Paper forms, rubber stamps, emails, and confusing processes. Many of the University's activities and processes are being digitalised so that they can be done using modern communication tools, and without unnecessary manual work.
One of the tools for digitalising old processes is Office365 and its PowerApps application. The application is being piloted for collecting attendance records for the Faculty of Medicine, as well as approving pay increases in the Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering.
In the Faculty of Medicine, the application is used to track first-year students’ attendance of the compulsory ‘Introduction to medical profession’ course. In practice, the teacher hands out a one-time code that the student can use in the application as proof of attending the lecture.
‘We have trialled the new application a few times now, and so far, the experiences have been positive. When we get feedback, it is likely that any problems that have emerged will be resolved,‘ says Secretary of Student Affairs Anne Salovaara.
‘In the past, we have stamped attendance record cards and used name lists to record attendance information on mandatory courses. This application is greatly reducing the manual effort of updating several Excel spreadsheets and different programs, and hopefully in the future means that we can utilise automatic data uploads.’
Erja Heikkinen, Designer at the IT Administration Services, says that no other university has yet digitalised compulsory attendance information in Finland. If the satisfaction survey, to be conducted after the autumn study break, gives positive feedback, the practice is due to be extended.
Transparency and statistical data
The PowerApp application is also being trialled as a managerial tool for dealing with staff performance evaluations and proposals for salary increases. The pilot unit for this is the Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering. The new process replaces the ‘paper-trail process’, manual signatures and emails containing justifications.
‘With a digital tool, the manager can send their proposal along with the accompanying reasoning and justifications to the approver, who receives this information in real-time. If the proposal is approved, the HR secretary receives the information about the decision, and can make a change in the payroll payment system without paper printouts, signatures, or scans,’ says Jarmo Okkonen, the University’s Human Resources Director.
According to Okkonen, the system provides all the necessary electronic documentation. The tool lightens the workload for all parties and streamlines processes, whilst retaining the opportunity for approvers to ask for more information on the justifications.
The digitalisation of HR processes is not going to stop here.
‘Our goal is to have all approvals managed using digitalised tools and make them part of managers’ everyday toolbox so that they have better control and visibility at different stages of the process. Digitalisation also provides the opportunity to track the quality of the service by compiling and presenting up-to-date information on a number of processes and processing times. During 2019, we aim to digitalise all of the most important, heavily used processes.’
Representing the University in Orlando
The pilot schemes received international visibility when Olli Jääskeläinen, who consulted on the innovations, talked about them at the world’s largest Microsoft conference in Orlando, Florida. At the end of September, Jääskeläinen, a Lead Architect at Sulava Oy, travelled to Orlando together with University’s IT Service Manager Janne Suokas.
‘The trip rewarded us with great information. Digitalisation and automation of business processes were the main themes of the event. Olli Jääskeläinen's topical presentation was very well received,’ Suokas says.
At the University of Oulu, a temporary service for exam papers will also developed using Microsoft products. It will enable teachers to send information on the exam and exam questions without creating email attachments.
Rector Jouko Niinimäki has also previously talked about the importance of fast development and digitisation of services.
Olli Jääskeläinen from Sulava Oy talked about University of Oulu’s ways of reforming their processes at Microsoft's Ignite event in Orlando on 25 September 2018. (Photo: Janne Suokas)
Read more: A blog post on digital campuses and related services by Erja Heikkinen (In Finnish)
Last updated: 1.10.2018