Boosting Efficiency with Automic
Boosting Efficiency with Automic
For Gonzaga, spending less time on menial tasks and data entry means more time actively working with and serving the needs of students and the Gonzaga community. The Financial Aid Office (FAO) recognized an opportunity for improvement in this area and approached Information Technology Services (ITS) in early 2018 requesting evaluation and selection of an automatic job-scheduler solution that could be used with the Banner system.
Since Banner has no built-in job scheduler, ITS had previously developed a homegrown solution that was functional but came with its own shortcomings. Under this system, each job had to be entered manually, and if multiple jobs needed to be run in a sequence an employee had to wait for one job to finish, make sure it ran correctly, then begin the next—a process that could take hours. In response to the FAO’s request, ITS implemented a third-party job scheduler solution called Automic, an automation tool that allows users to batch process jobs and chain them together.
Sarah Everitt, Associate Director of Financial Aid at Gonzaga, was the one to approach ITS with the request for a job scheduler. “We get tens of thousands of FAFSA applications each year, and they need to be matched and run through various grouping processes—that was a minimum two hours of someone’s day,” Everitt recounts. “If we have to do things manually, someone may not be here...and then we’re left with these processes that should be getting done daily not getting done daily.”
Implementation of Automic occurred over Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 semesters. While the system installation was targeted to occur late Fall, this date was pushed back to early Spring to ensure greater system stability and allow technical team members more time to familiarize themselves with the system. Once installed, multiple working sessions between ITS and campus partners in the FAO and Finance Offices were vital to ensuring critical jobs were appropriately tested and validated before being scheduled in the live environment.
Unlike the previous system, in which each job in a process would need to be run and monitored individually, Automic can schedule batch-processing in advance and run automatically. Automic will even send an email upon successful completion, and the automated process removes much of the risk for human input error within the jobs.
A job that initially would have been manually run and monitored during the day can now be run at night and completed before work even begins the following day.
“We saw immediate improvement just from the first job we scheduled,” says Everitt. “Now every morning I wake up and I have emails that show [the jobs] ran successfully. It means faster service for students, it means we get information right away without waiting on processes, and it just means more consistent service.”
Furthermore, Everitt states that, “really all of our communications with the federal government are run through this automated system now, which is just huge. It helps with compliance; it helps with service, it helps with time.” For Everitt, and the whole Financial Aid Office, less time running and monitoring jobs means more time personally addressing the needs of students and parents.
Seeing its positive impact within the Financial Aid Office has Everitt—and others—excited about the potential uses of Automic. The Finance Department has already implemented use of the Automic system as well, and departments like Human Resources, Payroll, and University Advancement have all expressed interest. For Everitt, “we’ve just scratched the surface with it.” As ITS looks to the future, systems like Automic hold the key to minimizing the time needlessly spent on manual tasks by automating them and freeing up time to better address the needs of students and parents, fulfilling Gonzaga’s commitment to optimize institutional stewardship and sustainability.