, communicate with necessary stakeholders, reduce errors, and ultimately track all of this activity to demonstrate compliance.

Process Director provides a way to collect that data and immediately apply machine learning to understand the details of incidents (location, time of day, victim information, perpetrator information, and other relevant data), and initiate the necessary processes that will perform the tasks needed to meet the demands of the Clery Act framework. It does this with a variety of critical process automation features, including:

  • Access data that can help with decision-making and meeting workflow milestones.
  • Efficient approval handling that guides crime-related data and corresponding communication to the right milestones and decision-makers.
  • Insight and visibility into all aspects of processes.
  • Sophisticated reporting that pulls user-identified data points into visual charts.
  • Case management to categorize and report on specific incidents and/or individuals.
  • Processed-based security capabilities for managing, securing, storing, and ultimately, protecting a massive amount of data including students (student information includes personally identifiable information [PII] like student records, financial aid information, and healthcare data, among other things), staff and faculty HR records, operational data, and records related to government funding.

Additionally, Process Director applies future planning into processes with its time-based process engine— Process Timeline™. This offers a simple way to compose, manage, and modify business processes. Process-related data and analysis, such as process duration and critical path insights, are delivered in a continuous fashion as processes are running. This enables schools to be informed in near real-time and effect necessary changes rapidly.

Process automation is an effective tool for compliance with the Clery Act, but more importantly, it can be a critical ingredient to keeping students safe. Schools that employ a process-focused approach to safety are able to improve response time and awareness about campus crime, which ultimately helps them be better and more effective, caretakers.

Topics: business process automation
4 min read

A Security Roadmap for Higher Education

By BP Logix on Dec 3, 2019 4:39:41 PM

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A recent study of the threat potential for a comprehensive set of industries called out higher education as one of the most targeted. In the past couple of years, cyberattacks have increased by 68%, and the average cost of each attack is almost $700,000. Colleges stand to lose a great deal when attacked— beyond just the theft of data and financial loss from ransom demands, they also risk reputation damage that can negatively impact student recruiting and potential for advantages such as research grants.

As we know in today’s global, data-rich economy, all organizations face cybersecurity risks. Some are manifested in attacks that go after individuals for their personal information for financial or other types of exploitation. In other cases, the security targets include intellectual property and system-wide information. Organizations that touch large numbers of stakeholders are targeted because of the variety of data and multiple access points they offer.

Higher education institutions fall into this category and have become attractive targets for attack. They serve a disparate audience of constituents, and they store and transact with sensitive data about all of their different stakeholders. Because of this, colleges and universities require a structured security roadmap that enables flexible access to data and records, but protects also students, faculty, employees, and other stakeholders within the higher education ecosystem.

The Security Risks for Higher Education

University IT departments are responsible for the managing, securing, storing, and ultimately, protecting a massive amount of data including students (student information includes personally identifiable information [PII] like student records, financial aid information, and healthcare data, among other things), staff and faculty HR records, operational data, and records related to government grants and research, much of which is sensitive in nature.

Attackers go after private, critical data through a variety of tactics, including:

  • Cloud attacks: with more higher education institutions rapidly moving critical workloads to the cloud, hackers are exploiting aspects of the shared responsibility model that leave holes in workloads and cloud environments.
  • Phishing: one of the most common types of attacks is phishing, which is done through sending unsolicited and unscrupulous email messages that link to fraudulent websites.
  • Device security: most organizations operate with “bring your own device” (BYOD) policies that enable employees and contractors to use personal smartphones, computers, and tablets for business use. Proper security protocols are often not enforced for these devices, which can leave sensitive data vulnerable.
  • Malware: malware is software that has maliciously been installed on users’ computers. Various types include ransomware, viruses, worms, and adware. As recent events have shown, these malware threats are often used as a means to steal information and to commit fraud, including extortion.
  • Denial of service (DoS): in DoS attacks, individuals who normally have access to systems or networks are suddenly denied the ability to view data or systems. It includes critical, university-specific applications, email, or other digital points of access.

Developing an Effective Security Framework

 University IT security programs require a framework for continuous monitoring and response, one which manages threats to stakeholder data and intellectual property. This would not simply be a monitoring tool that sends alerts when certain security controls are breached. Rather, a foundation of vigilant approach must be embedded into processes and the way that schools conduct their operations.

The risks are ever-present and increasing in regularity. Education IT departments must apply a methodology that enables security regulations to be adapted to meet both the changing needs of their school, and to combat the increasing complexity of cyber-attacks.

Higher education IT departments are using business process management and workflow solutions like Process Director to understand their threat landscape and implement plans and policies that automate attack prevention. To begin the process, colleges and universities have to initiate a strategy that takes into account the data risks of the different populations they serve, as well as the processes employed across all different IT applications in use. While most schools have some set of loosely-defined guidelines, this first step demands mapping a comprehensive plan to a process-driven framework.

Necessary Steps for Higher Education Data Security

This security plan should be developed, implemented, and managed with an approach that takes into account the following elements:

Collaborate and plan effectively: awareness of stakeholder needs in higher education can be tricky; the requirements to operate effectively as a student is much different than how one functions as a faculty member. Consideration for these differences is critical because higher education comprises such a diverse set of needs and user types. Even within academic departments, there are vast differences in how workflow tools and process management is applied. Learning the work, goals, use cases, and language of different teams, and then tapping into their processes and methods, will give IT teams the right perspective into how to secure them.

Understand business patterns: the most effective way to understand security risk is to have an automated way to detect behavioral anomalies within workloads and processes. IT teams should develop a scenario of regular business and data patterns and establish them as baselines. They need to also meet with department leaders to gain an understanding of concern areas or vulnerability areas where behavioral anomalies tend to occur. These can be accounted for when building processes, and will lead to better visibility into what is considered as acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

Automate processes: in the course of business transformation efforts, college IT departments should seek ways to give departmental managers flexibility and ownership of their processes. In doing so, they should establish policies that encourage repeatability and automation. Processes should emphasize self-service wherever possible, and facilitate straight-through processing of standard requests and account provisioning.

Integrate tools with processes for better outcomes: colleges have already invested a great deal in their technology stack. It’s imperative that IT teams understand the tools, data, and communication channels that are used across all technology efforts, and then recognize where security vulnerabilities could happen within each of them. Reducing overall ‘application spaghetti’ is an excellent first step toward consistency of process. This can start by collecting the security protocols required of each system, and then finding a way to apply them appropriately to the processes they touch, or whether the systems themselves should be eliminated altogether in favor of a self-build low-code application.

Implementing a security approach to higher education management does not happen overnight. IT teams have to be thoughtful about what they want to achieve, and operate with awareness of stakeholder needs and the intricacies of the technology stack. Additionally, while digital transformation efforts to move workloads into the cloud and use BYOD policies are delivering greater flexibility, they are also opening new threat vectors. With a process-focused approach, colleges and universities can improve their security posture and help to ensure the safety of critical data.

Topics: BPM
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